The Female of the Bovine Species
Updated: Aug 26
My dad was a West Pointer. At family dinner, he often recited a diatribe of U.S. Military Academy aphorisms and other fun sayings to our delight.
But I don't want to discuss "Duty, Honor, Country." I want to talk about "How's the cow?" What's that, you wonder? It's the question older students would ask Plebes (first-year cadets) at meals to see how many glasses of milk were still in the pitcher.
"Sir, she walks, she talks, she's full of chalk. The lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the (second) degree." That meant there were about two glasses left. My dad used to say it so fast. And we loved it every time.
My dad is 84 now. He has trouble walking but more trouble talking. A form of dementia, Frontotemporal Degeneration (the same kind afflicting actor Bruce Willis), has been eroding his memory, making it impossible for him to vocalize his thoughts. Simple conversations are exasperating for everyone, none more than him. We've watched, experienced, and slowly grieved his painful digression for a decade.
The lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is no longer prolific to any degree.
Sometimes, I get choked up when I see my dad. I enjoy sitting near him and being in the same room. We don't talk like we used to. But we look at each other fondly and try to remember.
I wonder about his staggering, penetrating intellect. His verbal acumen. His timely wisdom. His lightning puns. His painfully circuitous jokes. His West Point lines.
Where did they go? What a stupid existential question. I am left with three things: a broken heart, a mystified theology, and a debt of gratitude.
Is there anything else?