Yesterday, Ben looked into the fish bowl and said, "Look Mom, Phil is sleeping." Phil was our beta fish, one of the heartiest varieties. I noticed he wasn't interested in his food the other day, but I figured if he was hungry, he would eat. The woman at the pet store said they only actually need to eat once a week, but to put food in there every other day. Which I did. So Phil, why were you lying upside down at the bottom of your bowl? Ryan and I had to figure out how to explain death to Ben, which isn't easy when you are not religious. Things are more complicated. We stumbled through it. We told Ben to come to the fish bowl. We told him that Phil went to sleep, that he wouldn't wake up. Ben looked at Phil thoughtfully and said, "I'll fix him." We told Ben, no, he couldn't be fixed. "He's dead," Ryan finally said. "He's going to heaven to be with his family." Ryan leaned to me and whispered, "Do we believe in heaven?" See, that's the thing about being agnostic. The definition of agnostic is not knowing whether or not these things exist. But try explaining that to a four-year-old. In any case, Ben shrugged his shoulders and ran into the other room on his skinny legs. "I'm Super Ben!" he yelled. "Come on, Super Daddy!" So I don't think he's broken up about it. One thing is certain: Ryan and I need to get our act together on the subject of death.
I do feel bad about Phil, though. What kind of a caretaker am I that this fish died within weeks of moving into our home? What kind of a household do we have? A household of death? Pets have never fared well in my family. We had a bird die in a bathtub, a dog that was both hit by a car and shot by a farmer (on separate occasions), a cat that ran away to live down the street with a neighbor. Mona, our current cat, loves us for some reason. Mona, I hate to tell you this, but no matter what we do, your days are numbered.