I had barely stepped foot inside the house. I set down my laptop bag, gave the kids a kiss… and then I saw that look in his eye. I knew immediately something was up.
“I’ve got bad news,” he whispered seriously.
My heart sped up. Was it the kids? A family member? His job?
But it wasn’t any of those things.
He said just one word: “Elmo.” And I knew what had happened.
The ensuing finger across the throat motion he made was completely unnecessary. I knew that we had lost Elmo.
We’ve lost fish before, and it’s never been a biggie. You scoop the little bugger out, flush it, and eventually go drop another buck at the pet store for a replacement fish.
But this time was different. Because this time, the kids were old enough to realize what was going on.
They had been old enough to select the bowls and colorful rocks. They picked the fish out themselves: the red one for Chip, and the blue one for Bobo. They had named their new friends. And they fed them. (Except for when we forgot. Which might have been why Elmo met his untimely death.)
The point is, they were very aware of Elmo’s existence. And even though Jay had disposed of the body before the kids got home, we knew that, sooner or later, Elmo’s absence would not go unnoticed.
So while the kids played, we conspired to come up with a plan. If Chip asked, we would tell him that Elmo had gone bye-bye. He was too little to really get what had happened.
But Bobo? We decided that she was old enough to hear the truth. No matter how heartbroken she’d be. Or how much she’d cry for her lost friend. We figured a fish was a safe way to introduce her about the circle of life.
After Chip had gone to bed that evening, we sat her down. “We have something to tell you,” I started hesitantly.
“Elmo died,” my better half stated bluntly. He’s never been one to sugar coat things, that one.
Bobo looked at us wide-eyed. “What happened?” she asked.
“Sometimes fish just get sick. Sometimes they die,” I said. “Or sometimes we forget to feed them,” my inner voice said.
She looked back at us in silence. I could see the wheels turning in her head. I braced myself for tears, or the hard questions.
But instead, after what seemed like eternity, she broke out into a grin. “But MY fish is a live. Yippeee!” And with that, she trounced off happily to her room. Discussion over.
And just like that, our daughter’s first encounter with death was over. And all was good in the world. Because Grover was still alive.
At least for the time being…
To be continued in Episode 2.