The death of any child’s pet is cause for concern, be it dog, cat, ferret, crustacean, or in our case, the frighteningly disposable goldfish. The death of Dashey, Jack’s morbidly obese goldfish, is not only a familial loss, it’s a terribly smelly affair. A full week passes before we discover Dashey’s bloated remains. While we were on vacation hamming it up, this bony fish went belly up.
But let’s get back. Halfway through our vacation Jack’s genuinely concerned, bubbling with clairvoyance.
“Dad. Dad. Dad! Dad, are my fish gonna be ok?”
In full vacation mode, lounging in both mind and body, “C’mon Jack, really? I fed those guys like a boatload of food before we left. They prolly turned into sharks by now. They’re fine. “
“OK! Let’s go to the pool!”
“You got it pal.”
Meanwhile at home, already expired, Dashey pulsates, pinned to the filter. His scales slough off and revolve around the tank like off-white apparitions.
We hate to leave picturesque Rehoboth Beach and race home, but this vacation has to end. Jack, Reese and Faye, backseat squabbling all-stars, crush our patience, hour after hour during this brutal minivan tour. I eventually lose it and take a hand off the wheel. The following is a moment in every parent’s career–we grab onto the closest backseat limb and constrict, teeth gritted, eyes glaring. The act is cathartic but ultimately useless. Anyways, we’re finally home.
The front door opens with customary flourish and we’re unwittingly confronted by a tidal wave of fetid air .. . . . . the living room reeks of death!! Instinctively Jack rushes upstairs to confirm his suspicion.
The slow wind-up cry can be heard in the next county.
“DASHEY’S DEAD DAAAAAHHHHHD! AHHHHH!”
I fly up the stairs like an Olympic athlete. Requiring more oxygen as a result of this exercise, I take a few deep breaths upon entering Jack’s room. Here’s where I throw-up in my mouth a little, followed by muffled dry heaves.
“Holy CRAP! We gotta clean this up. Go to Mommy and Daddy’s room and wait for me there.”
What’s the last thing you want to do after a vacation, after hours of putting out fires between your ungrateful kids? Clean up a dead fish. The overstuffed suitcases, mountains of laundry, getting ready for the work week–it’ll all have to wait. I’ve got a situation here.
I’m halfway done with this hellish clean-up by the time Jack composes himself.
“In a bag in the garbage can outside.”
My eyes are teary, not because I’m mourning Dashey, it’s just that the air in here is like burning vapor, like living inside an onion. It dawns on me–my birthday’s coming up–I’m requesting a Hazmat suit.
“Why didn’t you flush him down the toilet, like… like the other ones?”
“He was too big. Probably woulda blown-out the toilet.”
Excitedly, “Well… when can we get another fish?”
My eyes distribute complete disdain.
“Dashey just died. Don’t You Want To MOURN?!” I’m a counselor, can’t help it.
“I guess… What’s mourn mean?”
I’m getting on a roll here, “And what about Spotty, what did he have to go through, stuck in here for a week with his dead friend gettin’ stinky and smelly? What about his feelings? Did you ever think about that?!“
“Ok then. Go downstairs and ask Mommy if she’s needs any help. We’re done here.”
We hold vigil for a week then buy “Ock-ee” presumably Oscar, this according to Reese who picked-out and named the replacement fish. She’s such a doll!
So, what have I learned so far? Parenting is a full-contact sport, that’s for sure. Dealing with death is but one of the many joys.