The Love of a Child ... for His Goldfish
My oldest son has humbled me once again. It's amazing the power they hold over us, isn't it?
He wanted goldfish for his fourth birthday, so about a month ago we went to the pet store and got the whole kit and caboodle - aquarium, filter, plants, rocks, pirates' treasure chest, etc. We purchased three goldfish - Goldie, Blackie, Black Nose (because of the black stripe he has going across the bridge of his nose) - and a bottom feeder we call Spots.
Well, Black Nose hasn't been well the last couple of days and we went to the store today to pick up some meds in hopes of saving him. It doesn't look good though. When I put the medicine in the tank it turned the water blue and my son was curious as to what I was doing. I explained to him that Black Nose was sick and I was giving him some medicine. He didn't say much in response, but I could see the wheels spinning in that beautiful, extremely sensitive, psyche.
After about 15 minutes I found him staring up at the aquarium again. He turned to me and said, "Black Nose isn't swimming very much, Mommy. And his tail doesn't look very good." I repeated my previous statement about him being ill and added that I was doing everything I could to help him get better. He looked over at Black Nose, then back at me and said, "Is Black Nose going to die, Mommy?"
I didn't know what to say. I was quite taken aback by the question really. We've never had any big talk about animals or people dying - that's not to say he hasn't heard about it from somewhere else, as is now obvious - and I was at a loss for words. So he waited. I didn't want to lie because it is very likely that we will wake up tomorrow and poor Black Nose will have departed, so I said "Yes, if he doesn't get better he could die. But I'm doing everything I can so that he will get better. That's why I gave him the medicine ..."
It didn't matter what I said after the word "Yes," - He began to sob. It was the saddest thing I've heard in quite some time. It was this hopeless, breathless little sob and I struggled not to break down myself. He told me he didn't want Black Nose to die, that he wanted him to stay in the tank with the other fish. I tried to tell him that we could get another fish, but he was not swayed. He said he didn't want another fish - he wants Black Nose to get better.
Then the big heartbreaker came - "Mommy, I need to go to my room right now and be alone."
He didn't want me to help him. I could hear him crying, but I left him alone for a bit like he asked. When I did go in, I asked him if we could talk about why he was so sad and he said he couldn't. He just wanted to cry because Black Nose might die. This went on for quite some time - a lifetime it felt like for me - but finally he stopped crying and wanted to go see Black Nose. We talked about the fact that he was swimming a lot more since I put the medicine in and that he might be OK.
"But you don't know for sure if he's going to be all right, do you?"
Another dagger to my heart and just when I didn't think I could take anymore - he leaned over and gave me a big hug. "That's OK, Mommy. Thank you for taking care of Black Nose. We'll just have to wait and see and maybe he'll get better."
All this from a four-year-old boy.
While I will miss Black Nose should he meet his demise over the next few days, what aches the most are my feelings of helplessness at not being able to give my child what he so desperately wants and the fact that I just have to sit by and watch him hurt. There's nothing I can do about this one and his realization that Mommy can't fix everything after all hurt me, too.
So today we both lost something. My son had to face the fact that he might lose someone he cares for very much and there's nothing he can do about it. He also learned that sometimes there's nothing anybody can do about it and my heart aches because I saw the look in his eyes when it all came together in his mind and his heart; I saw the tears, I heard the sniffles and most of all I saw the way he tucked it away in his memory. Mommy and Daddy are no longer like superheroes who can do anything and protect him from all the bad things in the world.
I know it's only a goldfish - the circle of life and all that jazz, but it's not the goldfish. My baby was just SO sad and I had to standby and let him work through it, on his own, because I was helpless to do anything else but just that. I held him, I hugged him, I kissed him and yet he was still in pain.
I just thought these days were, yes inevitable, but a long time in coming.