Tracy shares a shameful episode from her family's past.
By Tracy Engelbrecht
Now, this isn’t easy for me. I’m about to share one of the most shameful episodes in our family’s history, and I’m girding the loins for the torrent of abuse which must surely follow. And I’m afraid my father will never forgive me for letting the skeleton out of the closet (literally, almost). Be warned, sensitive readers. It’s not pretty.
Article originally in Parent24
Today’s column is about the time my dad killed Layla’s little hamster. With a golf club. Oh, it is EXACTLY as shocking and awful as you think.
First some background. We have a strict Catch-And-Release policy when it comes to bugs and stray critters in the house. This includes big hairy spiders, scorpions, cockroaches and even snakes, on occasion. Many a precious candlelit bubblebath has grown cold while the bather blows gently on a tiny wet ant, trying to bring it back to life. We don’t kill things, except by accident or if it’s completely unavoidable. We don’t use a lot of Doom.
One day we heard a scritch-scritch-scritch behind the drawers. It’s a mouse, we decide. We’ve had a mouse before. Weeks of hide-and-seek, tiny mousy poops in the sock drawer. It wasn’t fun. So with heavy hearts, it’s decided that more decisive action is needed this time. My dad moves the drawers, golf club in hand. And there he is – standing perfectly still. Big ratty eyes staring like a deer in the headlights.
Not – and this is important – scurrying away in fear like a proper mouse would do. Of course, we’re all carried away by the drama of the moment and don’t notice this. We all cover our eyes. Before he can run away – THWACK. Oh my God, I’m so sorry poor mousy.
We’re all in a state. My father is shaken – mouse murder is not his idea of fun. I sidle up for a closer look. And I look. And look… ‘But, but, but… where is his tail?” I splutter, nonplussed. Something fishy here. Mice have tails, surely? We didn’t (oh jeez, the horror) kinda squish it off with the golf club, did we? But there’s no severed bits at all… No blood either, except for a pitiful little speck from the poor sod’s mouth. And slowly it begins to dawn on all of us… he’s the wrong colour. He’s the wrong colour…
He’s not mousy brown with stripes. He’s grey, with white splotches. And now we understand, all at the same time. Oh shite. GAAAAAAH!
We race (silently, so as not to arouse suspicion) up to the kitchen where Hamsy the hamster lives happily in his cage. And find it open. And empty. Entirely devoid of Hamsy. Oh my God, can you even begin to imagine the dreadfulness?
Somehow the little bugger had managed to climb up to the roof of his cage, open the door, climb down the tumble drier, scamper through the entire house unnoticed, and creep behind the chest of drawers. He’d never done it before, as far as we know. That’s why the poor thing didn’t run away. That’s why he just sat there and watched us calmly with his little rodent eyes. He recognised us. He was waiting for pellets. And then we brained him. THWACK, as I said.
Oh, the shame. Oh, the eternal damnation. It’s so shocking, we’re all overcome by fits of uncontrollable, wet-your-pants giggles. I’m ashamed of that, but seriously, wouldn’t you too?
What to tell Layla? It’s one thing for her to accept that Hamsy is dead. Quite another to know exactly how it happened. For days, my poor father couldn’t look her in the eye. He was utterly devastated by the whole thing. Still is. (Sorry , Dad). We took the easy way out, and told her he’d escaped from his cage and is now gambolling happily with his field mice cousins outside. In short, we lied. Wouldn’t you?
She’ll find out one day, I guess. Sigh. Another one for the therapist’s couch.
How do you handle pet death in your family?