The Old Man of the Sea

A man stood on the shore with his feet in the shallow water. He flipped the spool over on his fishing reel, tagged the line to the upper butt of his fishing rod with his pointer finger, and then the man tossed his line outward to bounce in the ripples of the bay.
The sun beat down across his salt and pepper hair. His skin was tanned and the sun glistened against his chest. The sunlight glimmered against the shine of his gold wedding ring, and overhead, seagulls turned in the light blue sky.
To the man’s left, a young boy stood knee deep in the water. He too flipped the spool on his fishing reel, tagged the line to the upper butt of the fishing rod with his pointer finger. Then he brought the rod back over his right shoulder, and casted forward.

The young boy was sure to keep his line right. He was careful not to tangle the fishing line in the spool—and as the red and white float bobbed up and down in the ripples of the bay—the young boy was careful to watch and see if the float sunk underneath the water.

The fishing spot was somewhat secluded. There was no one nearby and the sky hummed from the occasional airplane that flew passed them.
Every so often, the young boy reeled in his line and checked his bait. Sometimes the man would tug back with his fishing line to tease the nearby fish, and sometimes, one or both of their floats would dunk underneath the water to indicate a strike.

The boy paid close attention to his line. He waited and watched his float bounce on top of the water. His eyes would not move to the left or right. He focused straight ahead—and each time the bobbing float would appear as though it would duck underneath the water, the little boy jerked back with his fishing rod and tried to set the hook.

Finally, after so many attempts; the boy was determined. He waited and he watched. And when the float ducked under, the little boy lifted back, and his fishing rod curled forward.
“I got one,” he screamed.
“Good one,” said the man. “Reel him in.”

The fish was not very big. But the size did not matter. What mattered was the father and son trip for the late August run of snappers inside the Long Island bays.
The boy reeled in his fish. He removed the hook, and then he dropped the small bluefish into their white, 5 gallon bucket.
Then he baited his hook. He flipped the spool to his fishing reel, tagged the line to the upper butt of his fishing rod, and then he casted away. He was careful not to tangle his line. He was careful not to cross his father’s line or snag the bottom.

Shortly after, the man jerked his fishing rod back, and it was his turn to reel one in. And like the boy, the man’s rod curved; the top eyelet bounced as the small bluefish tried to swim away.
The little fish jumped, and the man let out a cheer of joy. To the boy, there was nothing better than this.
There was nothing better than to see his father smile and cheer as the fish leapt from the water. There was nothing better than a moment without stress or discipline. The boy did his best to be his father’s son. He did his best not to tangle the line or make any mistakes.

The two fished and the afternoon sun tanned their skin. Slowly, the white 5 gallon bucket began to fill with snappers. Excitedly, the boy checked the bucket.
“We have a lot of them, don’t we Pop?”
“How many is that,” asked the father.
“I think there’s at least six,” answered the boy.
“Well,” said the father. “We’ll stay out here until we finish the bait or we catch a few more. Whichever comes first.”

Running back into the shallows and preparing to make another cast, the boy stepped on a seashell that pointed upwards. The shell dug into the bottom of his foot. He was bleeding—but he would not show the pain.

“Are you okay,” asked the father.
“I’m okay.”
The small gash in the arch of the boy’s foot cut deep into the wrinkled skin. It bled at first—but the bleeding eventually stopped.

“I guess the saltwater helped the bleeding,” said the boy.
“Are you sure you’re okay,” asked the father.

Of course the boy was okay. He was facing south with the sun beating down on him. He was next to his father—and his father was proud to stand with his son.
Like a good boy, he was careful to properly bait the hook with spearing. He was careful when he tossed his line, and his line did not tangle— not even once.
His foot hurt, but the boy would not show pain. His foot could have fallen off, but the boy would not even blink because he did not want that day to end

I know this because I was that little boy.
I would have done anything—I would have done anything and everything just to stay out with you that day.

I was so unbelievably young then . . . . . . and you

You were my hero.

Sleep well, Pop


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