My son, Tim, is one of several thousand soldiers in the Oregon National Guard that have been called to active duty.  He and others from his National Guard unit were told that they will be supplementing active duty forces in Iraq. For many of them, this will be their second or third tour. The last time my son was called up, he served 18 months; this time, he was told, that it would, probably, be only for a year.

Only a year…

Time is relative, particularly to the children of families that remain behind.
I telephoned Christy, my daughter in law. She and I gossiped a bit. She told me that my Grandson, Jake, really missed his father.

I asked. "Do you think that Jake might be interested in going to the zoo with me?"
"Jake would love to have some 'guy time' with his grandfather." She responded.
I looked at my schedule. "How about Saturday?"

"That would be perfect! What time will you be over?"

"I will let you know."

I told my wife, Claudia, about our conversation. She smiled; "I think that I will call Christy and see if she would like a day off. I could baby sit Sienna (our 23 month old grand daughter). I think she might appreciate some 'girl time' away from the kids."

"Go for it." I said.

Saturday arrived, my wife and I stood at their doorway. I rang the doorbell.
"Grandpa!" Small hands hugged me.

"Well Jake! Are you ready for the zoo?"

"I like the zoo," burbled Jake. "I like the spiders and insects and snakes…"

Jake is 7 and it was obvious to me that he was fascinated by crawling things.
I pointed to my car. "I'll need a car seat …"

Jake immediately went to his mothers car and pulled out a car seat and set it into the back of my car.

"You girls all have plans?"

Christy had plans for lunch and a movie with a girl friend. Claudia and Sienna planned for a quiet day at home and a walk to a nearby playground.

Jake and I made our exit. We waved goodbye as my car backed out of their driveway.
I started singing an old Tom Paxton, Peter Paul and Mary Song,
"Were goin' to the zoo, zoo, zoo
How about you, you, you?
You can come too, too, too
We're goin' to the zoo, zoo, zoo."

I stopped at a traffic light and a man in his seventies started to cross the street.
"That old man has a mustache, but he doesn't have a beard like you." Remarked Jake. "Old men like to have beards."

I replied, "We do like beards, we like them because we can grow hair on our faces, even if we can't grow it on our heads."

Jake seemed willing to accept my wisdom…

It did not take long for us to arrive at the Zoo.

It was Saturday, the parking lot was full; I spotted a place in the overflow lot.
"Looks as if we will have a long walk. Hey Jake, be sure to remember where we are so that I don't get lost."

"Don't worry Grandpa; we won't get lost," said Jake.

We hiked up to the Zoo Entrance. A nice lady said "One, Senior, one Youth, two train rides, and parking, that will be $28.50 please.

I handed the lady my charge card, and we both entered the zoo.

I discovered that there were a number of new exhibits and changes since I was last there. The zoo is now divided into regional sections, the great Northwest, Pacific Shores, Africa, Asia, with a special place for elephants, primates, penguins, bears and pigs. We were determined to see everything. Jake first insisted on our going to the insect zoo. Jake seemed fascinated by the Spiders. I explained to him that spiders weren't insects, that they were Arachnids. He seemed surprised, and one of the attendants further explained to him that Arachnids had eight legs, while insects have six.

Jake seemed to take all this information in.

We visited Lorikeet landing. I purchased liquid Lorikeet food. Jake seemed thrilled to be able to feed the birds and the birds seemed pleased as well. Lorikeet landing was crowded with adults and children and they all seemed to have bird food. 

I approached a girl wearing a Zoo Volunteer shirt. "How is it that the birds don't overeat?"
She answered: "The food goes through them pretty fast." She then loudly announced to the group "You can wash your hands at the exit, don't get any bird droppings in your mouths."

We spent hours looking at various wonders. We ate snow cones, ice cream dots, ice cream cones, potato chips, hamburgers, and we drank pop. 

We rode the zoo train and attempted to walk everywhere possible. We saw the petting zoo, antelope, elephants, penguins, snakes and primates.

Time evaporated. We noticed people leaving.

"Come on Grandpa," encouraged Jake. You look tired, I think it's time for us to go."
We walked up to the Zoo entrance.

"Don't worry, I know where the car's parked" said Jake as he lead me across the parking lot.
We arrived at home. Everyone was home waiting for us. My wife had a great time bonding with our granddaughter, and my Daughter-in-law had a few of hours of respite.

My son is one of several thousand, who are serving our country far away from their homes. His family is one of several thousand families who, in their own way, have also sacrificed something for our country.

Each day I pray for both our service members and their families. I pray that they will come to no harm, and that they will soon be able to be together again. I also pray that their sacrifices will not be in vain, and that our efforts will be worthwhile.

How about you, do you have someone to take to the Zoo?


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