Little Fish, Big Mouth

When we were around four and six, respectively, my brother and I went fishing in a little pond on a hill outside of the city with our parents. We caught a couple of sunfish, and we were so excited (and so recently into fish sticks) that we decided to bring them home to cook for dinner. My dad pried out the tiny bones and fried the fish up so that we could have the satisfaction of eating something we’d caught ourselves, even if there wasn’t much meat.

I’m not going to say that this is where my problem with seafood started, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had some impact there. My little blond brother, for once more adventuresome than I was when it came to food, speared his fish and took a big bite. And then he began to choke.

He was too small for the Heimlich Maneuver  (I know that there’s a baby Heimlich but we didn’t know it at the time and didn’t want to hurt him).  I watched in horror as he coughed and coughed, and as my parents pounded his back. Then they grabbed his ankles, turned him upside down, and pounded again.

Finally, the bone–because that was what it was, a small bone that went uncaught in the process–popped out, and the color came back to his face.

My brother was born twenty-four years ago today. Thank God, that’s the closest we’ve ever come to losing him since then. Happy birthday to the first person I worried about on my own birthday and on Friday last week. Whether or not we actually found him in a dumpster instead of bringing him home from a hospital, I’m glad that he’s made it past all of the bumps and scrapes (and chokes) of childhood, school, and college, and I have full faith that he’ll navigate the troubled waters of adulthood.

As long as he resists the temptation to eat any more fish.


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