Tom bought a goldfish this week to photograph in his newly set up studio down stairs in what we used to call the “media room,” which means a basement room with no window. The photo above is one he is not satisfied with, but I’m using it anyway, because before he could get a “perfect shot,” the fish died.  It died on my watch.  We hadn’t even named it yet.  It lay on its side, one eye staring at the ceiling, or maybe it was heaven.  I felt badly. 

I had my first goldfish in college and it stayed alive for more than a year. I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember its name.  My friend, Eloise, gave me a fish so big, it had to be kept in a bucket and we named it Moby Dick.  I also read Moby Dick that year.  I think a fish is good practice for motherhood:  you have to feed it, change its poopy water, and occasionally talk to it and make fishy faces at it through the glass.  Goldfish need intimacy as we all do.

Okay, so while I’m having this dead fish experience this week and recalling all those fish who have gone before, my son, Ed, writes a blog about his pet fish, Buford.  Here’s part of it:

A little background here.  My family had a goldfish.  His name was Buford.  Buford died.  He was replaced with Buford the Second.  I didn’t name him.  I think my brother Sam named him.  Why he couldn’t come up with a better name than Buford the Second, I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  Here is my mother giving me her assessment of Buford the Second, here we go…

“About this fish, Buford the Pathetic or Buford the Albino, whichever you prefer.  He is the world’s ugliest fish. Looking at him makes me want to throw up.  I bought him on Monday morning.  I said, “I would like a fan-tail goldfish please.”  The pet store lady said, “We only have one left.”  ONLY ONE LEFT.  In other words, Ed, this is the fish nobody wanted.  And the reason is because he is pathetically homely. He looks like a glob of mucous with a little blood in it.  Seriously. And his eyes are black.  I shudder when I feed him and I’m seeing how fast he’ll die from verbal abuse. “You’re pathetic,” I say.  “You’re nothing like your older brother, Buford the First, who was a beautiful deep gold color and swam energetically around the bowl.  You merely hover in one spot looking like you’re recovering from a lobotomy. You’re spit with fins.”

I don’t know why Buford the First died.  Maybe from too much attention.  He was out in the living room for Dad’s birthday party and made so much noise at the top of the bowl that Al Wirthlin commented on what a loud fish he was. But wasn’t that just like Buford?  Always hustling attention for himself.  He was a real card. And I think as far as fish lives go, he had a wonderful and fulfilling life, although his sex life may have left something to be desired since he was alone a good part of his life.  I may have overfed him.  (Dad says that’s a first!).  Anyway, if it’s my fault that he died, I’m deeply sorry. Frankly, I think goldfish have very short lifespans and I am comforted to know that we will meet again in that great bowl in the sky. Families are forever.” 

What I like about all of this is that Ed and I were thinking “goldfish” at the same time, even though we live 2000 miles apart. But what I really really love is that he keeps his mommy’s letters and rereads them.  What a son!