memory

my grandfather is coming to the end of the road. if I live to be half the man he was (a good, kind, smart man who is my role model for a life of integrity), it will be living better than anything I can envision for myself right now.

anyways, I’m working on a personal essay that deals with a lot of things and feelings. but I thought I might post an excerpt that feels appropriate for this situation, and that I hope he would like.

the last time I was talking to him, he told me he’d see me around again, in the course of time. that he will.

rest easy.

It is a glory August day out in Bonavista bay. The early morning was overcast but as the boat pushes off from the shore, beams of light break through the clouds and start to warm the water. My father and my grandfather are taking me cod fishing. I am twelve, and all I can think about as we start the day is a poorly-translated Japanese dating sim I found for my SNES emulator after trawling the bottom of Web 1.0 for a week. I’m not really into this fishing thing.

We leave the cove and head out into the open water. Someone hands me a jigger. It’s old, shaped like a caplin with two large silver hooks jutting out of its mouth. The line is wrapped around a worn wooden frame. Pop tells me to unravel it and let it drop down to the bottom before pulling it up a touch and giving it a few gentle bobs. Dad tells me that when I feel the pull of the fish, I have to give it a quick jerk to lodge the hook in and then reel it in steady. I ask them if this will take long. Pop smiles; no. The cod is a greedy fish.

Three generations of the Brown family spend the morning in the boat catching fish and talking. About the weather, about old family friends, about my father’s childhood in Baie Verte, about Pop’s life as a rural minister, about founding credit unions and co-operatives, about the jiggs dinner Nan is no doubt preparing back at the house, about a million other trivial things I would now give anything to recall. I catch a lot of fish. Pop was right; the cod are greedy.

(An artist would tell me years later as he tattooed that jigger on my arm, “Pops know, man. Pops know.”)

Our dory crosses the bay back to our house in Lethbridge. In the aging afternoon we stop on a small island to clean the fish. Dad shows me how; you grab her by the gills, the knife goes in at the bottom by the tail and you draw it up her stomach, saw through the neck and the guts come cleanly out. I don’t have the stomach to try myself. It would be many more years before I gutted my own fish, but right now no one seems to mind. Sensitivity runs in the family; a dying moose apparently looked Pop in the eye once and that was the first and last time he went hunting. I’m just happy to be out on the beach and watch.

More than ever, now, I know it is out of the ordinary grind of life, those fleeting summer days, that make up the fragile moments of depth that stretch on in the soul forever. Home, in the true utopian sense that drives us, is always just outside our grasp. Its presence is fleeting; we feel it fully only in its absence. To paraphrase Ernst Bloch, it shines into everyone’s childhood but no one has yet really been there. Time is everywhere accelerating and yet always also static, ready for our tiger’s leap into the past.

Eternity is always slipping through our fingers. The Spirit Fish is strictly catch and release.

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