One Fish, Two Fish

Most of life’s lessons, I’ve found, come right after uttering, “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

B’s fifth birthday was a couple of weeks ago. For awhile, he’s been pretty insistent that if he ever had a pet, he wanted a pet fish. Seemed easy enough. No doggie poo to pick up in little bags, no litter, no food bowls, no expensive vet bills. Definitely doable. We did our due diligence and decided his birthday would be a perfect time for a betta fish.

The hubby and I picked out a small tank, some hiding features, rocks to decorate the tank and a pretty little blue-green fish. B loved him! He named it Fillmore (big Cars movie fans here) and he watched Fillmore’s every move, narrating in his best hippie Fillmore imitation “I’m an awesome fish, dude. Swimmin’ in my tank, dude.”


Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Until a short 48 hours later when poor Fillmore wasn’t doing much moving.

Great. I killed the fish. I don’t know how. It looked like a fungus, based on my amateur research. Either way, before bed, B finally asked where Fillmore was (hubby had taken him back to the pet store to see what had happened, poor little fishy was covered in a white haze). Oh, the tears. Oh, the agony. Thanks to some quick thinking and a fantastic recent Sunday School lesson on St. Francis, patron saint of the animals, we said a quick prayer asking that St. Francis watch over our little Fillmore in heaven and make sure he had good places to hide because he really loves hide and seek. Then, we promised to get a new fish.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Only, I realized I was gun shy. What if I managed to kill another one? It took no time for my little guy to open his heart to a silly little fish and have it broken by the loss of that tiny aquatic soul. Could the kid (and maybe more realistically, could I?) handle losing two animals in 10 days? Coupled with the fact that the pet store took a look at our non-swimmer and chalked it up to bad luck.

So we ditched all the original tank fillers, cleaned the tank a millions times. Ran several filter cycles. Did more and more research. Then finally, took the kid to the pet store to pick out his own new fish.

And now, we have Fillmore the Second.


He’s a very active little fishy and has passed the magical 48 hour mark. His tank sits on my office desk now. A constant reminder of how little I control and how fragile my little ecosystem is. It amazed me how Fillmore the First’s sudden demise threw me into a tailspin. I was in tears that afternoon as I tried to track down the problem and save our little fishy. I felt to blame. Not only for this little innocent creature, but for my boys and knowing I’d introduced them to loss. Sure, that was the point of the lesson in general – to care for another being and watch life play out, but I thought it would take a year, months, maybe weeks at the earliest. Not hours. I didn’t expect the tailspin and tears to be mine.

Diving back in (sorry) with another fish was a leap of faith for me. I like to be in control. I like to know what’s next. I like my little routines. Kids have smoothed the edges of my type-A personality and I am much better at rolling with the punches. But, fish fungus? That most certainly wasn’t in any possible plan. Could I introduce another unknown and have that be okay?

Yes. Because yes. Because why not? Because that’s the life lesson. We keep on keepin’ on. Life keeps going and with it, enjoyment and love and loss. It’s a risk. All of it. Life, love, fish. You just never know.

I think another famous fishy said it best: “When life’s gotcha down you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”


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