Eli And Lucky Moose.jpg

A photo from 2013 of Eli and Lucky Moose off on an adventure with Dad.

There are not a lot of good things I can say about Facebook, but it does allow you to keep in touch with family members who are far away, reconnect with people you may have genuinely lost touch with that matter to you, and it brings back reminders of times past that may have more meaning through the long range filter of time and distance.

The photo you see with this column is one of those memories.

It wasn’t the best Monday morning already when I came into the office (then again, how often are Monday mornings good?)  My car was having issues, my laptop was having issues, Neil T. Kitty was having normal issues, and there was a real idiot on southbound 65 zipping in and out of cars like he thought he was Kevin Harvick in Sunday’s NASCAR race at Charlotte. 

So when I booted up the computer and logged into Facebook before I began the day’s writing to send a note to my son Eli (like I do every day) the first thing that popped up in my timeline was the photo from eight years prior of Eli and Lucky Moose.

Eli at the time loved a cartoon that he found on Nickelodeon called Invader Zim. It’s about a bug-eyed alien who was part of a race of aliens that invaded and then took over planets. 

Zim is not very bright, and not very skilled, so his commanders sent him to Earth which was almost as far away from Zim’s home base as they could send him. Zim’s only “partner” in this was a robot that was thrown together from rejected spare parts. The robot, which all invaders received, should have announced its name as “SIR” (for Standard-Issue Information Retrieval Unit.) Instead, when they activated it, the robot said it’s name was “GIR,” and when asked what the G stood for said “I don’t know.” 

The first time Eli heard that, he laughed and laughed, playing that one little clip over for what seemed like hours.

Eli loved GIR. He found everything that GIR did funny because it was usually something that had nothing to do with Zim’s plan to take over the world and was usually simply absurd. (In showing that love for GIR, I think Eli may have shown he inherited his Dad’s “Monty Python” loving sense of humor.)

One episode in the early days was called “Room with a Moose.” Zim pretended to be an elementary school student like his neighbor and arch-nemesis “Dib,” who kept trying to tell people that Zim was an alien. Being small, and speaking differently than other kids, Zim was the subject of bullying. So he planned revenge on the bullies, along with taking out Dib.

He created a fake field trip and once his classmates were loaded into the bus, rockets appeared on the sides of the bus and launched them into space.

Dib made his way to the front hatch where a robotic driver had been controlling the ship, only to have Zim appear on the screen and inform Dib that he and the other kids were being transported to a “Room with a Moose” for eternal torment.

You’d have to see the cartoon to get the humor in it, and Eli did, and he kept talking about “Room with a Moose.” We had to watch that cartoon more than most families in the last few years had to watch “Frozen.” Every time I went to put something on the TV, Eli would request “Room with a Moose.”

Then in the cartoon’s subsequent episodes, GIR suddenly had a little stuffed moose that became his companion. Well, you can imagine what Eli then said he wanted to have as his little buddy.

The moose became a frequent guest with Eli related things. Our team for the autism awareness walk became “Team with a Moose.” The moose appeared on a birthday cake. Eli would draw the moose on various pieces of artwork.  Still, Eli had no moose of his own.

That’s when Grandma went to work.

My mom spent months searching the internet for anyone who made a stuffed toy moose that looked like GIR’s moose. She found people who made stickers. She found people who made a stuffed moose, but it didn’t look like GIR’s moose. She found websites with custom webtoons of GIR. 

The one thing she couldn’t find... a stuffed version of GIR’s moose.

As Christmas was closing in, mom began to spend hours a night on the computer trying to find the moose. It almost became her job with the number of hours she was putting in, but she didn’t care, because her grandson had to have his moose.

Finally, mom found a woman on pinterest that made custom dolls that were designed to look like someone’s daughter. She thought that if this woman could make a doll that recreated someone’s daughter, perhaps she had the skills to make Eli’s moose. Taking a chance, she reached out with an email about Eli and the moose.

The woman (whose name I’m afraid I don’t remember now) was overjoyed with mom’s request, because she worked with special needs children, and she knew how much something like that moose would mean to Eli. She not only custom made the moose, but sent it to us for free.

Mom was usually pretty good at making us wait until Christmas for our presents, but she couldn’t wait for Eli’s moose. She mailed it to my apartment and said I should put it on the pillow on Eli’s bed, so when he came for a visit it would be the first thing  he would see.

He was in his room for less than 10 seconds before the shout.

“LUCKY MOOSE!”

Eli came running into the living room squeezing Lucky Moose to the side of his head. He was laughing, saying that Lucky Moose came to see him, how much he loved Lucky Moose, and then “can we watch Room with a Moose?”

That moose went everywhere with Eli. He took him to the movies, to dinner, to the Haygoods show a few times. Lucky Moose spent years in Eli’s little duffle bag he would carry to his mother’s house and back to mine. 

One day I noticed that Eli had gone home and left Lucky Moose sitting on the pillow on his bed. So the next day when I made my daily call to him, I asked him why he left Lucky Moose.

“You alone Daddy,” Eli said. “Lucky Moose keep you company.” 

Thus began Lucky Moose’s residency “keeping Daddy company.” Eli thought as long as I had Lucky Moose, I would be all right when he wasn’t with me.

So I put Lucky Moose in my car, so when Eli comes to visit, the first thing he sees in the car is Lucky Moose.

This morning, as that photo popped up on Facebook, my thoughts immediately ran to mom. I began to cry at my desk, because it hit me that she will be gone six months already on the 27th. I’d like to say that I’ve made significant steps forward in dealing with my grief but clearly my reaction today says those steps have been as far as I’d like them to be at this point. 

All I can think about is the lengths that mom went to find Eli a stuffed moose. After all, it’s just fabric with cotton stuffed inside it, sewn in the shape of a cartoon moose. Yet to my mother, it was a mission that had to be completed no matter what it would take. Eli needed to have the moose, and mom was going to make sure that he had it.

I also realized this morning, as I shared the photo on Facebook with a little blurb about the moose, that no one is ever going to go to those lengths for Eli & I again. 

We have friends who have done great things for us, especially in the days following mom’s passing, but the story I’ve shared about mom and Eli’s moose is just one of many times that I can think about mom going to extraordinary lengths for her son and her grandchildren. I could fill this paper with those stories and still have things left over. 

And that love is gone. Forever. However, it will never be forgotten at least with Eli & I for at least one reason.

Lucky Moose remains.

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