Monday, January 17, 2011

Chronicles of life ... A friend indeed

'Tis a sad day in fishdom and the world. My dear Ralphie, beloved friend and fish, died around midnight Monday. He was my constant companion for two years, and needless to say I am heartbroken. It's never easy to have to flush your friend.
Little Ralphie was getting up in age and had been sick, but it still was an unwelcome surprise to see him gone. I had just told him to prepare for a water change the day before. Unfortunately there would be no water change this time. Ralphie had gone on to the great big rice paddy in the sky. 
I found Ralphie laying on his rocks. I thought he was playing possum. When Ralphie didn't run from the net like he normally does, I knew something was wrong. The water works instantly began. 
There are few people that would welcome hearing a fish death announcement after midnight, so I called my mother. I could barely tell of his passing from the snorting and sobbing. Ma Dukes was very sympathetic to my lost, considering she had never been much of a fan of Ralphie. There was this love-hate relationship between my family and Ralphie for some reason. They’ve always been jealous of our relationship. My grief isn't on the level of Mama Payne on Martin losing her bird Ruby or when Florida found out James died on Good Times, but it's not far off. All I could do was cry all night long. It was so hard to go to work.
This isn't the first time I’ve lost a fish. My first serious betta was Vendy. I had him during my junior and senior year of college. I was going through some issues with friendship and loneliness, but Vendy helped fill that void. Vendy heard the highs and lows of my day. He died about a month after I graduated from college, and I cried to no end. I thought I would never love again – until I saw Ralphie.
I randomly walked into a South Carolina PetSmart just for information and walked out with a betta fish. Ralphie stood out among the rest. He was the only red fish in a sea of blue. I had to have him. I named him Ralphie in honor of my favorite holiday movie, "A Christmas Story." Thus began a strong attachment to a new fish.
Some may think it quite odd to be attached to a fish. You can't touch or play with them. Does that make a fish any less significant in a person's life? My Ralphie was as dear to me as any dog, cat, rabbit or whatnot. Dogs are too demanding, cats are too fickle and rabbits confuse me. And the best pet for my busy life is a fish. 
But Ralphie was more than a pet, he was a friend. He was always there to provide what I sometimes needed most: a listening ear. I could talk to Ralphie, and he would listen without judging. Watching him swim in his bowl was always a soothing. I don’t mind living alone, but it was always nice to have someone to come home too, even if it was just my fish. One friend said Ralphie knew he could leave me now because I wasn't alone anymore. I have roommates and a support system now. Also losing a fish seems to signal a new phase in my life. I just wish Ralphie could have been a part of it. 
It's at least a two-year grieving period for me between the lost of a fish. I won't say I'm done with fish, but right now my heart is too broken to love another. And I don't know if I want any other type of pet. You can't just replace a friend over night. Another friend said “You really loved that fish. I don’t know why, but you did.” The words of Michael Jackson best described my love for Ralphie. "They don't see you as I do. I wish they would try to. I'm sure they'd think again if they had a friend like Ben." Everyone needs a friend like Ralphie. RIP little buddy.

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