Monday, August 11, 2008
Recently I came home from a trip to Denver, one of many this summer, and one of my goldfish had died. I immediately texted Shawn, the only person that would understand my huge attachment issues to a fish, and told him what had happened. He said he was sorry for my loss and commented that he was sorry he wasn't around anymore to keep up the fish population. At first I was confused and then I remembered Johnny. A few years ago, after Shawn and I had moved into together, I had relentlessly begged for a goldfish, realizing I would never get my seahorse with the red, felt top hat. One day I came home and Shawn had bought me a goldfish. I appropriately named him Johnny. He would be our first of many. His sisters were Jobeth and Mary Rose from one of my favorite children's books, "Help I'm a Prisoner in the Library". Jobeth and Mary Rose were cloud fish and enjoyed swimming around the huge tank Shawn had bought following Johnny. My one rule was that the tank must always be clean and that I was not to be the one to clean the tank. I loved the fish, but not the smell or the misery of messy fish life. He consented. After several years, I was watching TV one night when I noticed that Johnny was not swimming around much like his jovial self. I went to the tank and began tapping it and moving it, trying to get a response. Johnny would move a little bit, but tended to be swimming on his side. I tried to convince myself that he suffered from a sprained fin, but the look on Shawn's face foreshadowed the inevitable. He rose from the couch and got a smaller fish bowl, which became Johnny's hospital room for the night. I watched over that bowl intently, convinced by Shawn's telling me that maybe he just needed to be alone for awhile. The next night was my late night at work and as soon as I left and got into my car I called Shawn. "How's Johnny?" I asked, hoping for the best. But I was met with silence on the other end of the phone. I asked again. "Johnny didn't make it honey. I'm sorry." He said. I immediately burst into tears. "What did you do with him?" I asked, knowing that Johnny had met his maker in the toilet. "I took care of it." Shawn said. "Did you say anything to him before taking care of it?" I asked. There was a pause on the other end of the phone and I could hear Shawn sigh. "I said, you've been a good friend Johnny. We'll miss you." And even as I write this now, tears roll down my face. Not really for Johnny, though I do miss him and he was a good friend. But for that time in my life. When a simple thing such as a goldfish made me happy and that I found solace in believing, even at thirty, that a fish bowl could serve as a hospital room. I guess I'm a little embarrassed writing this, but I think it tells of the kind of person Shawn was. Is. Alot like my father actually. The funny thing is, after this latest goldfish died and I received the text, I was blindsided by the honestly that Shawn had been buying fish to replace the ones that had died. And I had never known. He had kept the mystery and the magic alive for me all those years. That is love. It truly is. Fish probably don't belong in tanks anyway. They belong in lakes and streams and oceans. But I'll probably always have one or two, and now I'm cleaning the tank. And maybe that's why they keep dying. Or maybe fish don't live that long anyway, I don't know. I guess I always thought that fish lived forever. Or maybe, until recently, I was under the misconception that everything did. I think as I continue on this journey, it's really about returning to that childhood innocence for me and remembering, well, just remembering what's really important. Such as catching lightening bugs in a glass jar in the summer, hot chocolate on snow days, putting out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and good friends like Johnny. So the truth is, I do care, I just don't know how to make it all work out anymore. And just like Shawn, who as hard as he tried, could never keep up our fish population, eventually, I just have to let some things go. But I'm not entirely ready yet. And maybe I never will be.
Posted by The Secret Keeper at 1:52 AM