Dad has been living with us in southern California where almost everything grows year-round. He enjoys helping in the garden and it is a regular outdoor activity we share. One day while Dad was helping with some pruning, he discovered several snails crawling underneath leaves. He began to talk with them and even placed one in the palm of his garden glove to introduce the snail to me. Although snails are considered pests and I pluck them by hand and place them in the green waste, I too have admired them and even photographed them. It was no surprise when Dad took to the creatures. They are fascinating and Dad loves critters of all kinds. He has always had a quiet connection with most animals.
Since then, Dad is keeping a snail in his bedroom – well not really. It is an imaginary snail that is quite real to him. He calls him Buddy. Buddy is a rolled up brown napkin Dad found in his pocket after a lunch date with friends. Next to Buddy sits a tiny seashell – a saltwater snail. Apparently, the combination of the two items visualize for Dad as one of the garden snails. In case you are wondering, I had Dad’s eyes checked recently and clean his glasses daily.
It began with Dad showing me the brown round napkin snail and gently placing it on a shelf in his bedroom. Now, several times each day I hear Dad softly talking to Buddy. Recently, he has been asking me for bits of food to place for Buddy to enjoy. What is a daughter to do? I give him a little something and then go back and remove it later. It appears that Buddy is eating well. I love the tenderness with which Dad cares for his little Buddy and the comfort Buddy brings to Dad.
While we were out for a walk a few days ago, Dad noticed, for the first time in more than a year of walks, a few snails crawling across the sunny sidewalk. He picked them up, relocating the snails from the dry concrete to the shady landscape nearby. If they were inside their shells, he left them where they were. I was relieved it had not rained the night before. There can be hundreds of snails in the neighborhood in certain weather conditions.
As we came upon the last snail of the morning, I waited for Dad to gently grasp the shell and place it on a bush along the sidewalk. Instead, Dad said, “I will just give this one a little shade”. He bent over and created a shadow with his hand. What some of us might have interpreted as a black cloud was the Snail Whisperer providing protection from the heat of the day. After a minute – one long minute, I reminded Dad it was nearly lunchtime. He calmly moved the snail to a spot just under the leaves of a blooming Honeysuckle hedge and we finished our walk. Whew!
Coincidentally, I had been thinking about getting out my origami kit to see if Dad would enjoy making paper animals. I have decided to wait on that idea for a while. Who needs origami paper when you have a brown napkin?