(Not an era. A bite-sized period of time.)*
Our fish Chow Chow died today. We called him Chow Chow because he was always hungry and ate a lot. We got him as a little black moor goldfish. He grew enormous and towards the end was more orange than black (kind of like the US presidency I guess).
Nene woke us up with the news. I have some bad news, he said gravely. Chow Chow’s dead. I am struck by the calmness with which the kids deal with death (at least of the fish).* I guess they had practice. Chow Chow and Goldie (the smaller fish who survived, despite sharing tank space with a gregarious companion) were the two that lasted out of the six or so fish V bought. The man in the shop had told him that six fish would be fine in the tank he had actually gone to purchase. The shopkeeper was nuts, the fish were too crowded and fought each other, until we – novice fish keepers – realised and separated them.
How we got the fish is an interesting story itself. Nene met a boy in the playground who was looking for someone to take on his fish as his family was moving and they couldn’t take their tank. He offered to take the fish. I came home one evening to find a woman I didn’t know at my doorstep with a plastic container with two fish. She pleaded with me to take them as they were leaving the next day and her son would be upset if the fish didn’t find a home. I reluctantly agreed.
I’m not even sure Goldie is one of the original two we inherited. One of those died and V went to the shop to get food, a tank and came back with more fish so I’m not sure which is which. Chow Chow was one of the new ones.
I did wonder about the ethics of keeping fish in a tank. Our tank is small and doesn’t have anything in it apart from the fish. I tried adding plants and something for the fish to swim into but they seemed stressed by these additions. I tried adding stones but Chow Chow would move and rattle them all night and at one point, it looked like the tank glass would crack. So we removed everything. The fish were alive and fed, but it didn’t seem like a good life. I toyed with releasing them into a pond, but I wasn’t sure they’d survive there.
Chow Chow solved this dilemma by dying. Our tank filter conked off yesterday and we didn’t think to leave the tank open. Goldie was fine, but maybe Chow Chow being a bigger fish needed more oxygen. I think we had him for over a year. Maybe it was his time to go? I will miss him. He made us smile. Another feeding time he was like a dog, pushing up against the glass, his tail wagging. There is something calming about looking at the graceful movements of a fish. I never even liked fish before they were thrust upon me, but like very few things, they grew on me.
*How is time measured? Could the lifespan of a fish be one measure?
**Two days ago I read my kids the story about Sadako and the cranes. I didn’t realise that the story in a children’s picture book, would openly deal with death, and the death of a child. But I calmly continued till the end, and then told Mimi about the war and the terrible bomb. Mimi had a lot of questions about how Sadako died, what exactly was wrong with her, she tried to find a way to say that maybe something Sadako did like leaving the hospital was why she died but not just that there is an illness that has no cure. I wanted to agree with her, it would have been easy, but I gently explained that nothing Sadako could have done would have prevented her dying, the illness was too strong. Yet, she lives on in her beautiful cranes. The idea sat with Mimi but by the next day, when she asked me to read the story to Nene, she had accepted it. Nene’s reaction was to say “Hong Kong won’t ever be bombed because we don’t fight with anyone.” I told Nene Hong Kong was part of China and the bigger country did have quarrels with other places. They wanted to see picture of the bomb. They were stunned by the size of the conflagration and the mushroom cloud. (Nene noticed that the cloud in one photo seemed to be smiling). But I stressed that after Hiroshima, the world decided that the bombs were too terrible to ever be used again. I hope this is true.