[twitter]The kids called him Rainbow, I called him Rainbobo because he wasn’t Rainbow.
Rainbow died a few hours after we brought him home, sucked up into a broken filter in his new tank. I scrambled out to the pet store, did a colour match, and brought home Rainbobo. The boys never knew.
Now, however, they do. Rainbobo has died. He’s been having a bad week or so. Lethargic, not really swimming, not eating. Today, he died.
It happened when I was at work, and so Jen was the one to break the news to the boys. While Charlie had a frown, he perked up when Zacharie asked if they could get a new one.
Now I’m not sure what kind of lesson this teaches. I want my kids to mourn this fish. Yes, the lifespan of a betta is only 2-4 years, so we will likely go through a few fish, but I still want the boys to have a respect for life no matter how short it is. Just as they can’t break a toy and get a new one, they need to show respect for this fish.
So I wanted Zacharie to mourn. To reflect, and remember what a pleasure it was having Rainbobo for a pet. I wanted him to appreciate life and not take it for granted. So that meant deflecting his excitement for a new fish and bringing in reminders about the old one.
When I asked Zacharie where Rainbobo was now, Z immediately replied “Heaven.”
“Heaven doesn’t exist,” I admonished quickly, later upset that my disgust with religion wouldn’t even allow my 7 yr old a simple synomym. “No,” I added. “Rainbobo is in your heart. When things we love, they’re always with us in our heart. That’s where Nan is. That’s where Rainbobo is.”
It took a second, but he understood.
“What are we going to do with him now?,” I asked the boys. Jen offered that we flush him so he can go back to the ocean. That lead to a discussion of fish eating fish and how sharks or whales or some other predator would eat Rainbobo.
If you think back to the time Zacharie got emotional after we caught a fish and I tried to kill it, things are better when something gets eaten by something else. He has all sorts of love for animals, but he also respects the food chain.
“I got a better idea,” Zacharie piped up “Eat him.”
“Are you going to eat him?,” I asked.
“No. You guys are.”
Well that went nowhere. I explained to Z how we don’t eat betta fish and how that wasn’t really a respectful thing to do to Rainbobo. The flush campaign continued, but I really wanted to have a burial in the backyard. I explained that bodies turn to soil when they’re buried and that if we put him in the backyard there would always be a spot for the boys to remember him.
Charlie was not doing well with the discussion. We had to have the tank upstairs in our bedroom with the door closed. Even opening it to go and get changed after work upset him. Charlie didn’t like the look of the motionless body and the idea that something was dead that used to be alive and it was in the house creeped him out.
So I quickly grabbed the tank, took him downstairs, and scooped him out. Zacharie and I went to our back garden where I had a brick from Father’s Day 2010 in the ground. I told Z we could put Rainbobo under there and he would turn into soil and feed the apple tree and he could come back to this spot and think of him any time he wanted.
As I lay the little plastic cup on the lawn, I asked Z if he had anything he wanted to say to his fish.
“I love you Rainbow. I hope you have a really good time with my great grandmother,” and then the tears came.
Huge sobs, big crocodile tears, and I had them too. Not for the fish, but for my little boy and the deep love he had for Nan. She died when he was not yet 3, but he still talks about her often. How he misses her. How he loves her. I wish I had just said that “Yes, Rainbow is in heaven and heaven is in your heart” when he made the comment earlier. Because that little heart of his is truly a heavenly place.
I put the fish under the tile and then hustled him up to bed. It would be another hour before the tears would dry and he’d finally cry himself to sleep. Only then would I sneak back outside, scoop up the fish and flush him. Knowing my son, he’d want to peek under the rock to see what happened. I didn’t want him to find anything particularly grotesque, so now if the temptation gets him, Daddy’s story of soil will have come true.
This morning, Zacharie was a little quiet when he got up. He didnt go and sit at the table and play with LEGO as he usually does. This morning, he softly opened the back door and tiptoed on his bare feet across the backyard to the tile. He stood there in silence for at least a full minute before coming back in.
“What were you doing out there, bunny?” I asked.