Memories of Fishing



The day out with dad was like any other day. On this specific day, I remembered him coming to pick me up from school, riding in his old red El Camino. He wore an old ripped up shirt, loose jeans with two patches on the side. He only dressed like that whenever we were going fishing. Fishing was something we did so often. We even listed for the father and son fishing competition. Although we always came in last, that never stopped us from going back. It had been so long since we were together sitting by a lake fishing. Ever since the incident, it hasn’t been the same, which is why  I was stunned to see him dressed in his fishing outfit. He worked for some law company, so his wardrobe consisted of fancy suits. And our old red El Camino pickup truck? It stayed in the garage collecting dust like some kind of car museum. Gleaming with excitement,   I opened the door’s passenger side; it made that same squeaky sound, which always bothered mom. She would always say, “Sam! Why don’t you fix that dang squeaking.” Dad would  smile and say, “I will, honey!” But it never got fixed. I think the squeaking reminded him of her. When I sat on the passenger side of the car, dust flew into the air. Dad looked at me, smiling.  “ It just needs some good shaking, son, ” he said, smiling” I smiled at him; he welcomed me with a smile, I smiled back as we rode off.  “Were we going fishing today? I asked  while reaching for the seatbelt.”

“It’s such a nice day out, son. I just thought fishing was the only thing missing.” I know I haven’t made things easy for you, but I’m trying now, son.” “She’s been gone for two years, and all you’ve been doing is moping around. I’ve had to grow up while you recline on the couch, I thought to myself.”   I couldn’t blame him because he still made sure we had a place to stay and food to eat. “Stay positive! I said to myself. Like he said, “It’s such a lovely day out today. So why don’t we enjoy fishing?” I was baffled by the sudden change in his tone. His tone was smooth, caring, and comforting. His expression before was that of a dying man, cold, unsettled, and unbearable. He had not been the same man that I knew for a very long time. The uneasy feeling  I felt from his tone felt somewhat comforting and diligent. I replied with a jolly smile. “ It was okay, I said softly. Er–Dad, I said. Are you okay? It’s just that–you have your fishing outfit, and your appearance looks–different.” “Son! he said, turning to face me. The look on his face grew weary and pale. “ I am fully aware of what you went through for all these years. The loneliness, I know its unbearable, being that I have not been there for you. I left you to suffer all on your own. I thought that I would only make things worse If I opened up to you about my feelings, but I was wrong. You needed a father. I know that it’s an excuse, but I didn’t know what to do after she left us. Sadness took over my heart, and I left you all alone.  I’m so sorry, son. I love you more than anything. If I lost you too, then there would be no point in me living. She would have been so proud to see you now; he said, sobbing.” My heart clenched so tight I thought I was going to die. The pain that I felt for all those years came running back to me; tears rolled down my eyes uncontrollably. Father, I said, sobbing. I forgive you. I’m sorry for not being strong enough. I’m sorry for not being there for you, either.“ He stopped the car, pulled into a parking lot, embraced me by wrapping his arms around me, and held me tight. I hadn’t known him to be so fragile, let alone display any sort of emotions. I embraced him back. It felt nice to be hugged by him. “I’m sorry for everything, with mom, the lies, everything. It’ll be

better from now on.  I’ve accepted the fact that she’s gone and– I want to be your father. So how about going down the Oregon bridge and fish.”

Yes, yes, I said briskly;  sounds like a great plan, dad. 

 

Before we

moved to Oregon, we were living in Louisiana. That is when the devastation happened. I was only twelve years old when it happened. The news announces a massive category five hurricanes, but nobody took it seriously. We had plenty of hurricane announcements in the past, but they

never turned out as big as the news made them seem. They were usually category two, nothing major. By the time it reached us, we didn’t receive an alert that it was around the corner from us. It all happened so fast. Around 4 am while I was asleep in my room, I remember hearing a loud, roaring sound. As I looked outside, I saw the trees blowing forcefully and loud gushing rain hitting my window. Frightened, I suddenly rushed out of my bedroom and ran into my parent’s bedroom. “Mom! Dad! Wake up!!” I yelled. “Something is going on outside.” When they woke up, the whole bedroom window had flown open, like someone had hit it with a big hammer. So, mom and dad grabbed me and rushed into another room. We noticed drops of water falling from above us; when we looked up, there was a massive hole in the ceiling. The gap came about

from the pressure of the rain, hitting it repeatedly. Then suddenly, a big part of the roof fell right in front of us. Scared out of my mind, I let out a scream; it echoed back. I noticed my parents. staring at the open hole in the space where our ceiling was supposed to be. “Mom! Dad! Let’s go to the basement,” I yelled out. When they finally snapped out of it, another part ceiling fell on my mom, who had been inches away from dad and me. I was scared out of my mind that I did not know what to do. Dad ran towards mom to see if she was okay. “June, June!” He yelled, but no one answered. Dad struggled to move the broken part of the ceiling while I stood there, frozen in fear. Finally, he was able to push pieces of the rubble just enough to see mom but what we saw was something that I would never forget. Mom was gone. I was so scared out of my mind, so I ended up fainting. When I woke up,   a bunch of unfamiliar faces met my gaze. People who I had never seen before but only one familiar face, which was my dad. He welcomed me with a smile and said that everything was okay now. I asked him about mom; he didn’t reply. In the back of my mind, I already knew the answer. I wanted to badly believe that everything that had occurred was only a bad dream. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  We were in a large facility that looked like some kind of stadium. I wanted to ask dad how we got here, but I knew it was a bad idea.  A whole bunch of people surrounded us. Parents and children. Some were around my age and younger. They all looked concerned. Their faces wept with sadness. Their whimpering, chit-chatting collectively filled the stadium with noise. You couldn’t make out what any of them were saying. My dad looked at me with a saddened smile on his face. It’s just me and you now, son.” I wept as he said it. I knew what he meant. Mom was gone. Only the two of us remained. Days passed, we stayed in the stadium, eating stale crackers and drinking water. The announcer said that the storm had passed.  But no one seemed excited. It’s as if they lost the will to move on. How can they? They lost their house, loved ones, everything they owned. It wasn’t easy to move on from a calamity like that. “It’s time to go, son, dad said.  “Go where? I asked.” “My brother is coming to pick us up. He’s taking us to Oregon to live with him for a couple of days until I can get back on my feet. You’ll like it in  Oregon, son. It’s nice!”While leaving the stadium, I looked at all the sad faces. It reminded me of something my mother once said. “Everything has an end and a beginning. Things might look tough now, but once the storm calms, singing and joy will surely fill your lungs.” The storm has passed, so joy will eventually fill their lungs, too. Bye, everyone! I whispered. “Your joy will surely come back to you.” When we got outside of the stadium. I saw the damage that the storm caused. It decimated everything. Houses, trees, anything in its path. Sadness filled my eyes. I Tugged unto him, “Were we going to be okay, Dad?”I asked.  “Yes, Yes! We sure will, son. Like your mama said. “When the storm calms, singing and joy will surely fill your lungs.” So we’re going to let singing fill our lungs. Okay, dad, I said, grinning.  Here’s parked over here, dad said. The black SUV. We got inside the car. I said hi to my uncle, he replied with a nod.” It’s been so long, he said. I’m sorry that I couldn’t get here faster. I’m sure it must have been hard with everything that happened.” You don’t know the half of it, I thought.  He kept speaking, but I was too tired to hear anything. I doze off. I woke up, maybe like 2 hours later. My father was speaking to my uncle. “ I just don’t know what to do? he said, sobbing. I can’t stop thinking about what happened. The thought of her being in the back of that ambulance truck did something to me. The way her body laid flat, crushed on one side, and the detached head. I can’t believe he had to see his mother in that kind of state! I don’t know if he’ll ever recover from that. After he fainted, I had to move the ceiling tile off of her. These memories are terrorizing me. I don’t know what else to do.”  “Look! You’re my big brother, my uncle said. So  I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that he’s okay.  We’ll find him a counselor. Pretty soon, he’ll be running around smiling and laughing.” Then it got silent. That agonizing tone ricocheted off my earlobe.  I can’t believe he went through all of that while I was out. He kept forcing a smile just for me.   I should have been stronger than that. I laid back in my seat until we reached our destination. The move left its mark on both of us. I reenlisted at a nearby school, not too far from my uncle’s house.  We lived with our uncle for an entire year until dad found a job as a lawyer. Although we were in a much better space, dad wore his sadness like a permanent marker. I’m still bothered by that day.   

  On the day of her funeral, Dad whimpered like a sad puppy who just lost its owner.  The thought of her being in the back of that ambulance truck, he said, rumbling. “When I heard the sirens, my heart dropped to the ground. The thought of you being in the back of that ambulance truck weights down on my body, like some big mechanical device is crushing me down. It’s so heavy; I don’t know if I can’t take it anymore. I am all alone in the world. Did I deserve it? To be left all alone, and son to raise all on my own. I still have nightmares about that night, that forbidding night.  As much as I try to suppress my memories of you, they always find ways to possess me. I tossed and turned each night but only to be awoken by the same dream that I’ve had since you’ve been gone. I wake up drenched from my sweat. My tears puddle down my weary face. I fear that the puddle will run out; in its place will be something red and gushy. Each growing moment feels like I’m growing closer and closer to you. I wonder if I’ll be able to find some kind of peace, or is it too late. Maybe only time can tell.  I wonder if you know how much I loved you; I still do. I loved your unperfected features. The way your breasts unevenly matched. You hated them, but I loved them because it made you look perfect. And the way you pronounced croissant. Your imperfection was your perfection. How can I move on when you were the only peace in my life? I miss you so much! I miss your fresh scent. I miss those dazzling eyes, the way they observe and analyze my every movement. You studied me like I was some trophy you planned on winning. The award was my heart. In the end, you stole it, but I didn’t mind. Your eyes filled me with peace and reassurance.   Every time I look into them, I swear my heart skipped multiple beats.  Remember Frank, our childhood friend; he just tied the knot not too long. He invited me to the wedding, but I was missing my plus one. It reminded me of our wedding. It was the most fantastic day of my life. It was like a fairy tale; I didn’t think someone would look as beautiful as you. It’s like beauty and the beast. When the creature first laid eyes on Bell, he froze. Can you imagine how starstruck he had to be, to freeze down in his track? I froze when I held your hands as we walked down the aisle. In my heart, I didn’t want any of this to end. I wish God could have stopped time so that I could have lived in eternity with you. During our honeymoon, I dropped down to my knee and prayed to him that this moment would never end. I prayed for your safety, for your happiness, for your laughter. He still took you away from me. I curse anyone who dares to mention his name in front of me. Without you, my heart feels like a void. Empty as a bottomless well. Like a broken cassette with no rhythms, no beats, no movement, completely silent. I wish I could have switched places with you; I would have done it in a heartbeat. I would have jumped right in your place. I’d choose being crushed by the ceilings instead. You deserved this life more than me.  No questions asked.  The first time we heard the news, I said to you,” we’ll beat it together.” When I heard that horrible word, “Cancer,” my chest squeezed so tight, I thought that I would have passed out. You were so optimistic. You said we could beat it together as long as I was by your side. You were suffering the whole time, but you held on to that smile. I held you close to my heart when we started your first treatment. I prayed again that night; I offered him my life for yours.” 

I knelt beside him, my father, undermining my tone. Dad!  I said, I never knew all of this. “She had cancer?” How come you didn’t tell me? If the storm didn’t kill her, the chances of her being alive would have been slim? He didn’t say a word. 

  A piece of me felt betrayed, broken, lonely, unwanted. I was mad for not telling me about the treatments. I looked at the sky. “I hope you find peace wherever you are, mom.”

 

 Today was going to be the day that dad and I finally did something together. It had been a very long time. He spent most of his days at work, coming home late at night. I only saw him during the morning. We shared a few words then I would head off to school. As thrilled as I was, I was also

shocked when I saw him with his fishing outfit. The expression on his face calmed the weather down. I had to be strong for him, holding on to everything. Being home all alone. Eating microwave-able food in front of the television and cleaning up the house. I had to do all that while he was away at work. I never had time to process everything formally. I had to be strong for dad. I was happy. I hadn’t seen any confidence in him ever since mom passed away.  I looked behind the truck and saw my fishing rod that dad had packed. Mine was the short one with the Spiderman design on it. I was really into

superheroes back then. Dad had a plain one. Before we went fishing, we would go out into the backwoods to find some juicy worms. That’s what dad called them. The backwoods is a swamp filled with disgusting creatures. That wasn’t the name of the place. That’s just what dad called it. Dad had this thing where he would just make up a name for something or businesses. I thought it was weird, but it had always been a habit of his. We put on our boots so that the marsh wouldn’t swallow us up. We looked around for a bit, then spotted an area with muddy water. Dad said, if you dig through the mud, you’ll find a lot of those wangling suckers. He handed me a shovel then told me to explore. I took my shovel and started digging. I spotted these long, wiggling creatures swinging side by side. I picked them up and placed each one of them inside

the container. When I reached down to grab them, I was so disgusted by how slippery it felt. It felt like tiny little bare snakes running through your hands. When it was time to leave,

I was relieved. We got inside the car and drove off. Destination? Right under the Ferry bridge. I would do my very best to cheer him up and make sure that we both had fun. After twenty minutes of driving, we were finally there.

We unpacked all the fishing gear. Dad was holding the bag, and I was holding fishing rods. I grabbed his hand then smiled at him; he met

me back with a smile. As we’re unpacking the stuff out of the bag, a note fell out. He opened it.

“John, I have loved it ever since I met you. My two happiest moments with you was when you proposed to me. I felt like I had finally found my one and only. I was so pleased. I told my mom. Although dad didn’t like you very much, that didn’t matter to me because I knew in my heart that you were the one for me. “The second was when our son was born. Your eyes filled with tears, and you just kept crying like a baby. Your smile was a light of hope during my treatment. I was scared but happy, knowing you were right next to me. Thank you for loving me. I just wanted to say how much I love you.

 Ps. Your Wife.”

 

 Dad looked at me, then grabbed me towards him then started crying; I cried also.

Afterward, we just sat there fishing while dad told me all the old stories about him and his mom. Those were my memories of fishing.




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