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Sunday, April 27, 2008

the fish who loved me

I adopted a goldfish named Freddy over two years ago, when Lauren's boyfriend needed a fish sitter while he was in Hawaii. When he came back to claim his fish, I wouldn't give it back. Freddy was happy with me, and I actually remembered to clean his bowl, which I'd heard was something of a challenge for the Boyfriend in question. Not long after getting Freddy settled in, I decided he might like some company, so I got another goldfish, a humble 39-cent feeder fish from the pet store. It was white with a red spot on its forehead, so I named it Target, and proclaimed them both "he"s since it's really hard to tell with fish.

These guys got along great, and were always happy little bubble-blowing greeters whenever I walked by them. OK, maybe they just wanted food, but they responded more to me than to anyone else, so they were at least smart enough to know who it was that did most of the feeding. I found them a beautiful vintage rectangular glass "battery box" tank on ebay, and decorated it seasonally (they had a Santa this year for Christmas). I kept their home clean, talked to them often, and really enjoyed having them around. They became Family, silly as that might sound.

Well, as goldfish will do, Target started showing signs of old age recently. He became sort of sad looking and lethargic. He began doing odd headstands and other floating tricks. Freddy - always the hardier fish - appeared to be taking care of Target. He'd swim close to him and cuddle up along side of him. He'd even rest his little fishy chin on Target's tail as if to say, Don't worry, buddy. I'll watch out for you. Imagine my shock when one morning, about two weeks ago, there was Freddy, the healthy one, floating in a very unhealthy - meaning dead - way at the top of the tank. It was so sad. So unexpected. How long do little goldfish live anyway? It seemed like he had a good long life, but still... I just didn't see it coming.

So there was poor lonely Target, still not doing well, and now with no Freddy to care for him. Of course I stepped in and doubled up on the attention. I spent a lot of time talking to him and petting his tummy through the glass. When I changed the water, I gently scooped him up with my hand so I wouldn't squash him with a net. As the next week went by, I noticed him seeming weaker and weaker by the day, and fully expected to find him floating every morning. But he kept hanging on. He'd lie there on the bottom of the tank, barely moving until I walked by, and then he'd muster up a little surge of energy, just for me I'm sure. It's true. He got "happy" every time he saw me, so I neglected my work quite a bit to spend time with him. I thought he was a goner last Saturday, but last night, there he still was, wiggling weakly but clearly struggling. Poor little guy. I crawled into bed, tired from a long day and a nice evening out, and then remembered that I hadn't said good-night to Target. I'd told him I would, and I do like to keep my promises, even to goldfish. So I got up again and went to the kitchen. I rubbed my finger along the side of the tank and said, Nighty-night Target. You're an amazing fish. Do what you have to do...

Of course he couldn't last forever. This morning I found him, not floating at the top, but resting for good at the bottom of the tank, right where I'd left him last night. I didn't fall apart and cry, but I did sigh deeply and say some like, ohhhhh...... It was time for him to go, and he was an inspirational little guy, to be sure. A lot of people would have flushed him long ago, but I felt it was up to him to keep going as long as he wanted to. It wasn't my choice. And you know, I have to say the last two weeks with Target have been really quite lovely and meaningful. Go figure. All that from a goldfish.

We are not fish-flushers. We buried him under the rose bushes outside the kitchen, next to Freddy. I won't get more fish until after we move, but I'll pack up the nice old tank and keep it safe for the next fish family. If you've never had goldfish, I recommend them! Get one. You'll see.

Now to lighten the mood a bit, here's a funny picture I took one day while I was cleaning Freddy and Target's tank. I'd transfer them to this measuring cup and set them on the counter. This particular day Rick had brought home some sushi, and I set them next to it without thinking... I'm pretty sure my fishies were a little nervous at the sight of the sushi! Oh, how insensitive of me.

Farewell my Fish Friends! Freddy and Target, you were the coolest.


Jean said...

got right up to heaven, they did. where they are happy next to my parakeet Spot and my dogs Sam and Josie, I know. xox

Anonymous said...

Fish Heaven, where the water is always clean and the colors are clear and bright.

Bye Freddy and Target.