Saturday, November 15, 2008

Life's little dramas

It's been an adventurous week, starting Veterans Day Weekend with the trip in which I took the photos featured a couple posts ago. The fam and I drove up to northeastern California to spend a couple of days with my parents. While there, my two-year-old daughter came down with some sort of 24 hour stomach flu that sent her to the toilet several times in order to expel the contents of her stomach.

I returned to work on Wednesday, and at lunchtime, I thought it odd that I only wanted to take a couple of half-hearted bites of my lunch. By the time bedtime for my kids approached, I was waylaid to the couch, shivering and aching, even though I lay curled up dressed in fleece pajamas and thick socks. I prefered to lie down, because sitting or standing up made me feel more nauseous. Before he went to bed, my four-year-old son told me, "Daddy, I feel just like you do." How sweet, I thought to myself, that he is feeling empathy for his dad. I went to bed soon after.

Just after midnight, I found out just how empathetic my son was being. I awoke to that unique cry that he emits when he is about to vomit: a high pitched wail accompanied by a sense of panic and urgency. I have heard that unmistakable sound before, and in my sleep-induced stupor, I was hearing it again. My wife must have also instinctually recognized the sound, as she was out of bed ahead of me and dashed into my son's room. As I was swinging my legs over the side of the bed, I heard my wife's panicked yell to grab a trash can. I snagged the round plastic IKEA trash can from our bathroom and half-stumbled into our son's room. My wife had her hands cupped together and raised to eye level as my son, who sleeps in a loft-type bed, was vomiting into the fleshy little bowl she had formed. I thrust the trash can under my wife's hands, and she immediately opened her impromptu cup to allow the vomit to plop into the bottom. My son then proceeded to add even more to the collection at the bottom. My wife slipped away to wash her hands (muttering, "I feel so violated" on her way out) and I stood there holding the trash can up as my son continued his business. As I stood there, the pungent odor of my son's vomit began to waft into my nostrils, while at the same time, I began to feel a wave of nausea wash over me as I suddenly realized I was now vertical. "Oh no," I muttered to myself, as the intensity of the nausea increased with each passing second. Not long after, I reached the tipping point and brought my mouth to the very trash can I was holding, and began throwing up into it just as my son was giving his final heaves. As I continued to "vominate" (as my son calls it), I glanced at my son, who was watching me with a look of half-consternation, half-fascination on his face that still bore the chunky residue of his exertions. After I had nothing left to contribute to the trash can, my wife and I cleaned up everything as best we could and put our son in bed with us for the rest of the night. He threw up a couple more times before morning mercifully arrived. Thankfully, our daughter peacefully slept through the entire affair.

When my wife and son went back to bed after the big cleanup, it was about 12:30am. I had about three hours of sleep under my belt at that point, and my adrenaline was up from what had just occurred. I knew I would not be going to work the next day, so I went ahead and typed up my lesson plans, and faxed them to my office, heading back to bed around 1:00am for a couple more hours of fitful sleep. Later that same morning, my wife and daughter headed out the door to work and school, and my son and I stayed home to recover; more from lack of sleep than anything else. We shared quite a few good laughs as he and I recounted the absurdity of what had occurred in his room a few hours earlier. How many times did he tell me with wonderment, "Wow Daddy, I've never seen you throw up before!"

But the week was by no means over.

Fast forward to this morning (Friday). As part of my daily ritual, I went in to feed Franklin, our goldfish of nearly two years, who had been named by our son in honor of the turtle of the childrens' book series (Franklin the turtle also has a goldfish). Unfortunately, after swimming happily in his little aquatic home since December of 2006, I found that Franklin had chosen this morning to go to that great fishtank in the sky. I informed my wife of Franklin's passing, and she immediately told me not to tell our son, and to hide the body from him until we all got home from work and school in the afternoon. This would turn out to be excellent advice. As my son got dressed, I clumsily fished Franklin's still form out of the tank, placed him in a ziploc bag, and put him in the refrigerator.

When we all got home this afternoon, my wife whispered to me to put Franklin's body back into the tank before I broke the news to our son. I did so, and then went into our office/den where my wife was checking email and our kids were playing. I sat on the couch and beckoned my son over. I told him, "We need to talk about Franklin. I'm so sorry, but he died today." My son looked confused for a second and then asked me, "Daddy, are you teasing?" I replied, "No buddy, I'm not teasing." My son quickly turned around and walked down the hall to where Franklin's fishtank sits. I followed right behind him and waited behind him as he stood before Franklin's tank. Looking down at my son, I could only see the back of his head, but there is a mirror behind the fishtank, and I could see my son's face in the mirror as he gazed at Franklin's motionless body floating head-down in the tank. My son's forlorn face quickly began to scrunch up as the tears began to flow and his sobs quickly began to flow as well. My wife had arrived on the scene at that point, and my son fell into her arms as he cried for his dead pet goldfish.

We held a burial ceremony in the backyard, where we buried Franklin alongside the house, right below my son's bedroom window. My wife even picked a flower from a plant in our backyard for our son to place on Franklin's little grave. It was sad enough that my wife even got a bit teary as our son bid an emotional farewell to his beloved pet. After dinner, we went to a nearby frozen yogurt shop to celebrate Franklin's life, and to assuage the grief of our little boy, and also his little sister, who, upon seeing the anguished cries of her big brother, had taken up the mantle of grief as well, and had also begun crying for Franklin.

Sometimes, I think God put goldfish on earth as a way to provide a small and more easily understood introduction to the idea of mortality that our precious and innocent children must one day face. And for that purpose, Franklin finally had his day in the sun... and the refrigerator.

Good Day to You, Sir


Law and Order Teacher said...

Very touching. I have been the bearer of bad news as far as pets go on several occassions. It is an important lesson that can be taught in a little way, that's for sure. You seem to have handled it very well. Hope all get well.

Polski3 said...

Do hope you're recovered from stomach virus. Yes, our children's little pets do show them that life does end, sometimes unexpectedly.

My son won some prize for selling stuff at his schools fundraiser, a prize that was 50 eggs for some aquatic critters. Of those eggs, one hatched. He was faithful in caring for it (it looked to be related to horseshoe crabs, but only about an inch in length), but then, one morning upon awakening, the critter was dead. From my son's research, it seems this beast lived a bit longer than expected, so we consoled him with the fact that his good care and love must have made life so much better for his little pet.

Darren said...

That was WAY too much detail! I can't stop laughing, that was so sick!

It's not that I don't hope you're feeling better--of course I do--but you can *never* be elected to public office with *that* much detail on your blog!!!

"Fleshy cup"? That's just rich.

Samuels Daddy said...

That was...AWESOME.


Anonymous said...

After your vivid description of vomit, I don't think I'll be able to eat for a week. In fact, I will be cautious about eating and reading your blog simultaneously.


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