Before He Dies
He waxed poetic about going fishing again.
He’d talked about going fishing through all the years he was still working. He’d talked about going to the river in the morning before work or to the lake in the evening after. He’d talked about going to the farm ponds where he used to fish on the weekends, but he never went.
He still talked about going fishing with an awareness of what it would be like. He talked about it with an air of genuine want and anticipation. He talked about it with the conviction of knowing all he’d need to do in order to do it. He made it sound like he’d given it real consideration and thoroughly thought it through.
After never going fishing while he was employed, he then determined to go once he retired. Before retirement, there was always an excuse for not going fishing. Nothing legitimate. Just excuses. But, after retiring, there’d be 40 less hours of excuses per week.
So he retired, and for years afterward he kept talking about fishing, but he never went.
Finally I asked him, “Are you ever gonna stop talking and actually go fishing?”
A year or more passed before I saw him again.
When we met again, he said, “I just want you to know, there’s a pond where I used to go fishing.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Well, I ran into the old owners of the property, who I know. They sold the place but said the people who live there now are nice. They said if I wanted to go fishing I ought to just ask the new owners, and they’d probably give me permission.”
“Cool. So you’ve finally gone fishing?”
“Well, not exactly.”
“They said, ‘no’?” I asked.
“Well, I happened to be driving by one afternoon. I don’t get out that way much, but there I was. So I remembered. I stopped and went to the house and rang the doorbell. A girl came to the door. I told her why I was there – to ask permission to go fishing.”
“She said her daddy was the one who’d have to give the okay. And her daddy wasn’t home. So I left. I said I’d come back some other time.”
“And you haven’t gone back.”
I wondered how many years it would take him to go back.
“Not yet,” he said.
“When was that?”
Last summer had been over a year ago.
“You didn’t ask her for her daddy’s phone number so you could call him and ask for permission?”
“And you didn’t leave the girl your number so her daddy could call you?”
“No,” he said.
Later in the day he was telling me all about his aches and pains and illness. They weren’t all that bad or different compared to anybody else his age. People his age who routinely do things like go fishing.
He talked about a procedure he had scheduled in 6 months. Not a huge procedure. Nothing life or death.
I told him, “I hope it goes well.”
“We’ll see,” he said. “If I live that long.”
I didn’t have the heart or the nerve to tell him he’d never been living.
Like most other things, he talks a good game about living, but he mostly pops pills and nurses his dreams along with all his aches and pains.
Some people are afraid of what they’d need to do if they were free. Free of all the aches and pains and illnesses that keep them from doing anything but talking and dreaming about what they want to do and what they ought to do. What they would do if wasn’t for all the aches and pains and illnesses.
Who knows, maybe he will go fishing some day before he dies. I don’t want to be a hateful or spiteful person, so I hope he finds a way.