I looked up and down the pier for a boat with the words “Living Easy” painted on it. When I spotted it, I looked back at my family, pointed in the boat’s direction and we headed that way. We arrived at the dock of the Living Easy – my dad, my brother-in-law Matt and me. We kissed our wives goodbye, boarded the boat and before we knew it, we sailed off into the Caribbean Sea for an afternoon of deep sea fishing.
Captain Doddy and his crew had set everything up for us. The fishing rods were rigged up, and the cooler was full of soda, bottled water and beer. Our only job was to make ourselves comfortable, have fun and catch fish.
I had drunk maybe one or two Heinekens before I noticed that the fishing line had a tug on it. Dad and Matt suggested that I get first dibs, so I climbed into the fighting chair, grabbed a hold of the rod and started to reel in. Not much time had passed before the line stopped moving and I felt no more tugging. When the hook came in, it had not a fish upon it. Whatever was on there had gotten away. Oh well, at least I could finish my beer now!
Some time passed, and the fishing line began to tug again. Matt got up from leaning against the cabin wall, prepared his video camera and hopped into the chair to reel in the fish. He caught a small Mahi Mahi. Our three-person fishing team celebrated with another round of beers. The fishing trip had officially become a success.
The next time our line got a bite, Dad did the honors of being the fisherman. He took the seat, reeled it in and caught a twenty-pound Mahi Mahi. Another celebration followed.
My second chance at catching a fish came after what seemed like a long time. I was getting anxious. I wanted to catch a fish too. So, the next time the line began to tug, I took the seat and took another shot at reeling it in, but it got away again! I got up from the chair and returned to my cushioned seat just above the cooler. I opened another beer and told myself not to let the lost fish get to me. It was beyond my control. Besides, I was having a pretty good time simply being out in the middle of the ocean and spending time with my closest male relatives.
As I waited for the next tug on the line, I thought about my grandfather, whom I called “Poppie.” He used to take me fishing when I was younger at a small pond at his country club on the west side of Houston, Texas. We would catch Perch and Bass using shrimp and hot dogs for bait. He taught me how to hold the Bass by sticking my finger in its gill and letting it dangle. This, according to Poppie, was how real fishermen hold their fish. I did this and he took a picture of me, after a bout of swearing and struggling to figure out how to use the camera.
I have been fishing numerous other times with different people, but I enjoyed fishing with Poppie the most. It is the memories of fishing with him that linger.
When I was fifteen years old, Poppie fell ill and would not recover. I went to visit him in the hospital one time and I was wearing a brown bucket hat that I bought during a recent trip to New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Look at this fishing hat I got in New Orleans, Poppie.” I said.
“Can I see it?” he said.
I took off my hat and handed it to him. He held it with both hands, looked at it and then placed it on his head. He looked like a real fisherman. He eventually removed the hat and gave it back to me.
“Get better real soon,” I said. “You and me are going fishing again.”
He smiled and nodded. He died a few weeks later. This was the last time I talked to him.
Next thing I know, the fishing line gets a tug and I am yanked out of Memory Lane and back into reality. I dashed over to the fighting chair, hopped in and got ready to reel. Before I started, I paused and looked up to the sky.
“Poppie, I know you’re out there somewhere. I’m gonna need your help with this one.”
And away I started reeling.
I am not a spiritual person. I believe there is no God, no ghosts and no supernatural elements whatsoever. That said, as evidenced by what you read in the last paragraph, I still talk to my grandfather. It is unlikely that he can hear me because he is dead. I doubt that he is actually out there somewhere. If anywhere, he is in my head. Either way, I still talk to him. I just do.
I fought with the fish – or whatever was on the line – for what seemed like hours. My left hand was tired from gripping the fishing rod so tightly, and my right hand was wearing out from the repetitive motion of spinning the reel. I kept on reeling, though; this one was NOT going to get away.
As time passed slowly and I reeled like a maniac, the line and whatever was on the end of it was coming close to the surface. I watched as a giant seabeast emerged from the water where my line was. I could tell that it was another Mahi Mahi because it bore all the same physical features as the fish caught by Matt and Dad. Regardless, this thing was huge. With the finish line in sight, I kept reeling until my arms felt like molten steel. The fish was half in the water and half in the air when two of Captain Doddy’s mates hopped down from above to my assistance. They helped pull in the fish using these rods that had hooks on the end of them. They speared it in its side, pulled it closer to my direction and on the brink of utter exhaustion, I was finally able to reel it in. It was a thirty-pound Mahi Mahi. We carried it into the boat and placed it in the bin with the rest of the fish.
My adrenaline subsided, and the anxious excitement I felt throughout my battle with this fish was replaced by relief. I walked over to lean against the wall of the cabin next to Dad and Matt. We all shook hands and relaxed with more beer. I looked up to the sky once again.
“Hey Poppie,” I said. “Thanks for your help!”
I did it. I caught one. Of my male familial fishing triad, I caught the biggest one. And I did it with Poppie’s help.
I will remember this fishing trip forever. It was so nice to escape the mainland and just journey out into the middle of the ocean; I really did get away from it all. It felt like all of my stress and troubles disappeared into the horizon as we sailed away. Moreover, I got to spend time with my three closest male relatives. We were three guys drinking beer and catching big fish. Talk about real, old-fashioned manly bonding!
As my grandfather lay on what would end up being his deathbed, he assured me that we would go fishing again. He believed it, and I believed him. Like the loving gentleman that he was, he kept his promise.
This is what I will remember about this fishing trip most of all. On Thursday, September 26, 2014 – nearly seventeen years after his death – on a boat off the coast of Aruba, I got to go fishing with Poppie again.