I know so many of you have been up all night waiting to hear news of Foxy, and how the death of Balloon went over in my house. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, quickly! scroll down and read the previous post first.)
Since my huge gentle whopping fib over the death of the Swimmys was a total non-event in our house last year, I figured that this week’s death of our beloved goldfish Balloon, who had been with us for three whole days, was an opportunity to be more upfront with the boys.
I considered reciting a little verse:
Because Balloon could not stop for Death–
He kindly stopped– for Balloon–
and then I could see where that took us. But when the boys came home, I decided to take the most direct approach at all.
“You guys,” I said. “I have something a little bit sad to tell you. Balloon is dead.”
Cooper looked stricken. Fergus said, “What, Mommy?”
“WHO’S dead?” my babysitter shrieked, utterly panicked.
To relieve everyone’s anxiety, I led them to the kitchen, where I had left Balloon floating in the bowl. His companion, Foxy, swam below, seemingly unaffected.
Cooper’s lip quivered a bit. “How do you know he’s dead?” he asked.
“Because he’s not moving,” I said.
“But maybe it’s not Balloon,” he said. “How can you be sure?”
“Because Balloon was bigger,” I said. “Just like you–“
and then I realized: Cooper was sad, not that A goldfish had died, but that HIS goldfish had died.
Fergus was grinning at Foxy. Cooper put his arm around Fergus’ shoulders. “I have an idea!” he said, in his most syrupy tones. “Why don’t we make Foxy’s name Balloon now! And then he’ll be Balloon!”
“Balloon is DEAD,” Fergus reminded him, calmly.
“Let’s flush him down the toilet,” I said, trying to distract Cooper before he blew a gasket, “so that he can go back to the river and a big fish can eat him.”
“We’re going to EAT Balloon?” Fergus said, none too sure about that. (He has a great appetite and all but still.)
“No a FISH will eat him,” I repeated. “And he’ll be part of the circle of life.”
I thought that the novelty of flushing Balloon down the toilet would ease Cooper’s pain, and give him a sense of closure. However, as the water started violently swirling around with the orange blur of Balloon amidst it, I realized, too late, that it had been a terrible idea.
“That will HURT him!” Cooper cried.
“No, honey, he can’t feel anything,” I reassured him. Then we had to have a lengthy dialogue about death, and souls, and heaven, and the problem with Cooper is that he keeps asking more and more questions until you find yourself spewing bullshit about Fishy Heaven, and then he’ll say “Where IS Fishy Heaven?” and you realize you have painted yourself into one hell of a corner.
Anyway, we moved on, and both boys enjoyed Foxy’s company on the kitchen table when they ate their breakfast this morning. I’m having heart palpitations each time I walk out to the kitchen though. My inner monologue is something like “Please God let Foxy be alive please don’t let Foxy be dead oh God– Oh thank the Lord. She’s fine.” The stress of caring for the one remaining goldfish is slightly more than I can bear.
tomorrow: Part 3: How did Balloon die, anyhow?
(goldfish art via tracytracy.stumbleupon.com)