Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Life of Batman

On my son’s fifth birthday he received a Chinese fighting fish from dear friends, The Shreves, who did not ask me first if we needed another creature to care for. They just carried in the beautiful blue fish in his bowl-house with everything Lucas, and I, would need to care for him. Water neutralizer, food, rocks, fake greenery. It was all there and Lucas was excited to have first very own pet. We graciously accepted Batman, as he was named by Lucas, into our family and set his small round bowl on the mantel in the den.

Batman had a good run as the family pet. Weekly, we would scoop him out of the bowl, change the water, neutralize it and return him to his wet castle. Lucas fed his scaly blue friend every day. We entertained the family by putting Batman and our cat Boo-Boo on the kitchen table at the same time. Boo-Boo would swing her declawed paw at Batman and start to put that black paw in the bowl, and then back off, remembering cats hate water. Frustrated Boo-Boo was an amusing sight.

Four months after receiving Batman, my father came over when I was not home. He chatted with Lucas as they watched the fish swim in circles. The bowl was showing some green and my father was being helpful when he and Lucas did the cleaning together. I was thankful when I returned home, knowing I would not have to do that job. I did not like changing the water because Chinese Fighting Fish have long, silky decorative fins that hang down low and float up high. It was stressful removing Batman from the bowl without injuring his fish arms. A day went by and Batman continued to float around watching our life real-time from the mantel. At the end of the first day, something seemed off, but I ignored it and went to bed. The next morning, Batman looked sort of grey, but was still swimming around. By the end of that day, Batman looked puffy, grey and not the vibrant blue he was just a day earlier. Still, he had life in him. I started suspecting something was not right, but couldn’t imagine why he looked sick. I began to worry. By day two, Batman floated on top of the water, dead. Very dead, very bloated and very grayish-brown. I called my dad, remembering he had cleaned out the bowl a few days earlier. I asked if he used the neutralizer after adding fresh water. It was then we realized Grandpa murdered Batman in what was truly an accidental death. It was a sad morning.

Flushing Lucas'first pet down the toilet felt cruel when he was so loved for his short life. The respectable thing to do was hold a small funeral, say a few prayers for the soul of Batman, and bury him. I figured it was a lesson for Lucas about the sometimes painful cycle of life. So outside, under our six big windows in the living room, we dug a small hole, and placed Batman inside. Lucas covered him with dirt, crying all the way. It was only a fish, but it made me sad to see Lucas sad. After a blessing and some reminiscing over what a fabulous fish Batman had been, we went inside. The big windows Batman was buried under always attracted birds, yet they were blind to them at the same time. Every week a bird slammed into the glass, fell to the ground and most survived, just stunned from the impact, then fluttered away. Minutes after Batman’s funeral, a bird thumped the window. We heard it and ran to see if this bird survived. Running outside, we saw the lifeless feathers on the ground near Batman’s grave. We gave him a minute, hoping he was just dazed, but he was a dead bird. We named him Robin and dug another grave next to Batman in what was becoming a pet cemetery. Again, we held a ceremony and took turns praying for Batman and Robin. The mood was solemn, but there was energy inside us from this death adventure we did not anticipate.

Over the years when a bird died under the window, I secretly tossed it in the trash before the kids discovered it. This kept Batman and Robin’s graves sacred and I had hit my limit overseeing two animal funerals in one day.

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