Family matters

A Fisheye View On Life and Loss

Things to do this weekend:

1)    Mow lawn

2)    Grocery shop

3)    Scoop eyeball out of fish tank

Yeah, some weekend chores are more interesting than others. This past weekend was a doozey. The seeds were sown on Thursday when I got a frantic call from my wife. My 4-year-old son decided to expand his knowledge of sea creatures by climbing on top of his dresser and sticking his hands into his fish tank. He pulled out a bunch of the underwater plants, a bubbling treasure chest, and whole lot of water. The sole occupant of the tank, a bug-eyed goldfish we call “Mr. Fish,” was still in the tank, but he did not escape my son’s aquatic explorations unscathed.

one eyed fish
This isn’t Mr. Fish, but another goldfish with a similar eye injury.

“It looks like Mr. Fish lost an eye,” my wife said. I asked her to repeat herself. She did, at a louder, slightly more panicked volume. “The fish has only got one eye!”

One Eyed Wonder

When I got home that night I found out she wasn’t kidding. Mr. Fish had indeed lost one of his eyes. It was floating around at the bottom of the tank like a little black marble among the colorful stones. Other than the missing eye, Mr. Fish seemed in pretty good health. He’d cruise through the tank, fixing me with his one bulging black eye, then he’d turn and give me a good look at the deep, empty socket where his other eye used to be. The effect was disturbing, ghastly. It gave me the willies.

I can only speculate on what happened between Rocco and Mr. Fish. Maybe Roc tried to remove him from the tank and somehow knocked his eye out. More than likely, Mr. Fish was hit by one of the items by son was pulling out of the tank and that’s how the eye got ejected. Either way, Mr. Fish’s new, lopsided gaze seemed accusatory. “It was YOUR monstrous offspring that did this to me! YOU!”

So over the weekend I fished the errant eyeball out of the tank with a spaghetti strainer (novice aquarium keepers, we don’t even have a proper fish net) and I gave it a suitable burial (in the serene aquatic fields of La Commode). I tidied up the tank, added clean water, and changed the filter. Mr. Fish looked content in his freshly cleaned tank.

fish w no eyes
Another fishy victim of eye disfigurement.

A Scaly Survivor Swims On

In fact, he looked so content, that I began to admire Mr. Fish. He had suffered an extreme physical trauma, yet here he was, just days later, carrying on as if nothing had ever happened, placidly cruising his tank. From his viewpoint, half his world had suddenly disappeared. But he didn’t let it bother him. He was a warrior, a survivor. He faced an inexplicable accident and its devastating effects with a grace and dignity I can only dream of.

I get stuck in traffic and I feel like having a meltdown. My two-year-old daughter knocked over a display holding approximately 300 Tic Tac containers in the grocery store the other day, and the embarrassment and frustration of the situation nearly reduced me to tears. Sure, Mr. Fish has a lot less responsibilities than me; his job is to eat, poop and look cute (he can still eat and poop). But responsibilities aside, I couldn’t help but feel that Mr. Fish was teaching me a lesson about accepting life’s changes, no matter how unexpected or unwanted, and simply going with the flow.

So, life goes on for both Mr. Fish and myself. The lawn got mowed and the grocery shopping got done, too.

Spaghetti dinner, anyone?


Originally published in Wayne TODAY, September 2006 

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