Friday, December 5, 2008

Love, Loss and Root Beer

Last year, one evening while we were finishing up dinner Q said to his father, "Dad, how do you feel about fish?"  

"I like it.  It's delicious!"  Replied my husband.

"Nooooo, I mean PET fish Dad!"  

So started the conversation that led to our adventures in animal husbandry.  Or fish husbandry.  It has been a marvel to me how complicated this has been our exploits in creating a living environment for these fish.  If I wrote it all down it would be good for an entire television sitcom season.  Perhaps one day I will and that will be our ticket to the big time.  Today, however is not the day.  What I want to say today is that Q and I have become very attached to our wee aquatic friends.  We have two tanks, one in his bedroom ( a single Beta Male fish with truly beautiful red body and fins) and one tank in our dining room which up until yesterday contained three Cardinal Tetras and one velvety blue female Tetra name Potato Chip (red beta is French Fries and the three little ones are something like Ice Cream, Root Beer and Bubble Gum.)  Yesterday, Potato Chip died.  She died while he was in school - thank goodness since it was not pretty - she was gasping and doing a combat crawl across the bottom of the tank.  I scooped her up and got her out of the tank before he came home last night and because he had a friend over for a play date he never noticed.  

And so this morning after breakfast, I put him on my lap and told him that his little fish died yesterday.  His eyes opened large and he turned to look into the tank and then fell against me and cried and cried.  If it had been one of the little three schooling fish I doubt that would have been the reaction but this was beautiful blue Potato Chip who was the star of the tank.  Full of vigor and wiggle and always swimming in and out of the various rocks and things we gave her, she was fun to watch and we often commented on her antics as we ate our meals.  

"I'm mad at God Mom" was his first response.  

"I wish I could do something to help you sweetie, I know it's hard."

"I want Root Beer" was his second response.  Which was not a request for another pet fish but rather for the soda.  A week ago, he had talked me into ordering root beer for lunch while we were out having pizza and I gave in which is not something I typically do but I was in my first just lost my job haze and he ended up with a huge bottle of root beer in front of him.  I asked for a glass, poured him his root beer and then took the rest home.  Since then we have not been around at a time I think soda is an option (which is basically only lunch.)  And he has been talking about that root beer for a week.

I looked at him and was still about to say no not for breakfast when he popped off my lap, ran into the kitchen, open the refrigerator with his usual heave ho style and grabbed the bottle of root beer from the door.  I wish I could say he swiftly opened the bottle and downed the stuff but he struggled with cap and was not able to get it off.

I got up from my chair and took the bottle, unscrewed the cap and poured him a small shot of root beer which when I handed it to him he downed in two or three swigs.  Had it been Saturday morning I would have let him drink the entire thing, but I felt his teacher did not need a grieving 6 year old on a sugar high.  With pop music coming from the radio, dinner and breakfast dishes pile up high in our little 1940's alley kitchen and the scent of coffee and banana bread wrapped around us we stood there in the kitchen for a moment looking at each other.  Out the kitchen window I spotted a blue fleck and had Q quickly stand up on a chair and pointed out our Blue Bird friend hopping up and down the branches of our neighbors towering pine tree.  We didn't say anything just watched him for a moment.  He was almost nearly the same color as our little fish.  Q looked at me, smiled and then gave me a big hug.  "I'm taller than you" he said as he let go of me and I grabbed him took him off the chair and said to him as he escaped my tickling hands "Not yet you aren't baby, not yet."