Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Goodnight Sweet Rodent

Death has struck again.

Last Thursday night, as I was dutifully picking up Potbelly sandwiches and chips for the whole family, I received a distressing phone call from home.

"Daddy," my eldest daughter says, "I have really, really, really bad news to tell you. Spotty died."

Spotty is one of our two guinea pigs. Of the two, she was the oldest. Fat and lazy, she was the rodent equivalent of what I imagine Ernest Borgnine is like. A little ornery but really just too tired to do anything about it. While Bobbi (the other guinea pig) still runs from us every time we approach the cage, Spotty barely flinched. After agreeing to letting my daughters take Spotty out of her cage to play, I would often find her, in an empty room, perched on the second level of a Barbie dream house, with just the saddest look of humiliation a rodent of her size could muster. I mean, on one hand, Spotty seemed relieved the children had gone. And on the other, her beady eyes seemed to be saying "Really? This is my life? Could someone just put me back in my fucking cage so I can hide in peace?"

Well Spotty, your days of humiliation are finally over. Unless, you consider being buried in a Cheddar Harvest Sun Chips bag humiliating, in which case your days of humiliation are still plenty (or at least until the nifty compostable bag disintegrates).

However, what surprised me most were my daughters' reactions to Spotty's demise. They both cried. A lot. The eldest's tears seemed genuine. I mean she loved that pig and I guess I sort of underestimated that. Spotty was not our first guinea pig to die and her reaction to the first one's death was no more remorseful than mourning the end of an episode of "Two and a Half Men." But this time was different.

My youngest daughter, on the other hand, was caught in this strange limbo between morbid curiosity -- playing pint-size funeral director and peering intently as I slid/stuffed Spotty's cooling corpse into the snack bag -- and mimicked grief which ebbed and flowed depending on her proximity to her sister.

After putting Spotty in her "coffin," I hurried outside to dig a small grave in our back yard (mind you, it was dinner time and my turkey and cheese wasn't getting any warmer on the kitchen counter). And here's where it got interesting.

As you may know my father died almost a year ago. And instead of a burial and what not, we had him cremated and threw a memorial party in his memory. While it was great for us adults, my children never got to say good bye to him. He was just gone one day and I'm not really sure if they've recovered yet. And since we keep it real heathen-like in my house, we have neither confirmed nor denied the concept of heaven so their grasp on life after death is tenuous at best, I regret. So, as we tearfully eulogized Spotty, my youngest, said "and also good-bye to Pop Pop."

Aww man. That almost killed me. But I patted down the earth and kept it moving, somewhat relieved that she had a chance to say what she needed to say.