Tim died on Saturday. Well, I found his body on Saturday morning. He probably went sometime Friday night. I didn’t tell anyone, at first. I closed his door, then opened it again, thinking (hoping) that would rouse him. But he just laid there. Pale blue. Still.
I tried to figure out the best way to tell my son. He was closest to Tim. This wasn’t the first death my son has dealt with. But I still felt like it was important to figure out the right words.
“Honey, I have some sad news. Tim passed away last night.”
“What!?! Are you serious?”
“Yeah buddy. I’m really sorry.”
Then his face turned red.
Then he started to yell.
“I’m calling the police! And they’re gonna arrest you! Cuz you killed him!”
“No, sweetie, I didn’t. He’s been sick. I gave him some medicine. But I didn’t kill him. It was just time for him to go.”
“You killed him! I hate you!”
I was a little shocked by the outburst, the jump to an accusation. But it’s easier to be angry than it is to be sad. Angry can be spit out at other people, distributed. Sad is just a big heavy lump that sits on your chest while you try to go about your business.
“Can I get another fish?”
“Um, sure. Are you ready for that?
“Yeah. I want one the same color. But I’m not namin’ him Tim.”
I was scared the day my son announced he needed a pet. I’m not a pet person. I grew up on a farm. Animals that didn’t make money (or at least earn their keep) were not tolerated. So I was braced for what would come next.
“What kind of pet do you want?” (Please, please, please don’t let it be a cat. Or a dog. Or heaven forbid a god-damned rodent...)
“How about a fish?”
“YES! Yes! Oh my goodness yes!” A lovely, relatively maintenance free fish. I practically ran to the pet store to help him pick out a tetra.
We enjoyed him. My son fed him, diligently. For 2 days. Then, despite my callous warnings that the fish would expire without my son’s care, I ended up taking care of Tim. The kids still enjoyed him, sporadically.
One day Tim got sick. Then he got better. Then he got really sick.
We gave my son two options: burial in the backyard, or burial at sea (via the toilet).
The little poet felt that the water option was the most apt. (I was grateful. I don’t think we could have dug more than a couple of inches into our frozen backyard.)
We gathered round the toilet. I asked our son if he wanted to say anything. He did. He’d never been to a funeral, but he seemed to have an inherent sense of the rhythm of the ceremony.
“I’ll miss you, Tim. You were a good fish. The next fish’s name will be Dash.”
He solemnly dumped Tim into the bowl, waved, and flushed.
(I got a vision of myself, having predeceased my husband. He would lean over my casket. He would say “I’ll miss you, Gin. You were a good wife. Now I’m gonna hook up with the girl who does your nails.”)
Insofar as these things can be “successful”, it was a pretty successful loss of a first pet. Another milestone in the bag.