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John Winters Columnist

Published Sunday, August 12, 2012

Saying goodbye to family friends

Death, for whatever its reason, has followed us of late.

So much so, Middle SON of Thunder informed us he was putting a moratorium on funerals. This was said earlier this week after just such an event. And the Little Black Dress agreed, saying she just couldn’t handle another. Within a few years, we’ve lost both her parents and several close friends.

And now Death was back. Sitting around the kitchen table at dinner, I was trying to piece together exactly how many of the SONS’ friends had died over the last few months. A name came up, then another, and another.

The SONS stopped at six.

I started asking who died when, trying to wrap my head around it. There was debate over whether Chase or Maximilian died before the other and so I sort of started writing down names and dates and ...

“Can you drop your journalistic detachment for a minute,” the Little Black Dress asked, in what honestly sounded like a ‘tone.’ “I don’t think this is appropriate dinner talk and you’re upsetting them.” Said statement followed by a chin point at one of the SONS and The Look.

Eldest SON, however, wanted to work it out as well, and so we did. Interesting how kids focus on the good memories at times like these, like wanting to give me their friends’ nicknames: Tuggles, Anakin, Maximilian, Chase, Taco, Scuttles.

What was driving me batty however, was trying to remember which one was a Robo Dwarf Hamster and which was a Gerbil. Hence, why I was taking notes over the LBD’s objections and no, it had nothing to do with journalist detachment.

The reason for this was because Taco, the hamster, and Scuttles, the gerbil, died within a day of each other. At least my notes say Taco = hamster and Scuttles = gerbil, and so I’m sticking with that. For now.

As an aside, if you really want to know how we ended up with a herd of rodents, well, check out this link: http://justflipthedog.com/2011/02/eating-their-own-and-other-life-lessons

Anyway, they were found by The Dress, which is probably fortunate. As parents, we try to shield our children from death as much as possible. But it, Death, hurts; whether a family member, a favorite dog, or even a rat, er, gerbil/hamster. And Death shows no favoritism to age or species; and chooses its own time.

The Dress came in and told me early one morning that Taco was ‘sleeping peacefully.’ And she had a tear. At work the next day she called. She found Scuttles, also ‘sleeping peacefully.’ There was a tremor in her voice. And that’s because The Dress is gifted with a heart of compassion for all living things; probably because her dad was a veterinarian.

She also has an amazing heart for shoes, but that’s another column.

And so a double funeral was planned. And with my so-called “journalistic detachment,” I watched the SONS prepare for the event. Combining all their ages, they still add up to less than mine on earth. Yet already their distinct personalities are coming out.

One had a “let’s do this” attitude and grabbed shovel and pickaxe and went to work. Another watched the digging with a sad, yet caring “can you please hurry and dig faster” comment, while the third was checking out my iPhone for the perfect song. And The Dress donated a Calvin Klein shoebox, which for her, was a pretty big sacrifice.

They are coming into their own. And I am running out of time. I have so much yet to teach them, but I can’t stop the clock.

And so, a gerbil and a hamster were buried together, touching side by side. Now I could come up with some deep thought that if a gerbil and hamster can end up together, can’t Republicans and Democrats, Jews and Muslims, gays and straights, find some common ground to a better good rather than the vile hatred we have now? Or will that only happen when we hit the grave?

But I won’t.

And before PETA gets all spastic, we are not the Little Shop of Horrors. We still have two cats, a dog that still thinks she can fly, three of the original gerbils and a snake. We are considering a larger dog, but have all agreed to pack away the gerbil/hamster fun houses for the time being.

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John A. Winters is a staff writer for The Newnan Times-Herald. 

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