Posted by: alegra22 | May 6, 2011

the hundred-year-old fish

My grandmother leads me out to the deck. The boards beneath my feet are worn and grey, light falls across them in strange animal shapes as the forest surrounding us sighs and shifts. The edges of leaves are defined by their lack of definition. Beyond the trees hovering over her deck, there is nothing but a soft, blurred light that moves like sound drawing closer and then fading away. She stands next to me, saying nothing. I feel her smile. It spreads like the light. “Things have changed since I was a child,” I say. She nods. “Everything seems closer, smaller. It’s funny how that happens as you grow older.” I notice the pond at the edge of the deck, large Koi fish move through the water. Some are as big as my torso. I crouch down, reaching my hand in, hoping to impress my grandmother with my courage, my gentleness in offering my fingers to the fish to nuzzle and gum. As I bend, I slip, my knee falling into the mouth of the largest fish. Fear blossoms in my throat. I try to remain composed as its mouth closes on my skin. I know it won’t hurt me.

 “These fish are beautiful, I don’t remember them,” I say, gaining my balance as the fish swarm the surface of the water. They are gold, bronze, red and white, their fins moving through the water like silk.

“Oh,” she says, her voice taking on that musical sound I remember from my childhood, “they’ve always been around. That one is at least a hundred by now.”

I look up at my grandmother and remember: she did not live long enough to care for a hundred-year-old fish. But still, she has one. She is visiting me from a place where her backyard drops off into endless light and ancient fish nibble at the surface of perfectly clear water. I follow her inside and sit down in her living room that is no longer contained by walls covered in dark, richly patterned wallpaper, the sound of her grandfather clock chiming against the buzz and zap of the electric bug killers she always had hanging outside her windows. Now her house is only contained by the glowing trees, the soft hush and rustle of their whispers. We sit facing one another and I lean forward on my knees and confess to her my deepest hurts. I expect her to tell me I am wrong, I have misunderstood, but instead she reaches her hand out to me and says, “I know.”

I wake up to Zaviera grinding her teeth and murmuring in a mix of Spanish and Maori, “Abierto! Ka pai!” I watch her, overwhelmed by her beauty. She opens her eyes and watches me back for a moment before smiling and saying, “Let’s sleep longer and then I’ll tell Daddy to get our milk and coffee.” She throws her arm around my neck and I fall back asleep, aware of my grandmother’s smile spreading through my heart.



  1. Your grandmother is a wise woman. This is beautiful and somehow just what I needed to read right now.

    • She is a very wise woman, I admire her greatly ❤

  2. wow. tears…
    you are amazing.
    thank you.

    • Thank you for always leaving a comment or, a ‘footprint’ on this journey. So appreciated.

  3. So beautiful….I am so glad I get to read more blogs from you. Good suggestion from Dan!

    • Sometimes he has a good idea or two…sometimes…

  4. May we all have 100 yr old fish in our lives.

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