Charlie is was our family pet, a fish. Ruby got him for her 3rd birthday. While the idea seemed neat at the start, Charlie quickly was neglected. I mean, I had a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a 2 month old at the time of welcoming Charlie into our family, so I don’t know what I expected. Quickly, his bowl was disgustingly dirty. He randomly got fed. He hardly ever got talked to. I made several concerted efforts to pay him more attention and clean his bowl and feed him regularly. I was starting to become fond of Charlie. Ruby, on the other hand, hardly even knew he was here and never fed him or talked to him. She even had the audacity to up and change his name to Dorothy because that is Elmo’s fish’s name.
HOWEVER, upon our return home from Albany, I went to check on Charlie and found that our cleaning lady, Mrs. Lee, had graciously cleaned his bowl. It was in bad shape, but I didn’t want to clean it before we left because he could eat off the gross stuff all in the bowl. She thought she was doing a favor, but in reality she killed Charlie. He is supposed to have these drops in his bowl if you change the water, and she didn’t do that. I was a little sad at first, but then realized it is all for the better. I figured the kids would not even notice. I stuck his bowl out in the back yard until we figured out what to do. Well, today Ruby saw the bowl and wanted to know why Charlie was outside. I explained the situation, and you would have thought she actually cared for this fish! She cried and cried and wanted to know why Mrs. Lee didn’t put in the drops. I comforted her for a while, and we talked through it all several times.
Josh got home, and Ruby brought it up again. Ruby told Josh that she didn’t want another fish, but she wanted Charlie back. He encouraged her to be grateful for the 18 months she had with Charlie, then I heard him say that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. It was hilarious. Josh thought we should have a parade and then a funeral to honor Charlie…then flush him down the toilet. Ruby was very offended at the thought and didn’t want Charlie to go down the toilet. She kept crying out, “I miss Charlie…I’m really gonna miss Charlie, mom.” I asked her what she would miss about him, and she looked at me with big tears and said, very seriously, “He was a good fish!”
I just wish Charlie had known while he was alive how much Ruby loved him.