The Birthday Phone Call
“Son, I have cancer in four different places. My ribs and three of my organs. One of the organs is in stage four. The doctor is giving me a few months to live.”
It felt like a truck had just hit me head on. Selfish to say considering I’m not the one with cancer. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat so I could say something back. Anything…but there was only silence. Finally I was able to squeak out “I’ll take some time off work dad. I’ll fly up next week. Stay strong. You can beat this.”
Because Of You
My father never bought bait. We would always wake up extra early. Dig up some worms from the back yard, throw them in a coffee can, then head up to the creeks that flowed deep in the Appalachian Mountains. This is where the holy grail of bass bait lived, spring lizards. I wasn’t old enough for artificial lures yet. Live bait fishing was being taught to me so that I could see what the area I lived in naturally produced for the fish of Virginia. Catching the bait with my dad and brother was almost as fun as actually fishing. The thrill of moving a rock not knowing if that lizard would be the lucky charm I needed to catch the biggest bass of the day. These are the memories I cherish the most.
As I entered my teenage years, dad introduced me to using artificial lures. Not as easy as throwing a wiggling worm or twitching lizard on. I had to work for my fish now. What color? What size? Weighted or not? What type of presentation? So many questions! I just want to fish not think! That thought quickly passed after I caught my first fish on a popper that day.
The Water Exploded
Cast After cast. Nothing!
“Dad, are you sure there are fish here?”
I started to lose interest. We had been fishing a few hours and were having no luck. The bottom of the dam was always a great spot. Why not today? Then dad started catching them. He often used a top water torpedo. I figured I would throw on what he was using. We always kept two of everything. I had never used one, but mimicked his technique. A pop, reel, stop, quick little jerk, stop, slow reel, pop. I remember thinking to myself. “How does he know what to do?”
Then CRASH! The water exploded around my lure. It was gone! My lure wasn’t visible anymore. Where did it go?
Dad yelled “You got one son! Set the hook!”
We caught a lot of fish and made a lot of memories that day. Every single weekend after that I would beg dad to take me fishing. I would order Bass Pro catalogs and spend hours looking at the different lures. Dad had exposed me to an addiction that only could be satisfied by long weekend adventures to every body of water we could drive to within a few hours.
It was more than just fishing. It was a way of life.
It was my life. All I wanted in life with dad by my side.
I Blinked, Years Disappeared
Just like the torpedo popper vanishing under water, years seemed to be swallowed up by time instantly. One minute dad and I are laughing and talking on the river bank, the next I am on the phone with him just trying to understand what he is telling me. I flew up a few weeks after we spoke. We spent a lot of time together. It was extremely hard seeing him in bed barely able to move in so much pain. I wanted so bad to tell him “Let’s go catch one dad!” Fishing always used to fix our problems,but the bones had gotten so weak in his hip that it broke and even just walking to the bathroom proved to be a painful task. Fishing in the mountains was definitely out of the question.
I knew if I could just get him on the river it would give him more energy to fight this malicious sickness. I just know it!
Blink, Almost Two Months Gone
It’s been almost two months since I visited dad. I plan on going back up very soon. This time I will get him out on the water since he is fighting so hard. The tug is the best medicine there is. Stronger than any radiation or chemo. I hadn’t been fishing since I had heard the news so this past Wednesday I made it a point to get out deep into the swamp. I closed my eyes as I drifted through the creek in my canoe.
Just remembering everything dad taught me. Trying to remember every memory, conversation, and detail. Holding it tightly in my mind.