Pramote has had fish of various sizes for all the years we have been living in a house of our own. Of all the living creatures under our purview (cats, birds, lizards, dogs, snakes, rats, game fish, and smaller things with at least 6 legs) only the gold fish were chosen. The rest chose us. And only the gold fish required constant care and elaborate facilities.
Here in Ban Den Village, right after we finished building our house we built an in-ground fish tank for gold fish the size of our hand, not small but not large. They were a joy until the first disaster. One day, unbeknownst to us, the village chlorinated the water and when we used it with the fish they died horrible deaths. They were replaced and the fun lasted until an earthquake cracked the tank and we had to rush to save them. The tank was relined but that did not work, so a new one was dug in the ground. It leaked badly and had to be replaced by a larger one above ground. The new tank was the most elaborate of all with three filtration tanks and a complicated set of valves and pumps. This seemed to be a great situation until the electricity went off and we had to work for hours to keep the fish alive because there was no power for the aerator pump. The second time power failed we did not know in time to keep half a dozen from dying. The third time was in the middle of the night just recently when 10 died, and the tank began to lose water again. Pramote declared he has had enough and proposed to get rid of the fish.
There is no shortage of takers. At the most we had 45 fish of a wide variety of colors varying in size from a foot to about 3 feet long, which is longer and heavier than any fish we have seen in other tanks or ponds. Yesterday began the final disposal of the fish. Our nephew’s friends came to take as many as they could persuade us to relinquish. We have a few of the biggest ones left, waiting for a relative to come today. Then the fish tank will be turned into something else. I am guessing it will be for plants in pots.
It is hard to know how to react to this end of an era, as it were. We have almost never been without fish. They have been part of our life, and a measure of our well-being. This aspect of our identity crept up on me. I was not prepared to be known by the fish we keep. They are a sign of our prosperity, because there could not be fish like this without expendable cash to run the motors, buy the food, build the tanks, and much more. When people saw our fish they revised their estimations of us. The fish are a matter of pride because of their size and color. Connoisseurs (of which I am not one) know how to evaluate colors of fish like this. I believe the more colors and the brighter they are, the better. Anyhow, we have had up to $2000 or $3000 worth of fish I understand, and we are giving them away to good homes, we hope.
Which brings me to a more delicate matter.
These fish are Pramote’s pets as well as objects of pride. He has given several of them artificial respiration – yes, I’m not kidding about this – you’d have to have seen it to believe it. He rescued some of them as spawn and raised them from minnow size into size big enough to join the rest without becoming their snack. He medicated them when a mystery disease threatened. He knows which ones are off-springs of which. We have a more personal relationship with our cats, but the fish have been significant. They have signified things I am not yet aware of, I suspect. That may become clear as the last ones leave and the valve is turned to drain the tank into the orchard.
It amazes me how things become part of our meaning.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.