Funeral for a fish

Today is my brother’s birthday.  In honor of this day I am publishing a story I wrote several years ago.

  I loved my red betta. His name was Red. I kept him in an aquarium on my desk and we were good friends.
Red was a birthday gift from my brother.  Dennis brought him home from the store in a plastic cup. A goldfish bowl,smooth rocks, glass rocks, fake greenery, fish food and de-chlorinator were plopped on the counter along with my then unnamed fish with a “Happy birthday, baby sister.”
“Great Dennis,” I said. “What am I going to do with a fish?” (I didn’t exactly say it that way, but I cleaned up my language for this post.)
He said, “I found a little fish net out by the neighbor’s trash can and thought it would be useful if there was a fish to scoop in it from time to time. Let’s sterilize it and then you can use it for your new fish.”

That’s how my brother thought – find a discarded piece of trash and buy a fish.
I had never owned a fish in my entire life, so Dennis helped me arrange the tank. He taught me how to feed and care for it.
A week later, he came home with his own betta and two new larger tanks. He told me that he didn’t want my fish to get jealous in his small goldfish bowl and had to buy my fish a new tank to match the one that he bought for his fish.
My fish was beautiful and RED. And, so I named him Red. Dennis’ fish was a rainbow sort of color and he never did name him. He called him Gringo and Guiseppe and Titan and whatever other name came to mind. His fish seemed to really like him, though, and would swim to the side of the tank to greet Dennis whenever he walked into the room.
I was jealous, because Red just seemed mean-spirited. He would flare out his gills and puff his face at me everytime I got near his tank.
We eventually moved out here to the country, but my brother and his fish stayed on the beach. Eventually, his fish died. My fish and I started becoming friends.
Red would come to the edge of his tank and watch me work on my computer.  He would come to the top of the tank and wait for me to drop food in for him.  If strangers stopped to gawk at him, he would flare his gills and puff his face. How funny, I thought, he never does that to me. He brought me many hours of joy.
When my brother died way too young and very unexpectedly from a heart condition, I was even more glad that I had Red. I had a very special gift from my brother. This brother had flown into my life after years of mutual neglect. And, he and I had a great time becoming friends and camarades.
Red was my living connection to my brother. He bore this awesome responsibility very beautifully, but died the other night night.
I woke up the next morning and checked his tank to make sure he was still dead. Maybe he just had a terrible sleep and would be swimming about, happy as a fish.  I knew it would be unlikely, but was a little hopeful that the impossible could happen.
It hadn’t and so, we found a tiny spot in the yard to bury him. 

“Take care of Red for me, big brother.” 


July 4th, 1980

I like writing stories for this blog, but sometimes, I’m stumped as to what to write about. Whenever that happens, I go to the hall closet and pull out the old photographs to peruse, because I always find something there! And, then I write about a thousand words. So here goes!  Today’s photo was taken on July 4, 1980.


Cindy, Pam, Bonnie, Linda, Dennis

  It’s a photo of me and my siblings, sitting from right to left in our birth order. Since I’m the youngest I am on the left wearing my ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) tee-shirt.

And, since I brought up the tee-shirt, I guess I’ll start this story with it. I got the ELO tee-shirt from my friend, Tina, who went to ELO’s famous “Big Night” concert tour in Pittsburgh in 1978 without me. I had wanted to go, and can’t remember now why I could not go, but Tina bought me a tee-shirt that I absolutely loved and that I only ever wore on special occasions.

Me, Pam, Bonnie, Linda and Dennis are sitting on the picnic table in my parents’ yard at their stone house. It was the 4th of July, which meant my parents were having a family picnic. In 1980, all five of us kids were married, and four of us had kids of our own, too. So, by then the picnics were not the same as when we were younger and all living at home.

But, back in the day, aunts, uncles, two grandmas and cousins from both mom and dad’s side of the families would come for the family picnic.  Us kids would play badminton or jarts (a game using huge darts with these dangerously long sharp points that you would throw and try to stick in a ring, that essentially would kill you or at least put your eye out if you were unluckily standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were in the path of an errant toss) or dodge ball or go gallivanting out in the woods at Devil’s Canyon (rock formations) and play hide and seek after it got dark. We also got to light sparklers after dark. Picture a handful of kids running around in the dark with an eight inch wand of pyrotechnic fuel reaching about 3000 degrees Farenheit in each hand! The men would drink beer, play horseshoes, then usually switch to poker after it got dark.  The women would set up all the eats, clean up all the messes, and finally retreat to the kitchen to chat (and laugh hysterically) about adult stuff after it got dark.

I remember one year my Uncle Bobby from the big city of Pittsburgh, knowledgeable in all big city things, spiked a watermelon with rum.

And, I remember snow flurries one year during the annual summer picnic, unusual even for Pennsylvanians.

So, back to the photo. I was 22 years old in 1980. And, I was married and already a mom, too.  Our cousins were grown with their own families and not too interested in our family 4th of July picnics anymore.  But, because of the photo, I can see that in 1980 all of us siblings were there together. I think Brian and I might have lived on a farm in a nearby community at the time. Pam and her husband Gary would be moving to Colorado soon. Bonnie and her husband lived just a few miles down the road. Linda was not too far away, living in Pittsburgh with her husband. I’m not sure where my brother Dennis was in his life in 1980.  He might have been living with his family in the old hometown, or home from Texas for a visit.  

There we all were, grown siblings with a long history of 4th of July gatherings posing for a picture for our mother on July 4, 1980.  My nephew, Dennis Jr, was 13. His sister, Lori was 11. My daughter Carrie was not quite four years old.  Her cousin, Shani was also three years old. Jason would be turning three in another month or so and Kara had recently celebrated her first birthday. My other nieces, Kelly and Shannon were not born yet.

We probably had hot dogs and hamburgers and pickled eggs, and potato salad, maybe some ham salad, corn on the cob and watermelon for this picnic fete.  My dad would have had the horse shoe pit set up. He and his son and the sons-in-law might have played some poker after it got dark. My sisters and I would have been sitting around the kitchen with our mom chatting (and laughing hysterically) after dark.


This picture was taken on the same day on the same picnic table. Cindy, Brian and Carrie.



Dance Heads

It has taken a new computer, and then, finding the several year old CD, and then finding a program to convert it and upload it to You Tube, but here it is! Me and two of my sisters – Pam and Bonnie! Bonnie and Pam, you are so cute! Oh, and, sister Linda, you are not on this, but no worries, I have a photo I will upload soon to get you, too! Woohoo! (AND, if you have video buffering issues, PLEASE press pause for about five minutes before you play, so you can watch this wonderful talent without interruption!)