Somewhere in a landfill near my house there is a dead baby bird. I know this because the neighbor girl rode up on her cute little bicycle with oversized training wheels and announced it to us.
A day earlier, DearWife decided (wisely) that it was time to put guards on our outside vents on the second floor. Birds had been nesting in them all around the neighborhood. The guy showed up late Saturday afternoon in a Purdue Ornithology T-Shirt. He threw his big ladder against our house and climbed up to the vent.
He took his tool (which suspiciously looked like a long metal stick) and stuck it in the vent. Ostensibly, this was supposed to root out whatever birds were there. Before leaving he told DearWife that there had been a nest with babies in it, and that he'd take the babies to a field near his house. I think that sounded better to DW than "I can break their necks now, or they can starve in a field."
On Saturday night, we had a party at the neighbors. Gallons of Sangria, a keg of bad beer, mountains of hamburgers, brats and kielbasa. The kids were the kind of ecstatic that they can only get when they're young, it's hot out and they are up past their bedtimes.
But then DW saw the vent fluttering. She swore she heard a bird yelping. Then the neighbors saw it. She called the guy in the TShirt and he said he'd be back first thing in the morning.
Turns out they left a baby bird in there. Fortunately or unfortunately, all the kids saw the bird and were determined to nurse it back to life. We got it a cardboard box, some grass, and some water and put it in the shade. The kids fed it worm after worm after worm. It saw a spider at the edge of it's box and it tried to catch it. All the kids were giddy with the excitment of being able to help nurse a baby bird to health.
When we left for my parents house, the kids and DW had hope for the baby. But upon returning after another long day and a long car ride, there was the neighbor girl on her bicycle with over-sized training wheels. She rode right up to BigBrothers car door. She casually made the announcement with less excitement or emotion than if she had been describing what happened on "Thomas the Train" this morning.
"we kept feeding the baby bird worms but it died so we threw it in the trash bye I'm going on a bike ride with my daddy."
BigBrother didn't react immediately. But as we sat down to eat, he heard a bird chirping. He started to cry before he finished his question.
"Daddy, did you hear that bird?"
"Yeah, buddy, I did."
He was weeping now.
"That's the mother looking for her baby, and it's DEAD. DEAD. WHY?"
The poor kid cried for half an hour. It was one of those moments as a Dad when I thought "What the hell do I do now?"
This came about a month after we had to put down cat Scout. BigBrother got sad about her dying, and said he loved her and missed her. But we had a chance to prepare him for that moment. How are we going to prepare him for the moment when something truly important goes away forever? How are we going to prepare him to deal with real loss? For that matter are either DearWife or I really prepared?