Hug Your Fish Tight, You are Not Promised Tomorrow.
Last Easter, I had a crazy mom response to an Easter egg hunt that was being thrown at my grandmother's assisted living. The problem(s)? The lack of sportsmanship. The refusal to cap the number of eggs each child could collect to give the little kids a fighting chance. The kids old enough to shave who were knocking my four year old out of the way to collect all the eggs. And mostly, said shaving kids' parents who were letting it happen in front of them.
After all the eggs were found, Samuel walked over to me with a nearly empty basket and burst into tears. I had a physical reaction. I could feel my anger rising. If I had been Jacob Black, I would have turned into a gigantic wolf. If I had been Lou Ferrigno, you would have seen me grow muscles and turn green. Suddenly, I found myself staring in the face of a difficult learning experience for my child. The kind where you probably have an obligation to hold your child's hand and walk with him as he faces one of life's harsh realities. It was a tough love moment. So what did I do after I finished consoling my heartbroken child that would help him grow as a person? Why, I enlisted the help of my mother and sister and in under ten minutes, we had planned our own Easter Egg hunt. A better Easter Egg hunt. An Easter Egg hunt with 12 colored eggs, one golden egg, one prize for finding the golden egg and, of course you guessed it, one Easter egg hunter. Learning experiences are overrated...my baby was going to get eggs.
What does this have to do with a fish? The prize Samuel won that day at the First Annual Samuel Turner Invitation-only Solo Easter Egg Hunt, was his pet fish, Ziggy.
Last night, Ziggy died, and I found myself standing in the middle of yet another life lesson for my son. He would have to be told that his beloved fish died. But first, I needed the emotional support one can only find from a spouse. I went upstairs to tell my husband.
"Honey, Ziggy's dead."
He looked up at me suspiciously, "What happened?"
I stared at him. "Heart disease? I don't know he's a fish. He lives in a bowl. You feed them and then one day they die. He's dead. He's floating in his bowl downstairs and dinner's ready"
"Did you feed him?"
"YES. I'm the ONLY one who fed him. Come get this dead fish out of my kitchen" I walked downstairs.
The truth is, I was probably the cause of Ziggy's sudden demise. You see, in addition to frequently expressing my wish that the fish would die before I had to go buy more food pellets, I washed his bowl and changed the type of food he was getting the night before. I felt guilty and I was defensive. A sure sign of guilt.
Even my mom stated how vibrant and healthy Ziggy had looked only the night before. Really, mom? REALLY?
So, I decided to tell Samuel today after school. He is a wild card about stuff like this and I had no idea what his reaction would be. Truthfully, he barely acknowledged poor Ziggy. Feeding him was supposed to be one of his chores but usually I would do it. Also, I might add, once every week or so I found myself hunched over a sink, cleaning out his bowl and wondering why we had this fish that clearly added nothing to our lives. Samuel barely took notice of him...as evidenced by the belly up fish that floated dead in its bowl for most of yesterday without him so much as looking in that direction.
Samuel came home from school today and I called him over to the couch. "Honey," I said as gently as possible. "You know how pets don't always live as long as people?" Sam nodded. "Well, Ziggy went to heaven yesterday" His head whipped around to look for the fish bowl that was no longer there. He looked back at me. "Ziggy died?" He sort of whimpered. Oh no. The tears are going to come and I don't think I'll have the willpower to not get in the car and go buy him a pony. He sort of leaned into me and asked, "Why?" I answered honestly, "Honey, fish just don't live that long." I put my arms around him and pulled him into me. "I know it's hard to lose a pet." He lingered there for a moment before pulling away. He looked at me and sighed "Okay, can I watch Spongebob now?"
Is that it? Is this shock or are we truly done mourning Ziggy? Poor Ziggy. Even in death...unappreciated.
It was a Rudy Huxtable moment.
A few minutes later, he looked up from Spongebob and said, "Why do my pets always die, mom?" I stared at him. "This is the only pet you've ever had, Sam."
"Well, you know what mom?" Sam was nodding at me and waving his hand in the air as he said, "If I were to get a dog...and you didn't feed that dog either, he would die too."
It was then that Andy confined himself to the closed pantry where I could hear him laughing.
"SAM, I DIDN'T KILL ZIGGY!"