Many moons ago a tiger found herself in thick forested hills that were not home. She never could recall how she had gotten there; she only remembered running away and when she stopped, this is where she stayed. She did not love her new home, and she did not hate it either, she existed.
The Tiger found she was with child. She was excited to have company in the lonesome hills. The cub arrived in the early heat of summer. The tiger was surprised by her cub, it was female and somehow a bear. The tiger knew nothing about bear cubs, but she cared for the bear cub the best way she knew how. She taught it about the hills, where to find shelter and how to hunt for food. She didn’t play with the bear cub the way a mother bear would have, but she loved the bear cub just the same. When she had taught the cub all she could, she sent her off on her own.
The bear cub struck out and soon found herself a Mother Bear, two bear cubs, both female, but striped like the tiger. The Mother Bear laughed at her funny looking cubs. She taught them about the hills, how to find shelter and how to hunt for food. She played with them, chased them and wrestled. She brought them to the Tiger.
The Tiger was pleased by the striped cubs. She cared for them, played with them, and loved them in a way she couldn’t with the Mother Bear. The striped cubs were good, smart and brave and the Tiger was proud of the Mother Bear. The striped bear cubs watched over the Old Tiger.
When the Old Tiger made it to her final days, she struggled; she could not hunt, she could not find shelter. The Mother Bear crashed through the woods searching her out, seeking to help her. She found her in an open field of tall grasses. The Mother Bear offered her help. The Old Tiger pawed at her, pushing her away. She wanted to be left on her own.
The Mother Bear knew the danger of leaving in the open, she refused to go. She stood back, lifted herself onto her hind legs, and roared a roar that shook the rocks from the mountains. The Old Tiger looked up at the Mother Bear, she had never spoken to the Old Tiger this way. It had always been the Old Tiger who commanded the bear cub to do as she said, to give her respect. The Old Tiger stumbled to her feet and bowed to the Mother Bear. The Mother Bear thundered to the ground and laid at the feet of the Tiger. The Tiger climbed onto the back of the Mother Bear and was carried to safety where she took her last breath in peace.
My tiger died four years ago. I miss my grandmother terribly. Her prickly ways but genuine need to be loved is why I cherished her so. I grew up with contrasting approaches to motherhood; neither one right and neither one wrong, both the result of each mother doing the best she could. I had thirty two years with my tiger, more than most could ever hope for, yet I still feel like I don’t know everything about my stripes and there is no one left to teach me.