I know I write a lot of stories about my youngest, Jonas, but he’s at that perfect age of mingled innocence and wickedness, and honestly, I’m afraid if I don’t write this stuff down, someday I’ll have forgotten it all. So today, in the car on the way to school –
Jonas: Mom, do you know what happened to Murray? (The dog of our close family friends, Todd and Debbie, who passed away about a month ago.)
Me, generally distracted by the chaos of the morning and at the very end of my patience with Jonas’s non-stop chattering: Yes.
Jonas: She died.
Jonas: Is Murray a boy or a girl?
Me: He was a boy.
Jonas: Oh. I mean him died.
Me: Yes, Murray died. (We hadn’t told Jonas that Murray had passed away until we showed up at our friends’ house for a Labor Day barbeque this weekend and Murray wasn’t around.)
Jonas: Why did he die?
Me: He got sick.
Jonas: Oh. (He’s quiet for a moment, thinking.) I think I know how he got sick.
Me, ears perking up now: How did he get sick?
Jonas: He ate something that made him sick.
Me: Did you feed him something that wasn’t food?
Jonas, his voice tinged with the genuine remorse only a four year old can summon: No, it was food. It wasn’t dog food, though. It was the orange things in the blue bowl. I’m going to tell Debbie I’m sorry. And I promise I won’t feed Ginger (Todd and Debbie’s other dog) the orange things in the blue bowl ever again.
Me, pulling into the parking lot at his school, taking a deep breath and trying to resist both the tears and the giggles that are threatening to erupt, and would likely confuse and further upset my son: Sweetheart, eating too many Cheetos does not cause Leukemia. Even when dogs eat too many Cheetos. You should not feed animals things their owners ask you not to, but you feeding Murray Cheetos did not make him die. He got sick because sometimes dogs get sick and we can’t do anything about it. But it wasn’t your fault.
Jonas, looking more relieved: OK. I won’t. (As we walk into school.) Teacher, Todd and Debbie’s dog died.
Me, also to the teacher: If he tells you he killed the dog, he didn’t. He died of Leukemia.