Sunday, October 10, 2004

Oscar 11/99 - 10/9/04

My beloved Oscar died unexpectedly last night. Oscar was a Botia macracanthus, commonly known as a clown loach. Their expected lifespan is 15+ years, so it is even more painful to me that he lived only five. Of course, I'm not exactly sure of his birth date. I adopted him in November of 1999, assuming he was still just a babe. But I suppose he could have been older.

Oscar was an amazingly bright fish. When his companion was still alive, he would pick up the food pellet from the bottom of the tank and carry it around, so the other fish couldn't steal it from him. I used to make him a toy - a piece of diced zucchini wrapped in rubber bands that he'd playfully attack and toss around along the graveled bottom of his home. I loved watching him swim. His large body was not a hinderance to the acrobatics he could perform in his tank.

I work with death almost every day, but I couldn't deal with handling Oscar's corpse.

Mia (in whiny voice): Oh, no! Oscar's dead.

S: Oh, don't panic. I'm sure he's not. You know he likes to play dead all the time.

And he did, he would sit perfectly still, lying belly up on the bottom of the aquarium. I waved my fingers along the glass of the tank to see if he'd move, as I'd always done. But looking at his anemic, water-logged body, I knew this wasn't play.

Mia (continuing to whine): No, he's not playing! This is for real! S, you have to help me. I can't deal with this!

S: Okay, step outside the room. I'll take care of him.

As S used the net to raise Oscar up out of his death bed, she called to me.

S: So, what do you have in mind for a burial?

Mia (still whiny and pouting): I don't know yet.

S: it's okay. You can decide later.

We'd been on our way out the door for dinner with friends when I'd discovered him. As we headed out, I asked nervously.

Mia: What did you do with him?

S (smiling): I put him in the morgue.

We have had fish die before and always end up putting them in the freezer until we decide what to do with them. So, it's true. The freezer has become somewhat of a fish morgue. The fact that S has become so comfortable with the terminology of my life's work made me smile, too.

It seems so pathetic that I can handle dead humans on a regular basis, but couldn't even look at the empty aquarium after Oscar passed. I guess it's a good reminder of what it feels like to lose a living being whom you care for.

Oscar will be sorely missed. I am planning on having an ocean burial for him with the hopes that he'll come back as a large whale - swimming the expanse of the oceans in freedom. Rest in peace, Oscar. I love you.

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