It’s just a damn goldfish. Pull yourself together. I go to the cupboard and retrieve the net. Tears are streaming down my face, and I muffle my cries. Guacamole is lying at the bottom of the tank. I scoop his lifeless body from the bottom of the tank and take him to the compost bin. “Go create energy,” I say as I place him delicately on the garden clippings. His death was not a surprise. I had a feeling when I went to sleep the night before that he probably wouldn’t make it through the night, but the surge of sadness was a surprise to me. The grief was unexpected, but grief tends to enjoy emerging when we least expect it.
I remember the day I picked Emily up from AbilityFirst. The staff informed me Emily had won a goldfish at the carnival. (You know the game where you throw a ball into a fish bowl. Emily has a good arm. I sort of believed them.) They handed me a plastic bag full of more air than water. He was so tiny that I could barely see him. When I got home, I found a large fish bowl vase that would be his temporary home. He looked like a little pearl bobbing in the bowl.
That evening I could be found Googling all things “goldfish”. All things are possible with God, and Google(Or YouTube and Yoda), I thought. I made a list of all the items I would need to procure at the pet store the next day. Along with a larger tank, filter, gravel, and food, I purchased the tiniest goldfish I could find in the store to add to the tank. I had read that goldfish are social and that you should have at least two in the aquarium to keep each other company.
Emily watched as I set up the new tank. I felt accomplished that I did this on my own. Over the next few days, Emily and I watched as the fish acclimated to the tank and each other. That was at least nine years ago. The other fish passed away a couple years ago, and I cannot even remember his name. He never had the personality that Guac did. Each day as I entered the kitchen, Guacamole would greet me. He followed me as I moved around the kitchen. He would come to the corner of the tank, surface, and say feed me (well, that’s what I heard). The boys passed him without notice. (I wrote about this in Throw a Fish Some Flake.)
I always said Guacamole was a special needs fish. He was so tiny when we got him that he got caught in the filter the first week we had him. I was sure he would not make it after that episode. He made it, but one of his eyes did not. Guacamole was virtually colorless, and you could see his organs. He was not handsome, but what he lacked in looks, he made up for with his personality and social prowess.
Two months ago, I bought his final tank. I knew he was slowing down, but he has always been resilient, and I was optimistic he might rebound as he has done in the past. Guacamole had overcome so much. He continued to decline in his new zen tank, complete with a Buddha statue and his newest companion, a zebra snail.
Like Guacamole, I am resilient and no stranger to loss. This week will mark the 38th anniversary of my dad passing. The loss of my dad was monumental. A loss that still strikes me with waves of grief. The loss of Guacamole, like his size the day he became a part of our family, is pearl sized.