I miss my turtle. I miss the way he would turn around on his sun rock when he heard my keys in the door and hop in the water to clink up against the glass until I came to the aquarium to tell him hello. I miss bringing home doggie bags of cantaloupe and honeydew melon (never watermelon-Albert hates watermelon) from fru-fru lunches at work.
I miss digging up grubs and turning over rocks to find earthworms that he loved, and I miss watching him and Pearl stretch out in the sun in the front yard at East Nashville while I weeded the flowers.
And I miss the way he would stretch out all four legs when I scratched his belly and I miss his yoga pose, “The Chill Turtle”, he would do in the afternoon.
Yes, I know it sounds crazy – but Albert is something special. I had to call in work one morning, because I couldn’t find him. I’d let him out while I was writing (I’d woken up five hours before schedule) and I’d lost him. Woke up five hours early and was late to work. I finally found him behind a stack of books under my bed. Alice, one of the administrators at work never let me forget it, “Mandy, OF COURSE you call in because you can’t find your turtle. Only you.”
I never thought I’d have a turtle – I’m against turtles being sold for pets – but he kind of fell in my lap. See, he was bought for one of my nieces years ago, when my sister and her family went to Florida on vacation. He was cute and tiny. Missy, my blonde sister, thought that turtles were like goldfish that you win at the fair and would die in a month or two. Aquatic turtles can live for fifty years if they are taken care of.
They’d had him for about five years when I noticed that his shell wasn’t looking so good. I realized he didn’t have a sun lamp or any rocks or plants in his small tank. He didn’t have a pump. He was living like a goldfish in a small tank on top of their piano. It’s not that they were mean – they just didn’t notice. Albert lived in a house with three pre-teen to teenage girls – he wasn’t on the top of the list of priorities. When I asked about them getting a bigger tank and some other stuff for him I realized how much it would cost. With three girls in the house, they didn’t have the money to waste on him.
Long story short – I’m at their house for Christmas. I’ve seen the cash my nieces racked up for presents so I said, “Let’s go shopping.” They were excited. When I told them we were going to the pet store, they weren’t. I said (thinking I’d give their conscience a shake), “Well, then – I’m taking this turtle home with me if y’all can’t get him what he needs.”
It backfired. Instead, “Oh, no, Aunt Mandy – we’ll take care of him.” It was, “Yay! Aunt Mandy’s taking the turtle!” My brother-in-law told me I’d given them the best Christmas present ever. I left that night – a forty one year old woman – with a turtle in his tank strapped into the passenger seat of my little red truck.
It was the best Christmas present I’d ever given myself.
I loved that little thing. He was so expressive and so sweet. He loved his new tank and his sunlamp. He’d never had anything other than the dried pellets and an occasional freeze dried shrimp to eat. I fed him fruits and vegetables right out of my hand.
Before long, his soft, mossy shell was hard again. It almost sparkled under his sunlamp-my little nieces, my brother’s three girls, thought it looked like gold and asked if he was magic.
I thought so.
He would come to me when I called him. We watched movies together – I would pause at the intense parts and look at Albert, sitting on his sun rock or standing on his hind legs against the glass – watching the TV like he was glued to it. If I sat on the floor with a bowl of fruit – Albert would crawl back and forth over my legs – stopping on my lap to take a bite.
He made me laugh when I really needed it. I would have Albert for a year or more before I got the boys. Two years before we got Pearl. There for a while, it was just me and my turtle.
The boys never really took to him after he hissed at them on their first day home. They were young and sniffy – Albert was the king of the castle. They sort of ignored him, and he ignored them. Pearl was another story. She wanted to jump in the tank with Albert. She wanted to lay beside him in the grass when we were outside. She wanted to share his cantaloupe. He finally gave in and they became friends.
Right now, he’s living it up in Franklin Tennessee with the Saurers family – Albert’s foster family – while I ramble. I had no room for the tank in my van when I left – and I couldn’t have hauled it out even if I’d had room, because Albert has grown from a five gallon tank to a forty gallon shark tank. I know he’s happy, watching football games in their family room. Getting lots of love from his foster mom Erin, I’m sure, in the mornings when she turns on his sunlight and feeds him his breakfast. Taking walks around the house with his foster brother Cooper and foster sister Ainsley. Well, maybe not Ainsley – she’s in eighth grade. She has plenty of other things on her mind – like boys, cheerleading practice and boys. Sorry, Danny… But don’t worry, she’s a smart kid. She’ll be fine – it’s you I worry about. Just kidding. You’ve got Erin to help you through her teenage years, y’all will be just fine :).
Maybe it’s the ripe cantaloupe I bought last Monday that’s got me missing Albert so much. Man, that little thing would come running in the kitchen when I cut into a juicy cantaloupe when I had him out of his tank. Or maybe it was seeing a third gopher tortoise on the walk yesterday, but whatever it is – I miss my turtle.
Here’s a picture of Albert and Ann Soyars from one of her visits to check on us. She called him Alvin, but he didn’t care :).