Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Nemo, Monday-Tuesday

The Boy won a goldfish at a carnival at preschool on Monday. We learned this when The Wife went to pick him up, and he proudly pointed out his new fish. Thanks, guys.

Inevitably, The Boy named him Nemo. We devoted a Tupperware bowl to Nemo, and made him the centerpiece on the dining room table. He seemed content, and The Boy liked to watch him swim.

Yesterday, Nemo died. I was appointed funeral director, and carried out a classic suburban burial at sea, with The Boy at my side. No sooner had I flushed than The Boy started bawling.

For the next hour or so, The Boy was inconsolable. He wanted to know where Nemo went, and what would happen to him, and why he died, and whether all goldfish die at the same time. (He seemed concerned that his friends’ fish had outlasted his, which is probably true.) The Boy sat out dinner, which would be unimaginable under any other circumstance. He asked if Nemo would reach the ocean, and if he would come back to life when he did.

I told TB that Nemo was in heaven, and that he was an angel’s pet now. The Wife assured TB that it was okay to be sad, that we get sad when we lose a friend. TB slowly regained his composure and/or appetite, and eventually consented to dinner.

Bathtime conversation was a little odd.

TB: Who was that good President with the dark skin who made everyone stop fighting?

DD: Huh?

The Wife (from the next room): He means Martin Luther King!

DD: You mean Martin Luther King?

TB: Yeah.

DD: He wasn’t a President. But he was a great man who taught people to be nice to each other.

TB: He died.

DD: Yeah.

TB: That’s sad.

DD: Yeah, it is.

TB: That was before I was born.

DD: That was before I was born, too.

TB: That was before everybody was born!

DD: No, Grandma and Grandpa were alive then.

TB: Then how come they’re still alive?

DD: They’re older. They were younger then.

TB: Oh. Uncle Frank is 70! Grandma told me.

By bedtime, TB was pretty much himself again. We read Bartholomew and the Oobleck, talked about the field trip to the farm at preschool the next day, and kissed goodnight.

The poor kid. His little heart was broken, and he has no idea that this is just the first time. You want to protect your kids, but some things, you just can’t prevent. He’ll have his heart broken again and again, and ours will break right along with it. It’s part of growing up, and I know that, but part of me still wants to be able to hug him until the hurt goes away. I’ll have to learn to let go of that possibility over time, and the fact that it’s already started breaks my heart, too. I’m proud that he’s growing, but sometimes, part of me still misses the baby I could sweep up in my arms and make it all better.

I didn’t know the meaning of ‘bittersweet’ until I became a Dad.

Godspeed, Nemo. We hardly knew ye.

Very touching, DD. Impermanence is such a painful concept.
I forget who it was who said that this is what pets are for -- among other things -- to practice grief on.

Don't know if that helps. It never actually helped me.
Did you happen to see the wonderful essay by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker on death of a goldfish? (Via quick googling, it was 7/4/05 issue.)I'd highly recommend it!
Awww, hugs to The Boy from us. As you know, we recently went through this with a cat. Tristan still doesn't quite get the idea of 'dead' and will occasionally ask about the missing cat's return.

And I thought getting through the sleep deprivation would be the hardest part...
What a sad tale, but you handled the situation masterfully.

When I was growing up, we won carnival goldfish by the bowlful. All the neighbor kids' would die within a week, but, much to my father's chagrin (he always ended up caring for the fish) ours tended to live 8-10 years.

In that context, consider Nemo's death a small blessing.
God, carnivals need to stop giving out those damn fish to little kids. Goldfish are supposedly not that easy to keep alive, and foisting a pet on someone who hasn't chosen it or looked into what it needs is awful. Grr.

That said, I'm really really sorry for the boy. I am not looking forward to the mortality of PK's mice, even though we have discussed the fact that they only live for a couple years....
My son just lost his first pet ... chickles the caterpillar. I'm not sure he made it through the first night, even though we gave him alot of lettuce.
How sweet yet sad. I just returned from a funeral for a chipmunk. He had a most unfortunate encounter with a car right in front of our house. My daughter was distraught at the idea that there would be a corpse at her busstop in the morning, so I had one of the neighbors help me bury it (and by "help me," I mean that I pointed out the dead chipmunk and he did everything else).
I have to say you're kind of lucky. I won a goldfish at a carnival when I was about 3 and half,and she lived until I was about...13. I mean at least you didn't have to take care of the pet for very long. Poor Boy though.
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