Steve Griswald and I ran around the point. A light breeze was rippling the water, stirring the dancing, swirling mist rising from the lakes warm surface, softening and blurring our surroundings. The dim light and nondescript features created an atmosphere of mystical, dreamlike quality, as if we were running full speed into a fairytale where things mysterious and magical might take place, where anything indeed could happen.
Suddenly, a white and orange buoy materialized from the mists and speed by us. Steve turned and gave me a grin. Despite the poor visibility he’d kept us on the perfect course after rounding the point. Just another minute or two and we’d hit the weed line the walleyes had been cruising the last couple days.
The depth finder deepened to 15 feet then gradually rose to 12. He let off the throttle, the boat settled in the water and he switched off the engine. The quiet was abrupt, one moment the roar of the motor, the clap of water against the hull, now just a great solitude as the mists swirled and danced around us.
We threaded night crawlers on our worm harnesses using the trolling motor to move us along the irregular weed edge as we waited expectantly for a strike. Minutes passed, then my line tightened.
I set the hook and felt the steady, heavy weight of a walleye. It was a nice one and took some persuading to come to the boat, a 24-inch, fat Lake Chautauqua walleye. Perfect.
I admired the beautiful fish and slipped her in the live well. Picking up my fishing rod I suddenly noticed there on the bottom of the cork handle was a “J.” I was using Jane’s fishing rod, a twin to mine. We often bought matching coats, sweatshirts and, of course, identical rods and reels.
Unbidden tears filled my eyes, ran down my cheeks as my throat tightened into a swollen knot. Sudden, unexpected surprises like this brought her memory back so clearly they still tore me apart. I sat silently, the bittersweet past rolling in waves through my body.
This was the same pole she’d caught so many fish on. I could still see her casting determinedly away. Her living hands had held this pole when fish struck and stripped the drag, their living essence transmitted up the line through the rod and into her hands, shooting those thrills up to her bright mind. I saw the set of her jaw, the delight she felt as she held her trophy. She was suddenly seemingly there before me in those swirling mists, smiling with those green, slightly mocking eyes of hers, delighted and happy.
She faded and I was alone again, the familiar pain sharp and excruciating.
“Nice fish,” Steve said grinning, unaware of my emotions. I looked up and managed a smile. Time moves on…always…unstoppable.
Two weeks later I was in Pittsburgh, visiting my daughter Chrissy. Once the kids were off to school I drove to New Castle and parked at the old stone farmhouse. The homes, constructed in 1830, is built entirely of large square, stone blocks.
Even after 189 years, not a crack disturbs the masonry. Generations lived, flourished and passed within those walls. I tried to imagine the joy and laughter, tears and sorrow it witnessed. Of the vibrating life it so faithfully sheltered.
Ron Larabee met me at the door. It was so good to see him again. After catching up on our busy lives I fired up the 4-wheeler and worked back the trails to my tree stand. I had to cut several fallen trees out of the way and trim brush overhanging the trails. This year the greenery had shot up 3-4 feet. Some areas were unrecognizable from just last fall.
The stand was still there, in good shape, but it took time to clear the shooting lanes and a fallen tree top. I climbed up and sat in the stand for several minutes. I seemed to sense good things in the upcoming season, a promise perhaps of success.
Tired, hot, slightly bug-bitten and dirty, I returned to my daughter’s and cleaned up for my granddaughter Delaney’s seventh birthday party. It appeared Delaney and I would go to the store where she would pick out her gift and I’d buy it. I wasn’t that much in favor of this, but was borne away on the tide of previously made decisions. Well, if Delaney was happy so was I!
All went well, though I missed the thrill of seeing her rip open her present. I’m a big believer in anticipation myself and, of course, the cake.
Yes, Sept. 15 is one of those magical days for little Delaney, and I watched with thankfulness and appreciation as she played with her new gifts. She’s a pretty girl, blonde hair, bright mischievous eyes and has that same dedicated single-mindedness Jane had when working on any project.
Immediately, that similarity triggered the darkness, the sharp stab of pain and sense of hollow loss for dear Jane passed away on Sept. 15, little Delaney’s birthday. It was two years today. I gasped and bowed my head, the grief as strong as ever.
Like much of life, Sept. 15 is a day of strong contradictions. A beautiful new life enters the world and a precious one leaves. Oh, how I miss her, how I miss her.