The thing that Michael loved to do, even more than motorcycle riding, was fishing. He is a bass fisherman..catch and release. And I’m the first person he’s ever known to actually make fun of him about it. And my poking fun at him was one of the things he liked about me. Go figure.

When I first met him my boys were all involved in sports. So one of the first questions I asked him was “What is your favorite sport?” and he said “Fishing.” I blinked about 75 times and said, “Fishing isn’t a sport. As Steven Wright said there is a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.” He said “I have a boat.” And we both laughed. It was our first conversation and in that brief exchange, we were both smitten.

On date 3 or 4 I asked him if he ate the fish he caught. I certainly wasn’t up to having smelly fish in my house. He looked at me like I was insane.

He said, proudly, “I’m a catch and release fisherman.”

I said, “A what?’

and he said “A catch and release fisherman. I catch them and let them go.”

I said, “So you catch the fish and look at him and throw it back?”

He said yes.

So I said, “So you just look at fish.”

And he said no he didn’t just look at fish in a “Don’t be silly” way.

I said, you pull them out of the water and you look at them and put them back.

And he said, “No I…. never mind.”

And we both laughed.

One day I was over his house and he was watching the fishing channel. I did not know there was such a thing. I said to him, “What’s next? The solitaire channel?” And we both laughed.

Another day the fishing channel was on and the guy was talking about lures and said, in a thick Southern accent, “So you’ll be wanting your lure to run straight and true…” and I damn near fell off the couch laughing so hard. Every time he left for fishing after that, I would say, in an exaggerated southern accent, “Be sure to make your lure run straight and true.” He did not laugh. Apparently lures are nothing to laugh at.

Another time I told him he hurt the fish with the hooks and the fish were screaming inside. He turned and said, “Every time you and I talk about fishing I’m screaming inside.” and we both laughed.

He loved fishing so much that every house we owned was near some great fishing. When we lived in Texas our house was in a high end development with a wide stream going through it that came off a large bass-filled lake nearby. There was a sign in the development that only residents could use it. The home owners association probably figured that would keep everyone out and away from the stream…our development was full of doctors and lawyers and business execs…who the hell was going to spend any time at the stream fishing?

Guess who? ….there was Michael….walking down there every day with his fishing poles. He’s not a big guy and he looked so happy walking down behind the house and up to the stream. The stream was situated right inside the wall of the development so when I would drive out and turn to my left, there he would be…standing there fishing. I would beep. He would wave. He had a cute little, funny little wave.

He once told me that fishing was the one and only thing that calmed his ADHD brain. He said it was the single thing that kept his brain quiet. He’s a competitive person. He used to race motorcycles and cars. He plays pool and golf and he’s really good at pool. He doesn’t like to lose. So the fishing thing was between him and the fish.

“They have the IQ of catsup” I would say. “You’re out there in your big boat with tons of instruments and fish finders and fancy rods and lures running straight and true….and the dumb fish is just circling around…doe di doe…and sees your lure and thinks its food and bites and you get him and you think, ‘wow! I’m the man!’ Isn’t that just a tad pathetic?”

And he would say “You don’t understand a thing about it.”

And I would say “That’s what people say when other people are right.”

And we would laugh.

I know he always enjoyed me razzing him about fishing. He really liked me razzing him about everything.

I remember I once had a boyfriend who liked me, in the beginning, because I gave him a hard time about one of his passions. About six months later he let me know the jokes were old and stale and knock it off.

Not Michael. We had lures running straight and true jokes for 12 years and he never tired of it.

For as hard a time as I always gave him, I find that my nicest memories of him was him heading off for fishing. I have so many images in my head of him setting out with the fishing poles. Like a little boy. And no matter what I said or how silly I thought it was, it was his passion and he was never giving it up. And I never wanted him to. It was way too much fun for me. And he looked so cute when he was intent on fixing his fishing poles and ordering lures and all that fishing related stuff. None of which I understood.

But the fishing thing is so much of what made him him. When my youngest son was about 8 he said he wanted to learn to fish. I taught the boys a lot of things. How to play basketball, football, cook, clean, sew, iron. But I had no clue about fishing. And it wasn’t something I wanted to learn. Or be near. I felt horrible that I couldn’t teach Nick to fish.

When Michael came along, they became fishing buddies. Nick would get up at 5:30 on the weekends to go out in the boat with him. It was freezing a lot of mornings and Nick doesn’t like cold or mornings but Nick liked being out there on the boat with a man who took an interest in him and taught him to fish. Later on Nick decided he wasn’t that crazy about fishing. But he still went when Michael asked. Because he was crazy about Michael.

Thinking of Michael taking off for fishing always makes me smile. The one thing I completely did not get about him….the one thing that I made fun of him from the day we met until probably the last time he went out…and it makes me smile because it was so much of who he was and what he was about.

Looking at fish. Just looking. And being okay with the world.

I pass the lake he used to fish every day on the way to the hospital. I never fail to look over and wish I could see him there.

Fishing pole in the water, smile on his face…

…and our world being okay.

It’s amazing the things you miss when terminal illness comes to call.

It’s amazing.

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