Monday, September 19, 2011

Honey, Your Guinea Pig is Dead: Conversations I Don't Want to Have With My Son

There are some conversations that get easier to have the more often you have them—death isn't one of them.

This weekend I woke up to quiet.

Unexpected, somewhat jolting, my three children, dog, cat, presumably the leopard gecko were sleeping and so was—it would seem for a few more minutes—Lita Gibby.
Lita Gibby does not sleep. Or if she does, she is a light sleeper. Since she’s lived with us, she has become in tuned with movement, shifts in lighting, every whispered sound.
She detects everything.
She sings—or sang—to music, to silence, to footsteps.
Lita Gibby was Noah’s birthday present.
I should have learned you can’t give life.
The plump white and brown guinea pig, deceptively quiet in the pet store, uncharacteristically quiet today, is dead.
Because Noah was three when we got her, I spent more time than I thought I would talking to, petting, cleaning up after, feeding, and though I didn’t expect to, loving Lita Gibby.
There are just a few moments between now—when he thinks Lita Gibby is alive—and later when he doesn’t.
This is not his first death. Fish have died. This will not be his last death. I will die—some day.
When his fish died, I replaced them with new, brighter, more alive ones. I think briefly of replacing his guinea pig. But, what are the chances of getting one who whistles as commandingly as Lita Gibby?
I can no more replace his guinea pig than I can replace a dying grandparent.
Each death gets more difficult to explain, the reasons more artful, the reactions more tearful.
I can buy a new guinea pig, a frog, a toad. I can not give the gift of life and I'm not looking forward to talking about it why. 

Originally Posted: June 18, 2010

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