In another of life's great rites of passage, this morning I had to tell my sons that the goldfish we won at a preschool event four-plus years ago, and who had grown to be five times his original size, had died.
Surprisingly, they took the news rather well. Jacob checked the empty tank to see if I was telling the truth, then said 'oh' and asked me to pass the cereal. Ben wanted to see the body.
Perhaps the novelty had worn off, or they felt they had graduated from fish ownership when they moved on to the bigger, warmer challenge of owning a dog. Regardless, I still harbored some guilt.
Nemo (nee Curly, nee Goldy, nee Mike Wozowski) had been sick for some time, showing signs of Ich (fish disease) which I treated with medicine. He had suffered through this before, and responded well to treatment. But then his tail began turning red, a symptom of too much ammonia in the water. I treated this with ammonia lock and water and filter changes. (Goldfish are notoriously filthy fish, and require extensive cleaning of tanks and changing of water and filters--caveat emptor). Yet no matter how hard you try, it never seems to be enough.
I didn't try very hard. I admit that I had begun to resent the fish after about two years when I had my living room re-done and wanted my sofa table back from beneath the 10-gallon tank we got to house the little sucker. Did I harbor a death wish for him? No, but let's just say that, with all the things that needed to be cared for around here, Nemo was at the bottom of the food chain. Which is why I laughed when I asked my husband to take care of the corpse this morning and he informed me he had put it in the refrigerator. (I think he feared it would clog the toilet).
The whole incident reminded me of the time I was 10 or 11 and my hamster died because I forgot to feed it. Repeatedly. Sure, he was cute and all when I got him, but hamsters are nocturnal (didn't know that), and he turned out to be quite dull. He hid under his wood shavings during the day and ran in his squeaky wheel all night. I named him Jack LaLune because all he did was exercise while the moon was out and sleep during the day so that I couldn't play with him. The novelty wore off fast. And as everyone in my family knows, don't mess with my sleep or you will be sorry.
I really believe Nemo is in a better place now, a place where they won't change his name every time a new Pixar movie comes out; a place where newspapers and crayon boxes aren't stacked up next to his windows, making him think that Donald Trump has bought the rest of the sofa table top and put up condos around the tank.
And if Ben has his way, Nemo will come back again in a different form, perhaps that of a frog. With my luck, it will be one of the tadpoles out on the deck that we recently rescued from the pool cover. Perhaps I shouldn't pack the tank up just yet.