Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Reckoning

One of the disadvantages of having pets is that in all likelihood, you will outlive them - you will deal with the death of a faithful companion.

One of the disadvantages of having pets and children is that it's a lot worse.

Everyone kept asking me, "What will you tell the kids?" That's a fair question. I also had no fucking idea. The Girl is but two and so there is little for her to understand. Time and circumstance are curious concepts to her. Things come and things go. She moves forward.

But the Boy...

He said nothing yesterday. Asked not one question. Queried the whereabouts of the black dog not at all. I mopped my brow and was thankful, perhaps even deluded myself that he would not notice. My rank cowardice in the face of my dog's death, my inability to look her in the eye as she slipped this mortal coil could be rationalized - my guilt assuaged - with time. But the Boy? My act would need a reckoning and he would eventually come to me... as he did this morning.

I let the brown dog out as the Boy was eating his lunch. From out of the blue he looked around and then asked quietly, "Where's Coughy?"

I looked at my wife in the living room and then sat down next to the Boy at the table.

"Honey, Coughy was very old and sick. She had to go away."
"She went to a place where only dogs can go. People can't go there to visit."
"When will she come back?"
"She won't, honey. She won't ever come back."

His face contorted slightly. He was thinking and I know I saw a light click in his head. Then, after a long pause, in a breaking voice, he said, "I wish she could come back. I wish she was here." It was not weepy or whiny. It was simple grief from a little boy who understood more than he should have and not nearly enough. It was immensely sad and it killed me.

"I wish she could too," I said, trying not to blubber.

I looked around the corner and my wife's head was in her hands. She was crying - for the dog, for the Boy, for all of us.

He offered desperately, "Maybe we could get another black dog and call her Coughy?"
"That wouldn't be the same, would it?" I tried to get there for him.
"But..." he stopped himself, "No, it wouldn't." His lip was quivering.

"I'm sorry, honey. So sorry," I told him.
"So am I, daddy" he added quietly, the tears welling in his eyes.

I couldn't watch my dog die yesterday but I saw much worse this morning. We never escape that which we dread; only blunder our way through it in the hopes that we will somehow find our way out.