Perhaps comparing the death of a pet to the death of a family member is just wrong but that's exactly what I did when the kids were told that Frank, the exalted Hermit Crab from Wildwood had finally expired.
I broke the news to them this evening, even though I discovered the gruesome carcass this morning. Somehow, telling them before a planned attendance to a birthday party seemed like a bad idea. Let them have fun, enjoy their pizza and knick-knacks and surely they would take the news better.
So, they thoroughly enjoyed the day at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights. Running through the defunct trains and turnstiles that I rode and passed through regularly when I was their age. Of course the cars in the museum were actually clean and devoid of graffiti but it was nostalgic for me just the same.
Maybe that's why I chose invoking my father's death to explain the facts of life and pets to the boys. "Remember when Gigi went to the hospital and didn't come home because he died?" I asked them. They looked apprehensive and curious at the same time. Without saying a word, they both nodded yes.
"Well, that's kind of what happened to Frank," I told them outright. "Frank is dead."
Samu looked pained. Zuki let out a whimper. Oh no, I thought to myself and braced myself for tears. Instead, Samu broke out into a smile and asked, "Does that mean I can get a new pet?"
A new pet? Now that's just cold. Even Zuki's expression changed from anguish to ambition as he waited for my answer.
"Don't you feel sad?" I asked.
The boys shrugged and took some time to answer this. "Yeah." They answered.
"Well, do you want to see him and say goodbye?"
They both nodded in morbid agreement and I set the tiny plastic tank in front of them. I don't know what I was expecting them to say - I mean what do they know about death, really? I wasn't expecting a eulogy or a requiem, I wasn't even expecting a few parting words...just goodbye.
But Samu pointed to the stiffened cluster of legs and claws that was once Frank. "Ewwww." He said, as if I presented them with a moldy peach. I felt so bad for the little Hermit Crab. All those times he patiently endured Samu's curious fingers yanking him out of his cage, thrusting him into screaming faces of preschool children and the last words he gets is ewww.
I'm going to miss the racket he made at night. The annoying rustle of him pushing the gravel in his plastic box for hours on end. And my morning ritual of checking his cage to see if he's dead yet will have to be replaced. But right now, my biggest problem is throwing him out. Since Hermit Crabs have this nasty habit of dying outside of their shell, I have absolutely no desire to pick him up. Echk. So gross.