It began on a Friday with what looked like a death.
I had already been having a miserable day at work when Stacey called to inform me that Tommy, our 3.5-year-old son, was inconsolable because Concert the Goldfish was floating upside down in his bowl. Trying to steel him for the fish’s likely demise, she had tried to reassure him that we could always get ourselves another Concert.
The poor little guy’s heart had nearly burst. “Nooo!” he had wailed. “There will never be another Concert!”
The fish was barely alive by the time I got home. Floating at the surface with his belly protruding from the water, Concert appeared to be exhausted and gasping for breath. Very occasionally, and with obvious effort, the little fish would right himself and swim around the bowl for a few seconds, until he wore himself out and succumbed to buoyancy again.
I wracked my brain to remember the last time I had fed him, fearing we might have let Concert starve to death. Actively killing a living thing is bad enough. This was worse — knowing my own neglect might have killed a living thing entrusted to my care, a living thing that was entirely dependent on me and that mattered so much to my son.
Throughout the weekend, Stacey and I kept Concert out of our sons’ view but checked in on him often, periodically sprinkling a few flakes of fish food into the water. Sometimes, he’d struggle and then flop right-side-up and nibble a bit. We couldn’t bear to take him out of that bowl if he still had any chance at life. And, from my time as Crunchable’s editor, I knew of at least one other beloved pet fish that had recovered from what had seemed to be certain death.
Plus it didn’t hurt that, around this same time of year, at least one other living thing in my care once proved to me that life can overcome death.
After three days, Concert was right-side-up again. His breathing wasn’t labored; his buoyancy had returned to normal; his appetite seemed to have stabilized.
My son Tommy has all but forgotten about the near-tragedy. But I still find myself stopping by his fishbowl every day with a greeting and a little pinch of fish food — and, every once in a while, a quick prayer of thanks for the fish that returned from the dead.