Seeing Through the Holes
A Story About Colanders & A Fish Named Fish
by Jennifer Mally
Colanders make great hats. Unless, of course, you want to go outside and be protected from wind, rain, cold or snow -- 'cause they have, you know, holes. But if you just want to wear one around the house -- by all means, go to it. Those holes come in handy, especially if your head is a bit undersized for the colander of your preference. Because of those holes, you can see.
Greta taught me that. It's nice having a 2-year-old around to point out such things.
Speaking of colanders… I've got an old one that I use strictly for when I clean the fish bowl. An evening last week, just happened to be one of those rare occasions. The process is always the same. After I've removed our dear old goldfish to his temporary housing, I put the colander in the sink and then siphon the dirty contents of the bowl through it. It catches the lovely glass marbles quite nicely so that I can effectively rinse them clean and then scrub out the bowl with a natural water/vinegar solution. I then refill it, squirt a couple drops of water conditioner in and wait at least one half of an hour before I put our dear old goldfish back in his home. I take good care of this fish when I take the time to care for this fish.
Our fish is named Fish. I'm sure when I first got him, I gave him another name, but I've since forgotten what it was. Fish just seemed to stick. You know how it is when a name suits someone so well. Anyway, Fish will be 11 years old this spring, which I, and most others who come to know Fish, find amazing. He is a survivor.
I purchased Fish, along with five other goldfish and a small tank when I separated from, and ultimately divorced, my first husband. These fish were representative of my new life in my new home, and I loved watching them swim around in all their golden glory. They lit up a corner of my living room and brought me a new sense of calm in a confusing and scary time.
No one told me you have be a pretty dedicated fish person to care for a tank. It was quite an endeavor to keep it clean -- which I didn't always do. I had read or heard that snails will help keep a fish tank clean. So, with that in mind, I enlisted the help of a snail or two. The fish, quite literally, had the snails for lunch.
I then decided a bowl would just be an easier way to go. And though they were losing a home they appeared to enjoy, Fish and the other fish adapted quite well.
Time goes on. A friendship blossomed into something more…and I had (have) a wonderful man in my life who's recently divorced…and has three kids. As our relationship grew, we all became a bit of a family. Me, Mike, the kids on the weekends, and Fish and the other fish sharing a home.
The youngest, David, was just five when Mike and I married. David's always taken a liking to small living creatures. I've written about other ordeals we've experienced. This one happened when he decided to feed the fish without supervision. He didn't just feed them, he, BIG TIME FED them. All six fish gorged themselves and went into shock.
Upon discovery, I immediately went into rescue mode and attempted to resuscitate my little fish. No, we're not talking mouth to mouth -- though that does make for quite a picture, and I did try it with a hamster once. But, what I did was get them all into a fresh bowl of water. Two of them came back, and one was Fish.
Back then, I referred to these two fish as Griffin and Sabine after the early nineties book series of the same name written and illustrated by Nick Bantock. These are wonderfully involving books that tell a story through "love" letters, and I had this romantic notion that one fish was a girl and one was boy…and that they were partners.
I'm not sure how much time passed before one died, but it wasn't long before one did. Which left us with one Fish. Whether Fish is Griffin or Sabine, no one knows.
And he or she has led a blissful and quiet life alone in the fish bowl until just last week when I got out the colander and cleaned the bowl.
It happened late that night. Greta and I had gone to bed and Mike was downstairs on the couch with the TV on. (You know the story.) I awoke to the sound of furniture moving downstairs. Mike comes bounding up the stairs, "the fish jumped out of his bowl, and I can't find him."
I immediately went into rescue mode and flew down the stairs to save my Fish. No, he wasn't in his bowl. He was behind the small cabinet that his bowl rests on, lying in all his dry-mouth-gasping-for-air-i-ness and…a pile of lint and dog hair. I tried to scoop him up. He flopped and flailed. I grabbed him by the tail. Part of it came off in my hands. I finally got a hand underneath him and got him back into his bowl. I then used the fish scoop to maneuver the lint, dust and hair he was carrying around off of him.
Fish wasn't going to make it. In addition to losing part of his tail, he had lost two fins -- one on the upper right side, the other on the mid left side. I kept vigil, until I felt stupid sitting there in the middle of the night and decided to leave it in God's hands. I tried to prepare myself emotionally for what effect Fish's passing might have on me.
I may be (am) ignorant about a number of things, but I have learned something about myself in the last four plus decades. I feel deeply about very simple things. And no, you don't have a relationship with a fish, but this fish has meant something more to me about my life. The passing of Fish would say to me, "Jen, life will/can/does change."
Fish was alive in the morning, and is still doing quite well. The fact that his fin losses were on opposite sides has been to his benefit. He doesn't swim lopsided. He still swims with golden grace. Why he jumped out of his bowl, we won't know. Maybe he's old and tired and wanted out. Maybe he's a touch senile. Or, perhaps, he just misgauged the leap in his dance and had a really bad landing.
Life has holes. You can lose your fins, your friends, your partners, your job, your home -- but you can survive and thrive. Fish taught me that.
Because of the holes, you can see…you can see more clearly what your life is meant to be.
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