My hamster Tribble

The way things are.

Dealing with death.

When I was maybe 9 or 10 years old I had my first hamster. His name was Tribble and I got him from a pet store in the mall.

My hamster Tribble

My hamster Tribble

He was a cute little fluff ball that I kept in my room and let scamper around in a little green orb.

One night after I’m not sure how long I had him I noticed that he was moving very slowly. I tried to put some food into his mouth but he wouldn’t eat it.

In the morning I went to my mom and told her that my hamster had died. “No,” she said, “he’s probably just sleeping.”

I was ten. I was not an idiot.

I went and picked up Tribble from his cage. The rigor mortis had already kicked in and he was just a tiny furry rock. I held him above the dining table and let go. He hit the wood with a clunk. “Mom,” I said, “he’s dead.”

At ten I was old enough to know what death meant. It meant that Tribble was gone and never coming back and it was time to bury him in the backyard and to go back to the pet store for a new hamster. It wasn’t a complicated notion to me.

So why now, at twenty-nine is that idea a little more blurred? Why is it that I can’t always understand that death is permanent? And that time doesn’t go backwards. And that tomorrow everything doesn’t go back to normal. It’s at random times when I suddenly realize these truths. And those are the times I lose control.

It’s been a year since my dad passed away. It doesn’t feel that long, really. Most of the time I’m pretty OK. I get on. But it hits me every once in a while. Like when I am trying to make Swedish pancakes and they turn out burnt on the outside and raw on the inside and I realize that I will never eat pancakes the way I like them again because he was the only one who could make pancakes the way I liked them. It hits me when I’m watching Say Yes to the Dress and know that I’ll never have a father daughter dance. Or when I’m taking off on a road trip and am terrified that something will happen to me and I have no one to call. Or when I see a Superman snuggie for sale and think that that would make a perfect Christmas gift.

I never wrote about the funeral. Really, what is there to write? He was cremated and the body wasn’t ready in time so we held a service to an empty urn. And there was a fill in the blank book about him that they put together at the funeral home that read like a novelty item you’d buy at a shopping mall stand. And they played Pink Floyd and Genesis. And everyone kept remarking that he was in the army and I just thought “of course he was, he had to be.” And when my boss stopped by I hoped he would notice that I was wearing jeans and sneakers under my dress and realize that I don’t just dress that badly for work. And Heather dressed up like me. And afterward we went to a Polish buffet and I ate a lot of pudding.

And where is the urn now? On top of the television in my mom’s living room. And there are photos and candles and it looks like some gaudy shrine. And it kind of bothers me that its there.

And death is permanent. And time doesn’t go backwards. And tomorrow everything doesn’t go back to normal.

And these are the things I think about.

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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • wendyvee
    November 23, 2010at4:34 pm

    A little since my Dad passed. Wish I could offer some lifechanging wisdom; but no such luck.

    It gets better sometimes … it gets worse sometimes.

    Go out and have way too much fun tonight!

  • Heather
    November 24, 2010at3:51 am

    Val, I haven’t lost a parent but several of my friends have in the last several years and I can’t imagine the pain of being in their shoes.

    Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  • Sid
    November 24, 2010at9:07 am

    I still think like that when I’m reminded of my great aunt…my grandfather…and, strangely, my dog :/
    I don’t know if it’ll ever stop hurting, but at least it seems that as more time passes, it takes a more specific thing to remind me of them in that way.

  • Marlo
    November 24, 2010at12:18 pm

    Your Dad did an excellent job of raising you three girls. I only met him a couple of times but he was always very nice to me. Your sister Jen is one of my best friends and while I obviously don’t know you and Natalie as well as I do her, I’d have to imagine that you share many of her great qualities. My heart is heavy for you and your family on this sad anniversary, but I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving as you remember a man who was so influential in your life.

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