Every kid wants a pet fish at some point. When my son Jack turned 4, I gave in, as we weren’t ready for a puppy just yet.
Leo was a blue and green Betta fish. He swam around in a cheap little plastic tank that had neon pebbles on its floor, and we kept him by the window to soak up some vitamin D.
A few days later, I noticed Leo’s tank was getting grimy. I didn’t have a strainer tool, so with Jack on the counter, I started to slowly empty the water into the kitchen sink.
Dumbest. idea. ever.
Pebbles dripped out, tapping on the sink.
Then the worst thing happened.
Leo slipped out like he was on a water slide — and landed on the drain that had four little slits. He was just flopping around, and Jack was freaking out.
“SAVE HIM! HE CAN’T BREATHE!”
I did the only thing I could. I tried to retrieve Leo with my fingers pinched together, but that startled Leo and poof — he slipped through one of the slits like slime.
You could hear Jack’s screams in China, I bet. I quickly diffused the conversation reminding him of Finding Nemo and that Leo, like Nemo, is now in the ocean.
With dry tears on his face, he seemed intrigued and soon we were off to buy a new Betta named Jingles and a real tank with a filter that self-cleaned.
I recited this sad tale of Leo’s demise to my older brother who lives at the Jersey Shore. A few days later, Jack received a letter from Fisherman Toby Whalefunkle. It seems Fisherman Whalefunkle was fishing on the beach and saw Leo one rainy afternoon.
Leo was swimming with his mom, a pink and orange Betta. And in the spirit of creativity and the fact that Jack is being raised in a single-parent household, it appears his mom has a boyfriend, a catfish named Marco Polo.
Leo’s biological dad, Caviar, lives in Hawaii and teaches surfing, so Leo travels to the Pacific every summer to chill with his dad. For a while Leo even sent us postcards from all of his adventures.
Jack still talks about Leo and his survival and modern family. And I still talk about how Finding Nemo saved my ass.More On