We buried Henry last week. It’s probably safe to say that deep down my family didn’t want to; despite the fact he never spoke and was never seen, we enjoyed having him around. But there are some things in life you just need to let die. Henry was one of those things.
He first appeared over the summer. I was washing the truck, got sidetracked, and ended up leaving the hose running all night. My son found the mess the next morning and wondered aloud whose fault that was.
“Henry did it,” I told him.
“Oh, you know Henry. He messes up a lot of stuff around here.”
It wasn’t the first time my son walked away from me shaking his head.
And thus Henry was born. He made another appearance two days later, when a certain little boy’s bedroom was discovered in disarray.
“Who messed up your room?” I asked him.
“Henry,” my son said. “He messes up a lot of stuff around here.”
It caught on. My daughter blamed Henry for all the toothpaste left in the sink. I blamed him for not mowing the yard. Even my wife got into the spirit of things by stating was Henry, not her, who had left the television on one Sunday afternoon. During Keeping Up with the Kardashians, no less. Henry loved trashy television.
Then came two weeks ago, when my son’s math homework clashed with an overwhelming need to finish the Lego town he was building. Addition and subtraction was no match for a new pet store. His homework wasn’t completed. So said the note from his teacher the following afternoon, which contained this postscript:
Who is Henry?
That was when we decided Henry had to go.
It was a tough decision. Because in his own way, Henry allowed each of us to skirt such things as duty and accountability. It was always easier to blame him rather than ourselves for the things we should have done but didn’t and the things we did but shouldn’t have. We didn’t have to be responsible. Sounds awful, I know, but few people truly crave responsibility. When something goes wrong, the first question always asked is, “Who’s responsible?” Who among us longs to answer that with “I am”?
But of course taking responsibility is something we all have to do. We all have to clean up our messes, we all have to do our jobs, and we all have to be careful of what we allow into our hearts. It’s easier to blame something else, especially if it’s an imaginary someone who can’t defend himself. Easier, but not better.
So rest in peace, Henry. I’ll miss you when the truck gets dirty and the grass needs cutting. I’ll have to do those things on my own now. I think I’m the better for it.