I was 18 when my father went for surgery to repair a hernia. It was the first time I ever had to visit a parent in the hospital and I was very unsure about what I was supposed to do. I had been with my mother when we visited my grandfather in the hospital just before he died and I had worked in a nursing home so I had some idea of what to expect.
I had some idea that part of my job was to comfort and bring a bit of happiness to the room so I thought about it and decided to stop in the hospital gift shop. Now, my father was a man’s man, no frills or anything fluffy about him. Flowers, candy, cards – nothing seemed right as a gift so I decided to just go for the joke and bought him a nice little teddy bear that had, “Get Well” stitched across his tummy.
Father appreciated the joke, put the bear in bed with him and showed all the nurses his new, “friend.”
Two days later when we were getting him ready for the ride home, he made special mention of the bear and made sure it was not left behind. Unlike the flowers and other gifts he’d received, most of which were left at the nurse’s station for them to enjoy to “give to a patient who needs them.”
When we got home and father was settled in his easy chair with the TV remote, I made a big deal out of placing the little teddy bear on the end table so it also had a good view of the TV.
At that moment my cat, Chewbacca, appeared.
Yes, it was 1978 and I had a cat name Chewbacca. Now I’d like to explain that I didn’t name the cat but it was an appropriate name as my Chewbacca was very much like the Star Wars character – large, loud and willing to fight. I had gotten Chewbacca (no one dared call him Chewie) as a kitten from friends just after the Star Wars movie had come out and when I showed it to my girl friend she happily exclaimed, “He’s sooo cute. He looks just like Chewbacca.” The name stuck and Chewbacca soon grew into a very large tom cat that fought every cat in the neighborhood – including a few of the dogs – and regularly left us dead birds on the back steps.
Our brave warrior, the mighty Chewbacca.
Except when it came to teddy bears.
Father, having just taken a pain pill, was in a playful mood and decided to introduced Chewbacca to his new teddy bear. Chewbacca was taken by surprise and jumped three feet straight up in the air, ran out of the living room and dived behind the piano. He refused to come out and was hissing violently toward the fiendish teddy bear.
Well that got us all laughing so much so that you could see tears forming in father’s eyes – from the laughter and the pain in the groin that the laughing was causing.
Father then sat the teddy bear on the floor next to his chair and for the next two days Chewbacca avoided the area around father’s chair. The mighty warrior watched his opponent from six feet away – moving in slow stealthful arcs around the living room, slinking quietly behind chairs and pillows to conceal his movements.
Then on the morning of the third day we saw Chewbacca maneuver carefully behind the piano. Chewbacca was in the bear’s blind spot and with a sudden lightening leap Chewbacca attacked – teeth and claws bared – knocking the teddy bear to the ground. He, being a wise warrior continued his run and didn’t turn around until he had achieved a place of safety behind the TV.
Noting that the bear did not give chase or retaliate in any way, Chewbacca pulled himself up to this full height, marched bravely over to the defeated teddy bear and proceeded to rip it to shreds.
For weeks we’d find bits of teddy bear stuffing around the house.
Father was greatly amused and told that story for years – at any mention of hospitals, surgery, or teddy bears.