Alas, my mother is extremely allergic to pet dander. So, if we ever want her to come visit (and we do) we are not at liberty to get indoor cats or dogs. (The mere mention of even a ‘hypoallergenic’ breed is enough to make my mother break out in hives.) So, the kids were elated when at long last we took them to each pick out their own fish (the baby excluded). And the excitement continued as we filled the tank with rocks, fake plants and eventually Rosie, Fred and Bones (Naomi’s, Elijah’s and Isaiah’s fish respectively).
As the newness wore off, as it always does, I of course was left to care for the fish. So, I can’t say I was deeply disappointed when a couple months later we had a ‘floater.’ (It was unfortunate that it was Naomi’s Rosie, since she was seemingly the most attached and definitely our biggest animal lover.) We held the ceremonial ‘buried at sea’ via the toilet funeral; a basic rite of passage for every child with indoor plumbing. There were a few tears shed by my daughter, and many questions by my two year old son, Elijah. “Where’s Rosie?” he started.
“Rosie went bye-bye,” I answered.
“Is she coming back?” he continued.
“No, she’s not coming back,” I replied.
“Where’s Rosie?” Elijah asked again. “Is she coming back?”
“Maybe,” I stated, contemplating the idea of a replacement.
“No she isn’t! She’s dead!” Isaiah in his nine year old wisdom chimed in.
After a few moments things began to calm down and I proceeded to clean the fish tank. I was doing a short cut version without removing the remaining fish; dumping the water and adding some more, dumping out more water, wiping away algae, then adding more water, etc. And then to my complete surprise I dumped Bones down the drain of the garbage disposal. Still in shock I yelled for Owen, who I thought would stick his hand in the drain and retrieve the fish, but in my amazement flipped the switch and started the disposal! (Side note: I can’t blame him for not wanting to stick his hand in the garbage disposal or let the fish suffer any longer, but it was still shocking.) So I’m standing there in total disbelief of the chain of events that just transpired and Isaiah starts crying and yelling “murderer!”
“Me? Your father is the one who started the garbage disposal,” I reasoned.
“You dumped him down the drain!” Isaiah went on through tears and frustration, “Murderer!”
I understand that losing a pet is upsetting. But I am almost certain that his disappointment was as much (if not more) due to the fact that Elijah’s fish was the last to survive; because, everything is a competition to that kid. I mean, I would never do anything like that on purpose. I’m the only one who fed those fish and certainly the only one to ever clean that stinky tank. And we keep that foul thing right on my kitchen counter!
The loss had a an impact on Elijah and at random times, like in the car on the way to the grocery store, he would ask “Where’s Rosie? She in the toilet? She coming back?” And every time I would clean the tank he’d remind me “No put Fred in the sink, ok mom?” As time passed, however, the threat seemed to fade and eventually things went back to normal.
Unhappily, I am reminded of that story as yesterday the time had come for Fred to move on to deeper waters. And as we bid farewell to dear old Fred I’d like to say “Thanks for the memories, you were the last fish swimming… and thank you for clearing up my counter.”