My goldfish is sick. That shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It isn’t a major event in life to lose a goldfish—well, unless you’re a kid maybe. So I’m trying to understand why I put my shoes on at 11:30 p.m. a couple nights ago and went on an emergency run to the store for what may have been life-saving distilled water.
For one thing, we have had this fish for six years. Really. My middle daughter acquired it at a school carnival when she was in 5th grade and she’ll be a senior in high school this fall. Six years is a long time to have anything. Six years is like an eternity for a goldfish.
After it lived for a year or two we all decided it was a very special fish. I decided I would take care of it, because it would be the champ; the longest living goldfish in the world. I looked it up and the Guinness Book of World Records says the longest a goldfish has ever lived is 43 years.
So, you see, we are right on the heels of that accomplishment. So why did Fuhnaynay (pronounced Fuh – nay – nay) decide to get sick now? It started with a little black speck on his bottom fin. I ignored it—like I do most small problems and hoped it would go away on its own, just like it came. Instead, the black speck spread until Fuhnaynay was lounging on the bottom of the bowl covered in black ick more often than he was swimming happily around. The Internet said maybe ammonia was the problem.
But back to the emotional confusion—why am I so distraught about my fish? I mean, seriously, it’s just a fish.
On the one hand, my fish is nicer than most people. He never wakes up on the wrong side of the bowl or has a bad day or vents. He isn’t self-centered or rude or demanding or whiney.
He is patient. He doesn’t argue with me or keep bringing up my past mistakes. He doesn’t withhold his love—I know it’s there in that certain undulation of his fins.
Fuhnaynay doesn’t betray, or lie, or lash out. He doesn’t ignore me, belittle me, patronize me, cuss at me, or hate me. He certainly doesn’t wreck my car or steal my stuff. He is never the reason I have to talk to the police or go to court. He doesn’t neglect or abuse people. He’s never, to my knowledge, committed a terrorist act. He doesn’t assault people or wound them so deeply that a lifetime isn’t long enough to recover.
In the words of Dori, from movie Nemo, he just keeps swimming. So he lifts my spirits and reassures me with his constancy.
I can see now that this is exactly the problem. Now that constancy is threatened. I am faced with mortality—the last enemy to be defeated.
Maybe that’s why looking at that black ick on my fish makes my eyes well up with tears. I only let that happen when I’m alone, though, otherwise I’d feel really dumb. It’s just a fish.
Rebecca works in Kids Ministry at Flatirons and has three children of her own. Figuring out ways for all these kids to understand the love of Jesus consumes the bulk of her time. The rest is spent reading, writing, gardening and cooking.