I was doing the right thing. I was doing what you are supposed to do even though the act of doing it was very distasteful and unpleasant. Not that is any consolation to the baby rabbit at my feet but I just want him to know that I did feel bad.
I had to end it for the little guy, he was suffering. I found him on our back porch while I was cleaning up. Some animal had been at him, probably my cat, and his gut was torn open pretty fierce. I felt really bad for the little guy as it couldn't have been more than just a few weeks old. There was no way he was going to make it though, he was to far gone. So I got my shovel out and did what I had to do, the thing that we are supposed to do when we see an animal suffering. It was not pleasant.
Then Little Hoss and Bubba Hoss came up the deck stairs. They stopped and looked at me, the shovel still in my hand and a headless baby rabbit at my feet.
I would have given anything at this moment for a distraction or a time warp. When have my kids ever been quiet anyway? What kind of mad sorcery is this? But I couldn't. There is a headless rabbit at my feet and a shovel with a bloodstain in my hands. OJ's lawyers couldn't have gotten me out of this one.
If they would have just turned around at this moment I would have given them anything. Pony, no problem. All you can eat ice cream bar every night the week? Done. A real princess shackled in our basement making her available for tea parties on the whim of a 5 year old girl? I considered it. It's funny, after you find yourself a killer the rest of it gets a little easier.
"Daddy!" Little Hoss said. "What Happened!" She and her brother ran up to me and bent down looking at the headless baby rabbit.
I was about to lie to my daughter. I was going to tell a flat out lie, I admit it. I didn't have many options here. I was thinking about telling her that an evil race of aliens, hell bent on destroying the baby bunny population of Missouri, had come down and destroyed this little precious baby bunny. Damn the evil aliens, damn them to hell.
"Daddy, did a hawk get it?" Little Hoss asked. We decided to go with that.
"Yes honey." I said.
I am raising my daughter to love nature and the outdoors. I don't have anything against hawks at all. I think they are very majestic creatures that deserve our respect. But if the choices are A: Daddy is a killer that chops the heads off defenseless baby bunnies or B: Hawks tear out bunnies entrails and decapitates them for sport. I choose option B, hawks can suck it. And don't tell me I can blame the cat. Little Hoss is known for vengeance and I don't want to see my cat walking with a brand new limp and no tail.
"Is it dead daddy?" She asked me.
"Yes honey." Let's be honest here. As the bunny is without a head, it makes it really difficult to give the old dad line of "it's just sleeping" that I have used on many lifeless squirrel bodies that always seem to pop up on the road ways.
"Daddy, what is dead?" Bubba Hoss asked me. And there it is. The father question that we all put off for as long as we can but one that we can't avoid forever. The next one will be the sex talk where all parities involved will be scarred for a lifetime. My dad gave me the sex talk while we were slaughtering a hog. We were a bit redneck.
I had thought about this question but have not yet come up with a good way to answer it. It's hard to define death anyway but to make it so a 5 year old and a 3 year old can understand it is damn near impossible. But I'm dad and dad has got to give it a shot. Once the question has been asked, it cannot be unasked.
"Dead is when the body isn't alive anymore, guys." I start. "The little baby bunny does not live in that body anymore, he's gone." I know it's crap but it's the best I got.
"He's gone, daddy?" my daughter asks me.
She starts to cry. She asked me why but I didn't have an answer for that. I'm not afraid to admit that I choked up a little bit myself. I ask my kids if they would like to bury the baby bunny and say goodbye. They say yes.
I get a shoe box because that is what the cliche says you do. I pick up the bunny, and it's head, and place it in there. We go out to the backyard, near a tree, and I dig a hole. Little Hoss is still crying. She has her umbrella because she says she needs the shade. Bubba Hoss is trying to figure out what happened as we do our funereal march.
"Maybe he was out looking for his mamma and the hawk got it." He says. Great. Now I know that they are going to have issues with mom leaving for work everyday.
"Yeah." says Little Hoss, picking up the narrative. "He was looking for his mother and food and a mean hawk came and deaded it." I find that it's not really a good idea at this moment to correct their grammar. But the story seems to be giving them some context to understand what has happened here so I let them roll with it.
Once the hole is dug we put the baby bunny inside and I cover it up. Little Hoss is sniffling now, Bubba Hoss is continuing with his story to help him understand what has happened.
I kneel down and give them both a hug. I tell them that it's time to say goodbye to the baby bunny. They do. Bubba Hoss suggests that the Hawk that killed the bunny is friends with the bad witch and she made him do it. I like that one so we roll with it.
I find that life is easier to understand when you can blame the bad witch.