My brother-in-law was here over the weekend. He comes to the Island and visits us faithfully -- whether we've remembered to invite him or not.
I've felt a connection to David since I met him over 17 years ago; he was Cole's age back then. These days he's a charming young man treasured by each of us, with his winning smile, genuine interest, willingness to hang, and his uncanny ability to clear out both refrigerator and pantry prior to his departure. I'm often amazed by how seamlessly my brother-in-law fits into the fabric of our foursome. He often leaves me pondering, considering and grinning long after he's gone.
As much as I adore my brother in law, it's actually not him that I sat down to write about, however. It's the little guy David noticed and remarked about on several occasions while he was here this weekend.
"Wow, he's gotten a lot bigger, hasn't he?!...That fish hasn't stopped swimming since I got here... I think I want to get a goldfish too..."
It's Orange. I've been thinking about our fish.
You see, Orange is no ordinary goldfish. He (we think he's a he) is a Fair fish. He swims. He does a little shimmy when we come near his bowl, and he endures. This fish is a remarkable fish.
In August of 2012, at the tail end of a magical (long) day at the Island Country Fair, Cole persuaded us to make one more stop on our way out. "I want to win a fish," he smiled. Bright eyes, dimples... done.
For $5, Cole received 20 ping-pong balls. The game was simple: just toss one of said balls into a far away fish bowl full of water. "Sink one, and you're a winner!" the tired guy in a blue shirt explained. Easy enough; both Cole and Maya had done it the year before (and neither of their fishes lived through the weekend).
But nineteen attempts later, Cole was empty handed. With utter faith, he passed the last ball to his dad. And like the fairy tale ending of the biggest game of the year -- SPLISH and the crowd (Maya, Cole and I) goes WILD!! -- Paul sunk it. He won us a fishy!
I had no idea at the end of that hot summer day that the teeny-tiny goldfish Cole brought home in a plastic bag would still be with us 15 months later. I had no idea how much this little fish would stir my thoughts and make me marvel. And I certainly had no idea that I could fall in love with a Fair fish.
I shared this with David, and like David does, he listened intently -- as if gushing over a goldfish is perfectly normal.
"This fish is so awesome," David said.
"You have no idea," I responded, then I got out my process journal and read...
9/12/2013. The process, cont'd...
Orange jumped out of his fish tank this morning.
Paul was up early -- while it was still dark -- to go fishing, ironically.
In the dim of the kitchen to get breakfast, he noticed the empty tank and later found Orange motionless on the kitchen floor. ON. THE. KITCHEN. FLOOR.
"Orange jumped out of his tank, and he is no longer with us," Paul came into our bedroom and said.
Should we flush him? Should we have a ceremony?
"Will you please just pick him up," I begged.
So Paul gets a napkin, picks up our dead fish off the floor and drops him back into his bowl. And Orange starts swimming! Slowly. Upside-down at first, then nose to the bottom of the bowl, then all around.
He suddenly looks too big for his little bowl.
So this morning, I'm wondering what to make of that -- Jumping out of the home that once fit. Landing with a thud on the ground. Floundering and flopping around in the dark until you can no longer breathe. Then out of no where, someone decides not to discard your limp, lifeless body. Not Yet. He places you back where you began, and then you breathe once more. You swim.
Clearly it's time for a bigger bowl...
Seven weeks later, our fish keeps swimming. And it appears he has doubled in size since he died. Our fish is living his simple life in a new home that suits him better. He is taking up space, and he is thriving. Sometimes I swear he's smiling (OK, not really, but still).
How long had he been on the ground, I've wondered more than once. Why were both Paul and I up so early that morning? I'm not sure it matters.
What matters to me is that I freaking love this fish! He too fits into the fabric of my family flawlessly. I feel encouraged by his presence, his resilience and his simple, happy life. I've learned far more than I ever imagined was possible from a fish my kid won at a fair.
And seven weeks later, while I'm busy processing, pondering, learning from, obsessing about and marveling over the life, death and resurrection of our goldfish, I hear the happy lapping and splashing from the big bowl back behind me, and I can't help smiling.