The Fighters That Made a Family


It was a long week. It was parent-teacher conference week for this teacher. I had two “marathon” twelve-hour days. I taught in the morning and talked (and talked and talked) with parents all afternoon and evening. My husband is a retail manager. He’s preparing for his first inventory with a new company, so he had a difficult week, too. It was filled with ten-plus hour days. We were both looking forward to our only day off together – Friday. Yet, Mother Nature held no regard for our plans. A windstorm left us without power in the middle of the week. We persevered, though, coming home to a dark and very cold house after a twelve/thirteen hour day each day. “Certainly the power would come back on by Friday,” we thought. We slept huddled under a pile of blankets each night, our cat and dog cuddled up with us. Our “pack” was sticking it out by sticking close. The only member of our little family left on his own was our red Beta Fish Tony Beets. My husband added a few ounces of warm water to his tank before we went to bed. He hoped it might help him make it through the cold night.

Tony Beets was a “replacement” pet. Our first Beta fish was a beautiful blue fish named Billy Abbott. Billy was named after a character on our favorite daytime drama Young & the Restless. Billy Abbott, may he rest in peace, was the lone casualty of an extended power outage three years ago. From the start, unlike Billy Abbott, Tony seemed more like a “fighter” than a “lover.” Within the first 24 hours in our house, Tony Beets survived being flung onto the floor by our cat. He also lived through being picked up by human fingers. After my run that day, I sat down in the dining room to drink a glass of water. I noticed what looked like a flower petal on the floor. “That’s weird,” I thought,“I don’t have any fresh flowers around the house right now.” Upon closer examination, I realized it was the fish! I scooped him up and placed him back in the tank. I was certain he wouldn’t survive the trauma…but he did

For some reason, we lose power at least once a year. We live in a neighborhood that consists, mainly, of elderly retirees. These lovely people seem to have grown wise to the inevitability of such power outages. They also seem to have a financial situation that has allowed them to circumvent such events. Many of them own a heavy duty, no-joke backup generator. My husband and I are the “kids” of the neighborhood, and we behave as such. We say to ourselves, “Wuuuut? Why the hell do we need a generator? We don’t lose power that much. Plus, we don’t have the kinda cash you need for something like that when you might use a few times a year.” So, each year, we lose power. Each year we try to “ride it out” without giving in and dropping coin on a generator…or a hotel…or any other “pussy” way out. Okay. If you’re getting the sense we’re cheap, that’s inaccurate. In actuality, we are what is commonly known in “Jim Cramer” circles, as “thrifty.” We approached this outage with the same ironclad determination that we always do. After all, we would both be at work the majority of the day anyway, so what would it matter if we didn’t have power? Those long days came and went, and we persevered. Then came Friday.

We drank ourselves numb to the cold in front of a roaring fire Thursday night. I awoke to a still frigid house Friday morning. The dog begrudgingly left the warmth of our bed to be let out for “potty” at 9 am. I read the thermostat – 45 degrees. “Shit, that’s cold! He’s a goner, I know it,” I thought, about Tony Beets. Sure enough, he lay at the bottom of the tank, motionless. “Another one bites the dust,” I thought. And there was no end to our electricity situation in sight. We went about our “power outage” plan for the day. We ate breakfast out. We washed clothes at the Laundromat. We headed home to put the clothes away. I looked into booking a hotel and kenneling the dog. On the drive home, our hope for restoration was bolstered by small signs. There was a traffic light finally back on. A neighbor’s exterior lights were lit. The small, faint light of our doorbell and the light from the garage door opener confirmed that we had power. Woo-hoo!

As I opened the door, our house coming up to temperature felt like a warm hug. I hung my coat in the entryway closet and walked into the kitchen. I saw Tony’s tank on the kitchen counter. I walked over to bid him goodbye one last time before a “burial at sea” (i.e. being flushed down the half bath’s toilet). As I gazed into the tank, I was surprised to see movement – the faint motion of one fin. I jiggled the tank. The motion continued. I took a butter knife and stirred the water. Tony’s seemingly lifeless body moved with a jolt. I added a bit of warm water to the tank. He was moving again! I threw in a few pellets of fish food. He swam to get them. Tony Beets was alive! He’d survived!

The real Tony Beets is a Dutch immigrant. He lives in Alaska and is a successful gold miner in the Yukon. He’s built his own business, which he now shares with his three grown children. As a cast member in one of my and my husband’s favorite reality shows, “Gold Rush,” he is the most tenacious of the miners. Okay. Okay. Okay. Part of his appeal, to me, is that he swears like a sailor. Another part of his appeal, though, is the fact that he does not give up. Under any circumstance, in the face of any kind of adversity, he perseveres. Today we found out how aptly named our Beta fish is. We also realized that our Tony Beets is well suited to our little family. My husband and I have both been through some incredible adversity. Our cat, a rescue animal, was the runt of the litter and unwanted. Our dog was also a rescue animal. She’d been abused and then abandoned because of a deformity to one of her eyes (one that was easily fixed, by the way). And then there’s this fiery red fish! He survived a cat’s attempt to make him her permanent “cat toy.” He lived through 45-degree temperatures for not one but TWO days. He (swear to God) comes right up to the glass whenever I talk to him using his name. He always comes right up to the surface of the water in his tank when I play pop music while I clean the kitchen. Tony Beets is not furry or cuddly or able to show his affection for us clearly. He is, however, a full-fledged fighting member of this scrappy little family of fighters.


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