"So Long Mr. Greenie..."
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.
On a day that saw Aven bring so much confidence and poise in her UN celebration I received a text from my wife that I knew would affect our daughter in such a profound way at the end of the day.
"Don't tell Aven but we found Mr. Greenie dead in his feeding tank..."
I was pretty saddened by the news as well. Mr. Greenie is a Red Eared Slider Turtle and Avens first pet. A pet that has taught her to be a responsible child , it taught her to have an established routine and something to occupy her endless fascination with turtles. I guess it also gave her her first heartbreak.
In the beginning I was opposed to the whole idea of having Mr. Greenie since we live in a house that already had space issues.Somehow between Avens silent persistence of getting a pet and my wife secretly scouring the whole Valenzuela area for a pet shop that had a turtle things just happened on their own. Aven had to wait for quite a bit for Greenie to be delivered to the shop and when he was delivered the pet shop owner did not tell us that he was already there for pick up. All in all Aven was talking about turtles and how to take care of turtles for 2 months before we got Mr. Greenie in our home. I first met our new pet when I got home from one of my clinic duties and saw pet food that had Avens cute handwriting on them proclaiming that these were Mr. Greenies food.
Welcoming Greenie in our house was a family event. Like having a new baby. We were concerned if he could adjust to the house where it was constantly cold. We worried if he was eating enough. If we were giving him enough time to bask. If he was moving or happy in his Terrarium(Aven whispered to us one time that turtles hate having their homes being called Aquariums because they were not fish.And so we called Mr. Greenies home a Terrarium ever since). My wife became obsessed with finding rocks to put in the habitat and would pester me to make rounds of the pet shops. We usually end up with more than rocks , like Shrimp(which Aven said were like tasty sweet treats for turtles).
We were amazed how shy Mr. Greenie was at first , we would transfer him from his Terrarium to his Feeding tank and he would just go inside his shell. Maybe he was deciding if we were some sort of predator who was about to eat him. When he realized that we were feeding him instead he usually would come out , rapidly swim , chunk down a pellet or two and just floar around. Aven and him had an instant connection. When Aven was around or milling about in the mornings Mr. Greenie would be all active as well , looking at Aven or swimming around. When Aven was at school or Asleep Mr. Greenie would be dormant and just sit around in the rock area of his Terrarium until she came back. One of the first times he clambered up his rocks we were cheering him on as a family.
On the day that Mr. Greenie passed away my wife and I had an argument. I said that we should get a replacement for him right away before Aven found out. I wanted to spare Aven from that pain. Protect her from it. Later on as my wife held Aven after telling him that Mr. Greenie was gone would I realize that it would have been a big mistake. Aven had noticed every small detail of her turtles characteristics like the small crack on his shell or how black its eyes were or how blue spots had appeared on top of its head the day before. If we replaced it Aven would have noticed and be doubly hurt. When I showed Mr. Greenies floating body in his feeding tank Aven had disbelief on her face. "I don't he is dead daddy." Though it was breaking my heart I had to fetch the turtle and had to show her that he was no longer reacting from being picked up. Aven just nodded.
When Aven was crying I asked her the stupid question of why she was crying and her answer made me cry myself. "Mommy , Daddy I am sorry. I am crying because I was not responsible enough and I killed Mr. Greenie." Her pet turtle was dead and she was blaming herself for it. I told her that that was not true , that her pet was already feeling sick a couple of days back and that she had been able to take care of it as best she as she could.
In truth I also feel responsible for Mr. Greenies death because I am a biologist and I should have known better about taking care of this little guy. Aven who was crying in whimpers by now asked me something. "Daddy if you see Mr. Greenie around the house you would tell me right?" Knowing that I see ghosts Aven assumed that I would be able to see her pet. I told her that I could not feel or see Mr. Greenie any more , that he was already in Turtle Heaven , feeling a lot better and playing with other turtles. Aven looked at me and I saw understanding there. A maturity that was beyond her 8 year old mind. "I guess Mr. Greenie loves it there then."
"Yes anak , I am sure he is having so much fun there."
So Mr. Greenie so long.Thank you for the joy you gave us as a family. Keep Having fun in Turtle Heaven.