Last Time

“My daddy was the kinda man I wish I could be,” says John. “Getting him out there on the water that day, I just wanted to say, ‘Daddy, look at us, we’re the beautiful family YOU made.’”

He was every old man you’ve ever met. And he wanted to go fishing. Doctors said it was a bad idea, but his son disagreed.

“Doctors don’t know everything,” says his son John. “Daddy wanted to fish, so by God, we took him.”

You should’ve seen it. A sunny day. Four men escorting an old man down the dock. They lowered him into a 14-foot camouflage boat.

The old man held them for support. He mumbled something to them. Nobody understood. The strokes had slowed his mouth down.

The men used ratchet straps to make an improvised seatbelt for him. And away they went.

The old man had been fishing here ever since the invention of red mud.

“Feesing heah wuh mah bess gurl,” the old man said through a contorted mouth.

His daughter translated for her kids: “Granddaddy says he used to fish here with his best girl.”

Granny. His “best girl.” When she was alive, they came here. The old woman loved fishing as much as he did.

The old man wanted a beer. He demonstrated this by reaching for the cooler. His daughter held a can to his mouth. Beer ran down his chin.

Everyone cheered.

“Don’t tell Daddy’s doctor about this,” John said.

The boat was in motion. The motor trolled. The old man was smiling. Familiar feelings were in the air.

“I remember when Daddy took my middle-school boyfriend out here,” his daughter said. “I knew how to bait my own hook, my boyfriend didn’t. Daddy got a kick outta that.”

She also remembers a senior who once came calling on her. He drove a muscle car and wore too much leather. Her father greeted the kid on the porch, polishing his iron.

“Reckon you’d better keep a’driving, son,” her father told the kid.

The old man was something else. He was funny. He was clever. He was the best our land had to offer. A soldier, a salesman, a father, a fisherman. He was among the last of his generation.

He was a caretaker.

They say he sat beside his wife’s bed the morning she passed. He told her, “It’s alright to leave, baby,” right before her final sigh.

“Oh, he loved Mom,” says his son. “When she got sick, he cooked, helped her use the restroom, doctors appointments… It wrecked him.”

Then came his stroke. Then another. And more problems. He went downhill fast. The doctor said he didn’t have long.

Someone’s reel made a sound. A pleasant noise.

“Quick!” shouted John. “Give the rod to Daddy!”

John stood behind his father, holding the liver-spotted hands which once taught him to gut a bass. John did the cranking; the old man got the credit.

“Wee d-d-dugah!” the old man said.

“‘Wee doggie,’” his daughter translated. “Daddy used to say that a lot.”

Wee doggie.

That day came and went too quick. It seems like an ancient photo now.

“My daddy was the kinda man I wish I could be,” says John. “Getting him out there on the water that day, I just wanted to say, ‘Daddy, look at us, we’re the beautiful family YOU made.’”

Yes. It was a beautiful afternoon, even though a very important woman was missing from the passenger count.

But then, none of that matters now. Because a few days ago, his best girl met him at the gate.

And I’ll bet I know what they’re doing right now.

28 comments

  1. MaryJane Breaux - January 28, 2018 10:36 am

    I have never known the thrill of catching a fish or the warmth of such a loving Father. Thank you for sharing this beautiful family story. ❤️ Wee Doggie!

    Reply
    • Dorothy Robinson Stanley - April 21, 2018 9:46 am

      This was my fisherman Dad….the kindest, most gentle, loving, generous man ever…..and he fished almost every day after he retired. After his memorial service under the shade trees along the lake, we rode a party barge boat out to his favorite fishing cove and lowered his ashes….which we had played in his favorite old tackle box, weighted down with his fishing weights…..down into the waters in his spot where he caught a 40-lb. catfish. Having this incredible man as a father shaped my while life….which has been so blessed.

      Reply
  2. Cathi - January 28, 2018 10:45 am

    You got me again. Happy Sunday.

    Reply
  3. CKD - January 28, 2018 10:57 am

    Oh that everyone could have a father like him. I was one of the blessed who did.🎣

    Reply
  4. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - January 28, 2018 11:40 am

    I call this my Sunday morning tears — happy tears! He must have been such a wonderful husband and father to raise children like that. WOW! Thank you for sharing Sean!

    Reply
  5. Connie - January 28, 2018 11:54 am

    What a beautiful story. Smiles through the tears this morning. Have a lovely day with your special lady.

    Reply
  6. janiesjottings - January 28, 2018 12:34 pm

    Absolutely beautiful & what a great way to start our Sunday morning.

    Reply
  7. Joyce Anne Bacon - January 28, 2018 1:01 pm

    It’s hard to type a comment with tears in your eyes.

    Reply
  8. Dianne - January 28, 2018 1:08 pm

    A beautiful story!! Thank you for sharing!!

    Reply
  9. Jackye thompson - January 28, 2018 1:45 pm

    Such a touching and thoughtful essay.Is my hushband before he passed.
    God Bless.Jackye

    Reply
  10. Nix LaVerdi - January 28, 2018 2:25 pm

    I was work in a grocery store and I live in a smaller town. The folks who come through my line, they tell me things. A woman told me about your blog, just last week. I wrote down the name of your blog and put it the piece of paper in my pocket. I emptied my pocket and came to my laptop to see what it was about. (The woman had the most precious things to say about your writing). I subscribed after the first piece I had read. My brother passed away this Christmas. Now I am reading this blog. I believe their are no accidents. I believe in messengers. I believe this woman was sent to me this day to deliver a message. I opened the message and here is your writing. You write as if you are simply speaking to folks. What a story teller you are. This piece, especially, allows me to feel comfort. I don’t feel so alone. Your piece is gentle, humorous and real. Thank you so much. Sincerely, Nix

    Reply
    • Susan Hammett Poole - January 30, 2018 12:52 pm

      Dear Nix, those 3 words you used ~ gentle, humorous and real ~ describe Sean’s writings perfectly. We are blessed to read his stories every day. I wouldn’t miss a one! Welcome to the world of “Sean of the South.”

      Reply
  11. Betty Roberts - January 28, 2018 3:05 pm

    This brought back so many memories I needed this morning Sean. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Judy Miskelly - January 28, 2018 4:21 pm

    I love reading your stories. They always touch my heart. You are an excellent writer who grasp and relates
    the important things in life.

    Reply
  13. Linda Chipman - January 28, 2018 5:56 pm

    Thanks Sean for making me remember what a wonderful Daddy I had.

    Reply
  14. Sharon McCook - January 28, 2018 6:09 pm

    You are a wonderful writer.

    Reply
  15. Jack Quanstrum - January 28, 2018 6:13 pm

    Heart Warming story!

    Reply
  16. Frannie Keller - January 28, 2018 9:53 pm

    That is love!

    Reply
  17. Dru - January 28, 2018 10:48 pm

    Superb story! And you’re a genius with phonetics. 😄

    Reply
  18. Jack Darnell - January 28, 2018 11:38 pm

    I would hope my boys would do something like that. I fish but ain’t no fisherman. Just maybe they would allow me to shoot a nail gun and secure some studs. I love to drive nails.

    Reply
  19. Erin - January 29, 2018 4:30 am

    This was my Grandad, he loved to fish with his best girl, he taught all us grandkids to cast and even after the Alzheimer’s became so bad, he still found pleasure in cranking an old reel. He passed 18 years before my Grandmother, but I’m sure he was waiting at the Gate, with a rod, a reel and a picnic basket for her when she got there.
    Thanks for the memory…

    Reply
  20. Martha Wells Register - January 29, 2018 5:25 pm

    I think of my mom and dad – they love to fish…We lived in Esto, fl and the owned a house in Moore Haven that they enjoyed going to before they got disabled and would bring back fish or a fish fry – we did not have a lot this worlds goods but had the love of a mom and dad that other children did not have – there was 9 of us children….

    Reply
  21. Mary Lee - January 29, 2018 8:53 pm

    I am betting he knew what a beautiful family he and his best girl had made. Live this.

    Reply
  22. Ellen Walters - January 30, 2018 2:15 pm

    My dad was a farmer and this describes him to a tee!!!!

    Reply
  23. wendy Franks - February 1, 2018 4:56 pm

    My best daddy in the world took me fishing on the Warrior River decades ago before sunscreens were available. I got the worst sunburn ever; couldn’t stand for even the bedsheet to touch me. My mom made a pallet on the floor for me to sleep on. Thank God it was summer. The pain was so worth the memories!

    Reply
  24. Angie Mitchell - April 21, 2018 2:58 pm

    Lost my beloved Daddy 6 months ago today-he was a father, friend, caretaker, farmer, fisherman, musician and an entertaining character!!!!! Everyone at the visitation had a different story but the same love. I miss him too much!!!!

    Reply
  25. Rhonda - April 21, 2018 3:09 pm

    My FIL had a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. My husband and I took him to the casino and watched as he struggled to pull the lever on the slot machine. He didn’t win any money but his smile was the jackpot for us. He has since gone to heaven. Thank you for the memory.

    Reply
  26. Lynn Harvey - April 22, 2018 4:01 am

    My dad moved to the Florida coast so he could “die fishing”. In almost every photo we have of him from age 6 to 92, he is holding a pole or his catch of the day. On his plaque at Arlington National Cemetery we desperately wanted to add “gone fishin'”, but there wasn’t room.

    Reply

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