He was the devoted father of two young children, even though he caught some flack for feeding a crocodile with his right hand while holding his infant son with his left. (Me? As absentminded as I am? I could never attempt that. I can’t even begin to joke about what would have happened if I had done that.) He was young — too young to die, that’s for sure. And it seemed like such a freak thing — the puncture of the stingray barb directly to the heart is what did him in. It wasn’t even the venom, which, by the way, isn’t usually lethal.
But I’m saddened for an additional reason. This was a piece of my kids’ childhood. Something they knew. Something familiar. He’s how we discovered my daughter’s incredible aptitude for accents. I remember when “Face” got replaced by some fuzzy little puppets on Nickelodeon, or the switch from Steve to Joe (sorry, he’s no Steve) on Blues Clues. While childrens’ programming changes don’t begin to compare to the death of a son, husband, and father, they still signal that things – things that you know, things that you see as a source of comfort – can change in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, my children are old enough now that we can have a dialogue about life, and death, and the suddeness in which things happen.
I don’t know much about the guy other than the persona that came across on television. But I know that we’ve lost something comfortable and familiar. And I know that this larger-than-life character was taken way too soon.