No children can possibly walk away from any county fair disappointed these days! From the moment they arrive, they are virtually bombarded with games, rides, food and drink, contests of skill, races, music and attractions as far as the eye can see and their little feet can take them. Promises abound as they are relentlessly enticed to try their luck between rows and rows of arcade games.
Our three west-central-Ohio grandkids recently moved into a new home just a stone’s throw away from their county fairgrounds. Grinning from ear-to-ear, we witnessed pictures of each of them riding around on a miniature motorcycle merry-go-round or being jostled about with joy in the bumper cars. It was a memorable Sunday afternoon for their family of five.
What’s more, they also live in a county where the fair is late in the summer, which serves to postpone the arrival of the first day of school. How awesome is that?
The wife and I had been in town just a day earlier to celebrate their youngest’s fourth birthday. While dining over cake and ice cream, our son’s in-laws, lifelong residents of the town, confessed they hadn’t been to the fair in years and weren’t planning on going this year either.
As sad as that was to hear, word came our way via a text message of even more disconcerting news following their family’s official outing to the fair. It was the worst kind of news, really. A crushing blow, to be sure. My heart sank when I responded to the vibration of my smartphone indicating incoming details. The potential for catastrophic consequences was both monumental and, I feared, imminent. We knew there would be such a risk having taken those little innocent ones down the alluring sights and sounds of the midway games.
Deep compassion and sensitivity would be needed given such tidings. Any thoughts of domestic tranquility post-fair would be tenuous at best. I would have to summon every ounce of grandfatherly pastoral care I could muster to mitigate the ensuing and, I believe, inevitable fallout.
The specifics appeared innocuous at first, but the implications were dramatic. Simply put, we were informed, “The kids won six fish at the fair!” followed by four emojis. The first two took the form of distressed “smiley faces” and the next two, seafaring aquatic vertebrae. Our “sharpshooting” middle grandson, Jonah, had bounced six ping-pong balls into those cute little bowls.
Soon another picture accompanied a message revealing their newest kitchen countertop accessory. Nestled in a corner was a fully garnished fish “tank” about the size and shape of a 30-cup coffee urn. This new home for a family of fish came fully decorated, complete with flora, a colorful base-bedding, and a jar of the requisite fish food for the daily dinner hour. Its appearance almost looked as if it belonged, but we knew differently.
If matters weren’t distressing already, a subsequent text declared, “They ended up giving us seven fish! The plant seems a bit too big, so we may need to downsize.” The local grandparents chimed in, “Or get a bigger tank! LOL.”
Unsympathetically, I chided them in response that they should have listened to the local grandparents on Saturday and stayed away from the fair.
Initially unspoken, the inevitable still cast an ominous presence. Grief counseling lay just around the corner. Thoughtfully, I added, “my services are available.”
Soon, our son sent the bad news alongside a teary-eyed emoji informing us, “I think two are already going to the bright light.” I replied, “My deepest sympathies and condolences.” “They’ve had a rough life!” the in-laws offered, and who could disagree having been on the road as traveling carnies all summer long
As a member of the carp family, I surmised, “It can’t be any fun scrounging down at the bottom of the sea for ‘the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.’” Alas, “make that four fish,” our son informed us adding, “pray one lasts.”
Frugally, the in-laws counter, “Keep the receipt for the tank!” “Good call,” came the reply, “the voice of experience!” Once again the elders advised they had “better start preparing the kids for the fish-flush burial.” Given our distance away, I could only empathize by offering, “I will be with you in spirit during the committal service. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, toilet to sewer!”
No amount of life-saving intervention could have forestalled their sad demise. Autopsies would not be performed.
The sensitive yet durable grandchildren seemed to take the inevitable in stride as all seven fish, in the next couple days, “met their maker.” All was not lost, however, as a quick trip to the local Walmart brought a replacement, and hopefully from a sturdier stock, it makes it to Labor Day weekend!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org