Tuesday, August 08, 2023

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Denny The Gorilla, 8.5 years old  (8.6.23)

I was scrolling through my old Instagram posts because I was trying to find the day that I decided that I was going to become friends with a gorilla. That first post was in February of 2020, just before everything shut down because of COVID. It wasn't the first time I met him, I have pictures of him over the years, including at just a few weeks old, but now was different. I had no idea then that this little gorilla would so quickly become such a huge part of my life and change me in so many different ways. 

Denny became a habit. I'm a bit obsessive about, well, everything, so when I decided that we would be friends, I adjusted my life accordingly. Not so much at first, but as I grew to "know" him and the rest of the gorillas at San Diego Zoo, and after the zoo reopened after COVID shutdowns, I was there as much as I could be. I mean, it has been a long time that I've been taking photos there or dragging my laptop around and plugging in to get work done, or dragging Darren so many times that he eventually decided to work for SDZWA, but suddenly I was compelled to be there at a particular time every day, or as many days as I could, to see him. Over time, this has meant gigs of videos and photos, but it has also meant meeting a whole group of interesting and diverse zoo friends, marginally better sleep and work habits, not as much drinking and fewer late nights. It has also meant fewer shows and participation in other life events, but the reality is I needed a little diversion from some things that weren't feeding my soul. I was burning the candle at both ends and it wasn't doing me any favors.  

It has also been emotional. I was with Denny when my sister called to tell me that she was flying to New Mexico because our sister-in-law wasn't expected to make it through the night; that cancer had taken over her body. Denny was at the glass and put his hand to mine as tears rolled down my cheeks. When just a couple weeks later, on Easter Sunday, my sister called to tell me my dad took his last breath, Denny pulled his burlap sack over his head and put his forehead to mine through the glass before I left to join my family. Last week, I was watching him interact with his parents for the last real time as I was on the phone finding out my high school best friend's mom was placed in hospice, where she would pass just a couple days later. We were on the phone for awhile before Denny came over, and I ended the call. "I have to go, my gorilla is asking to see my phone."

And it's all so weird. Darren has COVID, so in an effort to let him get real rest in our house, I've been spending full days at the zoo as much as possible. Part of that has been watching Denny as he's been moved from his family troop with his mom and dad to the bachelor troop with his three silverback half brothers. It was gradual until it wasn't. We all knew it would happen, just not so suddenly, going from Monday with his brothers in the morning to his parents in the afternoon to Tuesday only with his brothers. Full-time. And it's funny, Denny has been so readily accepted by the bachelors (mostly. Ekuba will come around) that I haven't really been able to snap any great photos of him. This one I chose is from Sunday, the 12 year anniversary of the day Darren and I met!! (and no, Darren doesn't get a post because we'll postpone any celebration until he's well and back in the world of the COVID-free.) 

I'm not trying to compare or conflate this gorilla growing up with losing my sister-in-law or dad or my best friend's mom, but it marks the passage of time. That we all get older. That time stops for nobody. That sometimes all we have is this very moment. But it's all this excitement about Denny and his life changes that makes it easier to accept changes in mine. So yes, Darren will get a full celebration. And I will mourn the loss of my friend's mom properly with her family. But for now, this little ape gets the love, because I'm a profoundly different human because of him.  

Stay safe out there.
Tell your people you love them.  

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