At the age of 95 years and 8 months, my mother fell down. As sometimes happens with folks her age when they fall down, her hip broke. Two days later she was in surgery, having the broken part replaced with a new part made of space age materials, possibly one of the used and discarded pieces of the now retired space shuttle Atlantis.
After the surgery she spent the next five weeks exercising at a rehabilitation facility. Get up, sit down, stretch, move over here, move over there. Get better. John, her favorite physical therapist, even pronounced her name with the same Brooklyn accent she uses when pronouncing her own name. “Poil” they called her, which is Brooklyn for “Pearl.”
After this ordeal, she was released to go home two days before Thanksgiving. Lisa and I jumped on an airplane to visit Poil, 1137 miles away from my home, to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together. And what the heck, when done visiting, why not stop half way home to visit the high point in Georgia.
But first, if you’ve ever been to Florida, you know that the ubiquitous canals are an important part of everyday life. Lisa and I, whenever we visit Mom, go for walks by the canal near her home. We stop for a few moments to look more closely at some movement, something big that catches our eye. Crouching on a rock, it must be at least four feet long from nose to tail. At least! It’s an iguana!
His name is Max. We know this because we name him. Also, the choice of name has a lot to do with the name on the back of his jersey.
N’wait, there’s a second iguana, and look how big he is! Turns out there are four of them and they are the largest lizards we’ve ever seen. The second one’s name is Lefty, and he’s almost as large as Max. Max’s little brother Joey, just a tad smaller and Slide, the smallest, round out the group.
Iguanas are not indigenous to this area so we figure someone brought one or more of them here as pets, and then decided they didn’t want them any more. Iguanas are tricky to care for properly. They can survive in captivity under somewhat demanding conditions: a diet of mustard greens, dandelion, kale and fresh flowers. Also parsnip, mango, turnip greens, arugula, various squashes and especially wild plum. They prefer a cloth tablecloth. Ambient temperatures must be consistently between 79° and 95° and iguanas need natural sunlight. Without all these ingredients, they will die. No wonder, alas, so many are abandoned.
They’ve got a characteristic dewlap and rows of spines on their backs, top to bottom. Like the armadillo, they also have scales. Not your standard household pet.
After our visit of a few days, making sure Mom is okay, we bid her and the iguana family goodbye, and head north to our Georgia high point adventure.
Behold, as we leave, Max’s friends and playmates.