The last gift Mom and Dad gave to our family for Christmas this year was a fish tank. It was in keeping with the fish theme of Dad's birthday, I think. Way back in early December when I asked Dad what he wanted for his birthday on the 16th of that month, he said a fish tank with some beautiful Guppies. When Dad was out of the room once I asked Mom if I could go pick something up from her.
"A fish tank and Guppies." She answered without hesitation.
Great minds think alike, as we had already bought a tank and were in the process of getting it all set up for his birthday. So we agreed that the tank would be from Mom and the Guppies from us. It worked out great, and Dad had a tank of finned friends to watch at the hotel.
Dad's Birthday Fish
We moved Mom down to hospice on the 21st, and in celebrating Christmas while we could, we three Shaffer kids and our respective families were gifted with not just tanks, but supplies to go in them, and even a gift card to stock it with some fish. In short, everything we would need except the water.
In our family at least, we are so thankful for this final gift from Mom. We haven't had a fish since Sparkle the Beta died, and have talked about getting a tank on and off since then. As we were setting it up, getting the water ready to receive fish, placing the rocks and the plants and all things just so, I read up on the care and maintenance of tropical freshwater fish. It's not really that hard. A few extra chores every week or three. Keep them fed. Pretty simple stuff.
Still, before we got the actual fish in the tank, I was thinking about the work behind being a responsible pet owner. More things to learn, more stuff to do. Maybe I could get the kiddos trained up quickly to do what needed to be done.
Yesterday we were finally ready to go pick out some fish. I was thinking about Guppies and Danios, since I had read up on those and knew they were good first fish. Of course the kiddos wanted entirely different fish. Thankfully these are also pretty hardy fish for newbies. Hopefully we won't lose too many. So, let me introduce the newest members of the house of Shaffer North...
Or Bones, as I've been calling him, was the first fish the kids picked out. He is a Glass Catfish, also known as a Ghost cat. A see through fish. If there had been more than the one, we would have come home with a tank full. It seems a little creepy at first. Skeletal fish and all. But he kind of grows on you after awhile.
So named for the blue and orange of the Chicago football team. Bear is a Blue Fin Variatus, and a shy and mellow one. He feeds at the top while everyone else is fighting for the food that the filter water pushes down into the tank.
Flashy and Shiny
Flashy is the larger of this pair of Cherry Barbs.
Sweet Pea and the Boyo both picked a Gold and a Cherry barb. Goldie is one of the Gold Barbs.
The Other Gold Barb
We have four Tiger Barbs, which we can't really tell apart. So we call them the Tiger Squadron, or just The Tigers for short... because it sounds cool.
Our new fish friends seem to be adjusting to their new habitat pretty well. They are all around an inch long, except Boney, who is a two inch monster. They can all double in size though. We'll see how it goes. We all have enjoyed sitting around and watching the fish. It sounds dull, but they really are fun to watch. It reminds me of the hours I spent watching fish for animal behavior classes back in high school, and I can recall some of the things I learned way back then. But I do love to sit and watch them swim.
Relaxing. Peaceful. A reminder that even though Mom is gone from here, life is going on. It is healing, for me at least, to see the fish swimming, to think of Mom reminding me to "Kick, Kick, Kick!" her way of encouraging me to keep on going.
I miss her a lot. The fish are a reminder of new beginnings. Remember the past and enjoy the memories, but don't be so tied to the past that you can't move forward and do new things. That's the lesson I get from this gift anyway. I think she would have liked that.