Once in a while, today not an exception, I take a personal journey through pictures. Those pictures, even more pronounced and profound than familiar music, bring back a teaching moment, in the very least.
I saw pictures of Andrew and Matthew, my sons, with their cousins, Brian, Derek and Andrea, all flopped on the bed with their Grampa Hank, my father. Remember so clearly how much joy it brought my father. Super joy.
Then, all the fish I have been blessed to catch…even when I was seven years old. And even when the fish broke a bamboo rod. I sent that to a dear friend, Tom, at a marine store in Woodinville, Washington. Tom sold me a great casting rod, which the first time out broke…well, it was my not paying attention and I swear, as the steelhead dashed away, he flipped me his middle fin. In all that, even when the white hair was hidden, not by a hat but by age, I came upon one picture.
BAM. I’ll put it here:
The Liz W was owned by Norm Villette from Gearhart, Oregon. He was a Junior High School Principal. In the summer he guided salmon fishing on the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. He was retirement age and EACH TRIP took his 3 best buddies, same age. Decades they fished on the Liz W. My father and I joined them for two days.
Norm was so very skilled. In those days we would float with the current and catch salmon, method called mooching. Lots of salmon. The first day they all helped me. Think I was about ten years old, putting it at circa 1950.
After they fish the four of them have coffee and chat about life, in their favorite coffee shop. Dad and I returned to our Cannon Beach lodging, to return the next day.
We arrived and there were three of them. Not a fourth. They were going about getting everything ready.
I asked where their 4th buddy was.
Norm paused, looked down, away, then at me, “He died yesterday when we were having coffee.”
Norm then said, “Yep, guess it was his time. We’re fishing because we believe this is the best way to honor our deep friendship…to keep on keeping on. Mark, untie the rope. Let’s go fishing.”
I never once thought they were indifferent or uncaring. Quite to the contrary. They gave a damn about life and loved their 4th buddy. And the best way to live was to keep living and catch a few fish.
An important lesson on this July 4th. In thanks for all those who have lived and died, and made it clear, living in freedom and living life…the best gratitude for life is to keep on keeping on. Oh, here’s a picture of one of the salmon…yep, another day, but still fishing.