Letting Go

I was about twelve when my uncle walked into the house with a shoe box nestled in his arms. “I found these in the field.”
He showed us the babies.
“Where’s the mother?” Mom asked.
“She... she ran in front of me. They’re on their own now. I wasn’t sure if they’d make it without her, and since you breed rabbits, well, I hoped you could save them.”
Three baby hares.

My mother was on the phone with the vet instantly, because we knew nothing about hares. I snuck the box outside, and my brother and sister followed me. Mom came out with instructions on how to keep them alive. We were fascinated by these wild animals. They were nothing like the white rabbits we bred. Baby rabbits were born blind and hairless. These were tiny, but ready to go. They had a natural instinct to them that made them cautious.  
We each named one. Naming them made it final. We were going to raise them. I was excited about the idea, until morning.
One was dead in the box.
Mom never let us make a big deal of a rabbit dying, since they were our business not our pets, but I think she could see this meant more, so we had a little service to help deal with the blow.
The second one died that night. We took turns staying with that last one. Even Mom and Dad helped. I would have brought that little guy to bed with me if they’d allowed, but they didn’t. So I even did my homework in the garage.
That last one grew quickly. I bet in a week we had it in a run.
Much to my dismay, one day, my brother let it go. I chased that hare all over town. Frantic. He was too young to be on his own.
I learnt something neat that day. Hares run in a zigzag pattern. If I zigged when he zagged, I caught him every time.  It became a game we both loved.
Time passed quickly, but that hare grew just fine. In fact, he was growing much too fast.
My dad announced that it was time to set him free. I had no idea why I couldn’t keep him, but there was no arguing with my dad. I’d helped raise him, but he didn’t belong to me. He was wild. “I found a field close to town, with others like him. He’ll be fine there, safe.”
Close to town? Would he come back? Sure he would. Wouldn’t he? If he came back, Dad would let him stay. I knew he would. So with this hope, I climbed in the car. It was just me and Dad. No one else had the heart to do this.
Dad stood behind me without a word. I talked to that hare, told him what I imagined his new life would be like. I explained how he had to watch for hawks and foxes. He listened to me patiently until I finally set him down. He took off instantly in his zigzag way. Then he stopped. My heart leapt. Would he come back? If he came back... he was mine.
He looked back. He looked right at me. To this day, I remember meeting his eyes and seeing the truth. Some might say hares don’t know such things, but dang it, that one did. He knew this was it. This time, I wasn’t going to run after him. I knew he wouldn’t come back either. My heart swelled with the pain of letting him go, but I stood my ground. It was up to him to come back.
Don’t ever tell me, animals don’t have emotions. They might not be like ours, but that look between a twelve-year-old and her hare spoke volumes. It seemed to last forever, yet it wasn’t long enough.
He would miss me too. But. He wasn’t coming back. no he wasn’t.
He ran. He ran. And ran. Never looked back again.
My dad never said a word. But sometimes, dads don’t have too.


Richard said...

What a powerful story. I think all children learn about dying and growing up and leaving through raising pets. It's a pretty gentle way of learning hard realities. One of the most important things we learn is that we have to go on living after the inevitable happens.

Tanya Reimer said...

That's so true Richard. And the moment we learn that, we never forget, do we?

Juliana L. Brandt said...

I think you just broke my heart. Letting go is not easy, especially pet. You wrote that incredibly well.

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful post, Tanya! This story reminded me of what we writers must do with our words and our stories. We let them go, hoping they'll come back to us, but they're not really for us. They are wild and must be free.


Trisha said...

Awwwwww, first I was sad that the other 2 died, but I'm so glad you guys managed to save the third one! And that's so awesome about the moment when he looked back :)

Tanya Reimer said...

Thanks Juliana, it means a lot to me that you enjoyed it.

vbtremper, how true that is. It can be a wonderful metaphore for so many things in life.

Trisha, you're so right, it's always nice when anyone looks back.

Margo Berendsen said...

I believe animals have emotions too, absolutely; never had a relationship with a wild animal like this though. What a neat story!

Trisha said...

I definitely believe animals have emotions. ;) My cats are typical in a way, they tend to suck up most when it's eating time. and yet they snuggle with me AFTER eating as well :P

Tanya Reimer said...

Oh cats are a perfect example, aren't they? We can really bond with them. My St Bernard too, she get those sighs that say so much.