Friday, September 29, 2006

Steve Irwin Died - Crikey!

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you know that Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter," died this past month. I didn't mention it in here at the time, because, well, I just couldn't bring myself to do so. His death really affected me.

It is way too close to the loss of my father. Both deaths were so sudden. So unexpected. So tragic. And every time I think about either one still, I cry. But I realized that talking about them both is cathartic. I need to grieve about Steve too and in a way I do best..... writing.

You see, I feel like I know the Irwins, oh so very well. Of course, having kids who loved watching wildlife shows, we've been watching Steve-O since the beginning. He's been a regular part of our household for so long. My heart truly goes out to Terri and Bindi and Bob..... as well as the rest of the Australia Zoo family. I know them all. My deepest sympathies for their great loss. I will miss him too.

I mean, truly, how could you help not liking Steve Irwin? He was larger-than-life. His energy and enthusiasm were so very contagious. His shows were not just informative, they were interesting. More so than the "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" I viewed as a child. That, and "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" were the only animal conservation shows on tv in my area when I was growing up. And they were so very solemn, so very dry, so very dull.

Steve and Terri Irwin presented wildlife and their messages of conservation and environmentalism in such a way that made it fun and exciting. I wanted to watch Steve just to see what he would do and say next. I was as hooked on the "Crocodile Hunter" as the kids were. Except I didn't have the doll.

I quoted him often. Not the "Crikey" or "What a little beauty" bits. But other things he'd say on the shows that we'd watch over and over. Did you see one of the early episodes when he was telling Terri to jump onto the back of a croc and she was fearful of harming it? Steve basically told her that she couldn't possible hurt it - "It's a dinosaur!" I loved saying that. He had summed up my thoughts about reptiles and broadcast them on national/international television.

He was so knowledgeable about so many critters. He would always amaze and impress me. We learned a lot about some of the lesser known creatures with whom we share this earth. His message of conservation of endangered animals, all animals really, has thoroughly been impressed upon my daughter, I can only imagine the strength of the legacy he left with his own children.

And I knew from the moment that I saw Steve Irwin that he was the type of man I wished that I had in my life. In Terri Irwin's interview with Barbara Walters, she confirmed what I've thought all along. When speaking of what she'll miss most about Steve, she said it was something that was very selfish.

She told Barbra, "He was fun. Steve was fun! He taught me it's OK to play in the rain. And splash in mud puddles. And let the kids get dirty. And spill ice cream on your pants. He didn't sweat the little stuff. He followed the big picture. And he had fun!"

And on those occasions, which happened frequently and would glue me to the tv, he would run pell-mell behind a critter and throw his whole body into the tackle or jump into water fully clothed in his khakis and shoes, I would be so envious of his wife. How I wished that I could meet a man who had such determination and enthusiasm. It showed me that Steve was full of priorities, passion and energy. He didn't care if he missed and had to jump up and try again. He didn't care if he was dirty or wet or if everything fell out of the boat. He tackled the job at hand, literally. And he could laugh about it. And he could laugh at himself.

I also adored that when something would bite him, or even pee on him, he wouldn't fling it away - a gut reaction most people would have. He'd continue holding the animal/reptile/ugly bug with such love and gentleness. And then carefully, respectfully, put it back down. He seemed to have so much patience and appreciation for all living things. Ideals I try to instill in my child. And then like my child, he'd show the bloody boo-boo to us.

Terri said that she still feels blessed that she had him in her life. "I had romance like I didn't think existed anymore, a wonderful romance. He was passionate and determined and enthusiastic." He had so much enthusiasm for life, that at times, Terri confirmed, it was hard to keep up with him.

She also said in a previous interview, "He's a nut! This is what's so exciting about him. And, he looks really great in short shorts!"
And she went on to say " I'm Jane, he's Tarzan. It's always been like that. But I think that that is the spice of life. That is what's so exciting, and that's why people tune in. They tune in 'cause they want to see this guy die or get badly hurt. And instead they get a message about wildlife, and they get see a guy who says, "Isn't this rattlesnake beautiful?" Who else says that?"

I actually fell in love with Steve Irwin a little myself after watching a show where their truck got bogged down in sand/dirt and he had to put everything he had into getting it unstuck. It didn't piss him off, he didn't get upset. He maintained his cool and good humor. No bitching, no moaning, no kvetching. Life happens and sometimes it throws a wrench in the works. And the show goes on. TV, like life, doesn't always go as planned.

My dad used to always tell me that you had to keep your sense of humor, not to take things too seriously in this life. "You're never going to get out alive," he'd say, trying not to sweat the small stuff. Teaching me to keep my priorities straight. Steve reminded me so much of my dad and it was confirmed when I heard Terri speak about living with Steve.

And it's funny, like me, Steve Irwin credits his dad for who he is today. He once said of his father, in an interview with Scientific American, "He created me. He nurtured my instincts and he caused me to be who I am, so I've followed in his footsteps. All I ever wanted was to be my dad..."

My dad considered himself to be a warrior, one who is engaged aggressively or energetically in an activity or cause. A way of being in this world beyond the ordinary. Using each moment as an opportunity to expand one's capabilities. Physically, intellectually and spiritually. It takes courage to be different.

Steve Irwin was a courageous man as well. As evidenced by his philosophy. As evidenced by the way he lived. He too was a warrior. I was by no means surprised to find out that in more recent years, Steve changed the name of one of the conservation charities he founded to Wildlife Warriors Worldwide.

Steve, like my dad, was not a typical man. The world is a better place for men like these. I tip my hat to you Steve, you will be missed by not only those you loved but by those who loved you.


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