It’s 8:35 p.m. and it feels like midnight. That is neither here nor there. Unless here is my mouth and there is a Diet Mountain Dew.
The Snapps have a rather checkered past with pets, but more specifically pet-store-quality goldfish. Unfortunately for Andrew, Brady came out of the womb sneezing. He is allergic to everything not found in a womb. So having a fluffy pet was always out of the question. And because we are super great parents and wanted our children to grow up well-rounded and compassionate, we bought them fish. If you can’t have a dog, get a fish. Obviously. But what’s better than 1 fish in a bowl? TWO FISH IN A BOWL. Nothing was too good for our firstborn, so we brought home 2 Walmart goldfish that cost us a total of $12 if you add in the bowl and the food.
Within 7 hours, the first fish was dead and the other one was circling him with a life insurance policy. We hadn’t even named them yet. The next day, the other fish was dead. I know there’s a tenuous life expectancy with Walmart goldfish, but losing 2 fish within 24 hours seemed extreme even to me. Andrew was distraught, so that next day after naptime, we went back to Walmart to talk fish with the guy. He suggested that perhaps two cheap fish sharing one unfiltered bowl of tap water was not the best idea. He thought we should try our hands at keeping one alive first. We agreed. By then, Andrew had named the first two fish Dennis. Both of them.
We bought another. Andrew named him Dennis.
Dennis died, but not quite so quickly.
I wasn’t sure Andrew could continue tolerating this pattern of fish death, so I snuck back to Walmart while he was at preschool and bought one that looked just like it. He’s didn’t notice. I named him Dennis. Because.
Dennis died. Again.
This time, time #4, Andrew was home. There was no opportunity to skulk around, privately flush, memorialize, and secretly replace the dead fish. So I sat him down and we discussed our options. Maybe this time he wouldn’t want to replace Dennis the 4th. Maybe he would be ready to move on.
“So, Buddy,” I said, patting his knee, “What do you want to do?”
“Get another fish,” he said resolutely.
“Oh, really?” This was not what I wanted to hear. “When?” I asked.
“Today.” He smiled. That big goofy smile with a dimple for dessert. I dropped my head in defeat.
“Ok, but we’re not naming this one Dennis.”
We went back to the store and got a new fish. With this one, we went with a different look. We went splashy white with a flare of orange on the tail. The others had all been orange.
I threw out so many creative names. Andrew shot them all down and dubbed him Flipper.
At least it wasn’t Dennis.
Flipper was from heartier stock. Flipper lived. And lived. And lived. For 5 years. I wish I had a birth certificate for Flipper, so I could prove that he was the oldest goldfish ever in the history of the world. But I can’t prove anything so I’ve let go of that being my path to being independently wealthy.
At the five year mark, Flipper began to swim a little slower. He spent more and more time inside his castle and less and less time darting around it. And then one afternoon, 5 months later, he turned over and gave it up. I was reaching for the net to fish him out when he flipped back over and swam away. He was alive. For now.
A week later, he died again. And lived again. Four times he false alarmed us.
But no fish lasts forever. And here is my journal entry from that final, FINAL day:
No joke. 5 1/2 years later, our fish is finally done. He fought a great fight. We discovered his demise while I was trying to order pizza tonight. Imagine that little scene. First we couldn’t find the fish. Then we located him under his castle (no idea how he managed that). And following our locating of him, the tears began to flow from Andrew and Lucy. Brady does not care one whit. He has a bit of his father in him. Jenna walked away like nothing had happened. And Andrew and Lucy are planning the funeral, which will take place this evening.
Following a poignant service and a 12-nerf-gun salute, we will flush him to join his brothers, Dennis 1,2,3, and 4.
Rest in peace, little walmart goldfish. Rest in peace.
There are other fish stories, perhaps for other days. Because who doesn’t love a good fish story?