Two years ago for her 4th birthday my brother, Rick gave our daughter, Megan a Betta fish as a gift. He and his girlfriend brought a tank, helped put it together, and Megan was all excited. It was Megan's first pet. Well, the fish died last week. Not a big surprise, these fish only live a couple of years anyway, and it had been real lathargic the last few weeks and months. I even tried to prepare Megan for the fish's ultimate demise by telling her that he wasn't feeling very well, they don't live that long, etc. I was trying to cushion the ultimate blow.
I keep saying "the fish". Megan originally came up with the name "Sincomm" for the fish, but after a few days, she changed it to "Nemo". The tank stayed in her room, and Nemo was actually pretty easy to care for. Change out the water every so often, feed him once a day, and that was it. In fact, the small container of food we got on the day of her party in '04 hadn't even run out yet.
As Nemo started to become less and less active, and given how long we'd had him, my wife and I realized we'd soon be reaching the day when we'd have to break the news to Megan that Nemo had died. Over the last few weeks, everytime I looked at his tank, I was expecting him to be floating on top. Most days, he'd just be lying on the bottom, sleeping, resting, meditating, whatever they do. Megan started to ask about him, why he wasn't moving much, and that's when I started to tell her that he was getting old, tired, and might not be around much longer.
About a week ago, I checked on Nemo, and there he was, on the bottom of the tank again. I looked closer, and he wasn't moving at all. I tapped on the tank several times, turned the light switch on several times, even dangled a picture of a sexy female Betta fish in front of him -- nothing. This fish was fried.
I wasn't looking forward to the upcoming talk with Megan. I remember telling her that my family's dog had died a year or two ago, and that was pretty rough. And that was a pet that Megan had only been around a couple of times. I was hoping that my earlier talk with her about Nemo's advancing age and poor health would help ease the sadness of what I was about to tell her.
I sat her down after school, told her the news, and she cried as I expected. After a few minutes she was better, and she wanted to see him. After she looked at him for a few seconds, she said she wished I hadn't told her. Megan would have rather had us just get rid of Nemo, replaced him with a new fish, and then at that point, we should have told Megan.
It reminded me of when I told her about our family dog. I wanted to avoid telling her the truth, and instead, make up some excuse as to why "Lollie" wasn't around anymore. We went with the truth then, and with Nemo, too. I told her we wanted to be upfront and honest with her about Nemo. I told her that we could get another fish if she wanted, and she shook her head yes.
Later that night, we scooped Nemo out of his tank, took him to the bathroom where we all stood around the toilet and prepared to flush him as they did in the memorable scene from The Cosby Show.
My wife and I each said something about Nemo, and Megan did, too. Then Megan flushed the toilet, and there went Nemo.
Then more tears came from Megan. A few minutes later, she said she didn't want another fish, because she didn't want the next one to die, too. Understandable.
Megan and I both want a dog, but my wife always shoots that one down. If I were to get a dog, I might as well build myself a doghouse in the backyard.
Maybe I can get my brother to give me one as a gift.