Fred, our pet goldfish, has died.
He first came to us about three years ago. We agreed to adopt him from family friends who were moving to Australia. They’d already had him for a few (several?) years. On a recent visit back to Japan, we were proud to show them that he was still alive, still healthy. We calculated that he was about 12 years old, which I believe is quite elderly for a goldfish.
The other day I was thinking that he’d gotten too big for his aquarium and didn’t have much space to swim around. And then a couple mornings ago, I woke to find him belly-up.
My husband had been the one to feed him every morning. He was also the one who cleaned the aquarium, sometimes with the grudging help of our children. He was perhaps the saddest.
Mornings are busy around here, so I suggested putting the dead goldfish in the refrigerator until he could be given a proper burial. When I was a kid, my parents flushed dead goldfish down the toilet. At about 6-inches, Fred was too big to make it through the pipes. Another thought, which I did not express was: “Today is garbage day.”
My husband was appalled. “That’s so rude,” he said. “Putting him with the food.” I wasn’t sure if he meant rude for us, as a human family, or rude for poor Fred.
In any case, I dropped my suggestion.
My husband sent our fourteen-year-old son into the yard with a shovel to search for a burial site. He dug a hole. Fred was interred. We all put our hands together and said a sutra, showing proper respect for the end of a life.
My husband said, “I was going to clean his aquarium yesterday, but I didn’t.” He’s not a sentimental kind of guy, but his voice was choked with regret. And grief.