Frank and Opal

Some men have a corny sense of humor. Sam especially. I usually just stare at him. This week I worked on the New York Times crossword puzzle and asked him, “What’s a five-letter word for ‘more dry, as in humor’? Drier can’t be right.”

“H-mmm,” he said.

As it turned out, the word was wrier. “Wry is a good word. I haven’t used that word in, well, I never use that word.”

“I used it just last week,” he said, and I began to be impressed.

“Yes, I used it when I ordered a Reuben sandwich.”

See what I mean?

The columns of fog move and twist over the pond like ballet dancers in silent, slow procession. And then the sounds of the geese break the morning’s quiet. “Sam, they’re back!”

One of the highlights of living on Flesher Pond is the return of Frank and Opal. They glide in on the first day of March more often than not. One year it was February 29. “It’s Leap Year,” I told Sam. “They don’t know it’s not March 1.”

Each spring, Opal rebuilds her nest in the same spot. Beside the pond she sits, tucking in grass and twigs that are within reach. That done, she roams around searching for anything else suitable. She also pulls out her down to stuff in and around. Miss Fussy toils for a couple of days, and then she sits. Frank stands guard, and swims and eats at leisure, but Opal just sits. Once a day, in late afternoon when the sun slants through the trees, she gets up and waddles to the pond to feed.

We named the geese after my paternal grandparents. Grandpa was gruff and scary, but Grandma Opal was just good. Our visits were always to see her and not Grandpa. As little girls, my sister and I thought Grandpa was called Opal, too. Grandma and Grandpa Opal.

Frank and Opal, the geese, take a proprietary view of Flesher Pond and consider it their personal front yard. Arguments are rare, but Sentinel Frank is loud in his disapproval when any other geese want to land. When his “calamity is coming” honking begins, Sam and I know something’s up. Frank lifts in flight to head off the interlopers, but the new arrivals are indignant and challenge him. Attacking and swooping, Frank steers them away from the nest. If several birds land, Opal gets up to join in the fracas. The honking from all sides is loud and serious, but Frank always wins. Opal resumes her brooding, undisturbed.

We don’t always get to watch the goslings grow. Some years a raccoon or fox upsets the peace and harmony, and we find broken eggshells scattered in the grass. One year Frank flew away before sundown. He does that sometimes. When Opal started honking and didn’t let up, I finally said to Sam, “Something is wrong.”

She honked all night. Each time I woke up I heard her still calling. In the morning, she flew away from seven perfect, white eggs and never came back. We missed them and their little family that spring. The next year she came to build with a new “Frank.” Forty-five degrees a few days ago and sixty yesterday should thaw the pond. In about five days we look for our goose friends to return and try again.

“The only real failure is the failure to try. And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must. We get up every morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters.” from the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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