“Mommy, did you know the hardest thing about being a superhero is that you can’t always save everybody?”
“That is very true, honeypie,” I respond to my seven-year-old daughter. She’s learning life lessons from a Spiderman video. She was quoting directly from whatever pensive incarnation of Spiderman she’s into currently. I’m good with that.
On New Year’s Day, my husband left for work early in the morning. When he got to his job, about ten minutes later, he called me.
“Don’t freak out but… there’s a cat at the end of the driveway who may need help.”
I grab a big cardboard box and one of our good towels and race down the stairs of our two-family house. I look around under leaves and see nothing. I’m hoping the cat has run off since my husband made the distress call. But as I turn to go back upstairs with my box and good towel, I see him. A tail is peeking out from a big fuzzy body.
I start speaking to him in that high-pitched voice we use for animals. “Hiiiiiiii! Are you ok, little guyyyyyy?”
And then I notice his tail is striped. And he’s bigger than a cat. And as I watch his body go up and down with breaths, I move him gently to see his face.
I text my husband:
THAT’S NOT A CAT. THAT’S A RACCOON!!
He had no visible injuries. I check all his paws and his body looked fine. I like to think he was happy to see me and just accepting of the help I was there to give. I called the police to ask for the animal control number. But I didn’t want them to just take him away and euthanize him. I wanted to give him a chance to rest and recover from whatever trauma had occurred. I got him into the box and covered him with the towel. He was still breathing steadily as he curled into a resting position.
I went down to check on him every hour, hoping the box would be empty. I was hoping he had run off and felt well enough to go back to doing what raccoons do. But he was still there in that big cardboard box under one of our good towels.
We have four good towels. They’re gigantic and the color of Dijon mustard. I could’ve grabbed one of our more tattered or stained towels. But I wanted this poor animal to have whatever comfort I could provide for him. Even if that comfort was just a cardboard box and a soft towel.
After a few hours of our raccoon’s shallow breathing, I called the animal control number. The lady at the other end asked me what had happened so far that morning. She said she’d be there in about thirty-five minutes. My daughter and I waited by the front door for the white van that came exactly thirty-five minutes later.
The young woman was gentle with our not so little raccoon. She said they would take him back to the wildlife rehab and see what they could do for him. If they couldn’t save him, they would “make their decision” as she glanced towards my young daughter standing there in pajamas and a rainbow patterned coat. The young woman didn’t know she really didn’t have to censor herself for Miriam. We openly talk about death and illness. And like Spiderman says, even a superhero can’t save everybody all the time.
It can be a tricky balancing game. The sad stuff. The uncertain stuff. The times when even the adults don’t have the answers.
I told Miriam we won’t be able to find out what happens to our raccoon. But we decided we’d make up the ending to this story. We both decided that our raccoon just needed a little rest and a visit to the vet. And then he’d be able to go back to the woods feeling much better.
And whether or not that’s what happens to our little friend, we did our part. We showed him kindness and compassion. We hoped for the best that he’d have jumped out of his box. And when that didn’t seem like it was going to happen, we called for help.
Because sometimes that’s all you can do. Accept the situation and ask for help. And as my daughter grows up, I want her to know that things don’t always turn out the way you hope. And that’s ok too.