One of the many things you lose when a dear friend or a spouse dies is your stock of private jokes. All the words and phrases the two of you used, the amusing shortcuts to speech, are gone because there is no one left who knows the personal meanings. I’ve decided it’s my mission to pass along one of these private jokes to keep it alive because it is so perfect and it fulfills a needed niche. This word is “ostrich.”
In the movie Sodbusters, written and directed by Eugene Levy and starring Kris Kristofferson, there is a scene where the character Shorty is trying to tell the other sodbusters that they’re acting like ostriches, but he can’t remember the word. What ensues is a hilarious comic routine of his trying to describe the bird to people who don’t believe there is such a creature. Later in the movie, the sodbusters go to the saloon to confront the bad guys trying to force them off their land. They burst through the door, and Shorty yells, “Ostrich!”
A few days after we watched Sodbusters, my friend — my mate — and I were talking, and he couldn’t remember a particular word. Later that day, he came into the living room and exclaimed, “Ostrich.” Then he said the word he’d just remembered. Cracked me up. And so, until his death, “ostrich” replaced the phrase, “I remembered the word I couldn’t remember when we were talking before.” See how convenient “ostrich” is? One word in place of twelve. What a deal!
I worried that making this private joke known would bring me unhappiness, but the opposite turned out to be true. At a lunch with a few friends, I told this ostrich story. During the same meal, we mentioned the football player who gave up his career and enlisted in the army, but no one could remember his name. Later that evening, I got a text: “Ostrich! Pat Tillman”. Made me smile.
So, when you remember a word you couldn’t remember, remember to say — ostrich!