You have to understand, this was no ordinary goldfish. My then 5-year-old son brought it home from his school’s Japan Day celebration. For the first week, I refused to feed the fish or take it out of its tiny container. I figured it was going to die any minute now, why bother?
The fish did not die. After a week, we bought it some fish food. After a month, we bought it a fish tank. After a year, we accepted it as a member of the family.
A few days ago, my now 14-year-old son discovered the fish lying on its side at the bottom of the tank, flopping listlessly. Its gills were still moving, it was clearly still alive. But, it was not well. We tried poking it with the aquarium net, hoping that maybe he’d just gotten caught in something. At that, he would right himself, swim energetically for a few moments, raise our hopes…then flop over again.
“The fish is dying,” I said to my husband. “We should just flush and get it over with.”
“No,” my husband said. “We shouldn’t be the ones to decide this.”
He told our son he’d have to be the one to decide this. It was his pet, after all. At which point my son burst into tears.
My husband then instructed our son to talk to the fish to see if that would help him settle on what to do.
I stepped out of the room in order to give them their privacy, but from what I did manage to overhear in bits and snatches, was an absolutely heartbreaking monologue, wherein my son tearfully recounted how he’d first met the fish, what a good fish he was, and how, whenever my son got stressed or upset, he could come and watch the fish swim and it would help clear his head. Read the rest of this entry →