Last Time

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.

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.

27 comments

  1. Stan Perry - February 5, 2019 6:47 am

    Great!

    Reply
  2. theholtgirls - February 5, 2019 6:54 am

    That one is a keeper, Sean! Thanks!

    Reply
  3. xenohemlock - February 5, 2019 9:08 am

    Love it!

    Reply
  4. Annie - February 5, 2019 10:41 am

    Wow.

    Reply
  5. Steven P Bailey - February 5, 2019 10:46 am

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  6. Elizabeth Edens - February 5, 2019 11:18 am

    I hate crying first thing in the morning.

    Reply
  7. Martin - February 5, 2019 11:35 am

    Living with dignity. Dying with dignity. Nothing wrong with that.

    Reply
  8. Larry McEntire - February 5, 2019 12:30 pm

    Catching angel fish!

    Reply
  9. Sherry - February 5, 2019 1:16 pm

    😢Thanks!

    Reply
  10. David Brown - February 5, 2019 1:26 pm

    Well Done!

    Reply
  11. Peggy Savage - February 5, 2019 1:29 pm

    The way it should be….just beautiful.

    Reply
  12. Brenda McLaine - February 5, 2019 1:34 pm

    This sounds so much like my husband, me and our family. We buried him Saturday. Thank you for this story.

    Reply
  13. Liz Watkins - February 5, 2019 2:16 pm

    Beautiful memories! Thank you Lord for giving us memories❤️🙏🏻❤️

    Reply
  14. Paula Link - February 5, 2019 2:16 pm

    My late husband and I were hospice volunteers for years. One of our favorite things was taking people fishing one last time. It always touched our hearts. I will always remember the old gentleman who bowed his head and prayed “Lord, thank you for letting me come fishing one more time.” And the dear old lady who swore she would freeze her fish and eat every one of them herself. And she did.

    Reply
  15. Edna B. - February 5, 2019 2:27 pm

    I’m just catching up on your posts. The cold bug got me but I’m on my way back now. What a lovely, touching story, Sean. So little effort to give so much happiness. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  16. turtlekid - February 5, 2019 2:33 pm

    Memories are made of this.

    Reply
  17. Janie F. - February 5, 2019 3:31 pm

    So many of us have known a man like this. Thank you for reviving those memories for me this morning Sean. I bet you’re right about his sweetheart meeting him at the gate. When my Granny passed a few years after my Grandaddy so many of us commented that we could just hear him saying, “Hon, what took you so long?” I sure miss those two & wish everyone could have people like them for Grandparents.

    Reply
  18. Shelton A. - February 5, 2019 3:39 pm

    My brother taught me to fish with a cane pole and crickets. I never caught the fishing bug but he still has it and always will. He went fishing for ‘the big reds’ during a nor’easter at the Outer Banks of NC-my father, who also loved to fish but not in that weather, told me we’d just have to tell the truth if he didn’t come back. God bless fishermen-I hope the man and his special girl are at it right now and having a time of it.

    Reply
  19. Jess in Athens, GA - February 5, 2019 4:15 pm

    That was way beyond excellent or beautiful……..That’s one of your very best writings in my opinion. Made me stop and think about how much I love my special girl. I mean I think about her every day, but that made me reflect on just how much I love her and how much I need her. I’d be lost without her.

    Reply
  20. Jack Darnell - February 5, 2019 4:41 pm

    There are times common sense out weighs the educated opinion. Sometimes fishing solves problems OR eases the mind! Good one dude, I am glad to read that. I would hope my boys would do that!! (OR at lease find a 1955 Chevy to give me a ride in! LOL

    Reply
  21. Debbie Britt - February 5, 2019 5:35 pm

    I’m crying! Wee doggie!❤️

    Reply
  22. Connie Havard Ryland - February 5, 2019 8:11 pm

    Thanks for the update. I read the original story ages ago but thank you “for the rest of the story”…

    Reply
  23. Kathy Coxwell - February 6, 2019 2:49 am

    Beautiful!

    Reply
  24. rantsandravescom - February 6, 2019 8:47 am

    What a great family. It was a lovely gift they gave their father.
    Thanks for reading us about real caring.

    Reply
  25. Katherine - February 6, 2019 7:19 pm

    Brings back memories of my dad. Through tears I think about all the times he told his “boys” that he wanted to go fishing one more time……they didn’t take him…….

    Reply
  26. Julie Davis - February 7, 2019 3:33 pm

    Well, now I’m a mess! Reminds me of my daddy & when he would take me fishing. I imagine he’s catching the biggest fish ever these days. Thank you so much for this.

    Reply
  27. Gwen Monroe - February 7, 2019 9:07 pm

    Wee doggie. My Daddy use to say that. And ” dadburn it” when he got aggravated. Miss that sweet man. Thanks for the memories.

    Reply

Leave a Reply