Monday, August 12, 2019

Eulogy of Perception

When turned 11 or 12, my little sister gave me a hamster for my birthday. Over the years, he had a dozen different names. The last one was "Herman Vermin", from a very warped comic book I can't recall the name of.

I never got into the crazy cage thing, he lived in a glass tank his whole life. But I held him every night. I'd sit reading this or that comic book, while the hamster scurried around. He was really well behaved and hardly chewed the corners of the comics.

On a long holiday weekend, Herman started acting funny. Slow, tired. He wasn't looking good. All of my friends and family were away. I didn't have anyone to ask for advice. I took him to the vet. It was the first time I had ever taken a pet to the veterinarian. It was hard.

The guy asked what the problem was and I told him that Herman looked sick.

He examined Herman and said: "It's old age. They don't live so long. I think it's time for you to say goodbye."

I really didn't want to say goodbye. I held him for a long time before going to bed. On my wall was a picture of me and Herman back on my birthday, when I first got him. Compared to that picture of 11 or 12 year old me and Herman, he looked paler, thinner and smaller. I fell asleep, lights on staring at that picture, reflecting on the past and how much that little guy meant to me.

And in the morning, he was gone. He passed while I slept. I was mad and confused. How could I not have been there for him when he had been there for me over all the years.

I buried him in the yard behind my apartment.

Frustrated by loneliness, I called my sister in Toronto. I told her what happened, expecting a sympathetic ear.

"So, ah... Are Mom and Dad still in California?" she asked.
"Yeah." I said.
"And Doug?"
"Alabama for Reserves," I said.
"Hmm. Mark and Ryan?"
"Looking for a college. Visiting family," I said.

I was getting mad. Really mad. She gave me this hamster, when was she going to say "I'm sorry for your loss"? I had this damn thing for all these years. And now he was gone and I was all alone. I was in my own apartment, alone. Really, really alone for the first time in my life.

I felt emptiness filling up with fire.

"I'm sorry, Phil," she said.


"I'm so sorry. I hate to tell you this but hamsters only live about 18 months. Two years tops." She paused, and I felt my world sinking.

"Mom, Dad, me... all of your friends... we've been replacing that hamster every couple of years for over a decade. He died a long time ago. I'm sorry. But for someone who is so smart, you aren't very observant." 

"What the f..." I stammered.

"Hey, I'm your sister. It's what I'm here for. You're welcome."


1 comment:

  1. The truth. Always painful. Especially when it's delivered abruptly.