When I imagine a place I’d love to visit, my first thoughts are not the historic buildings of Paris or the bustling streets of New York City. Instead, my vision lies on a quiet cove in a big lake. A small Texas town, barely on the map. A boat with a flat bottom and metal seats notorious for scorching the back of one’s legs on a hot summer day. Two simple fishing poles propped between the bow of the boat and an ambitious tackle box. Loose lead weights rolling on the floor with every soft wake. In the driver seat, my grandfather, aged, but still full of youth, smiling at the simpleness of his favorite pastime.
I’ve been there before, though at the time I remember being a bit bored. I’ve never enjoyed fishing much. The entire principle of hooking a creature and throwing it in a cold ice chest to suffocate always disturbed me a little. Looking back now, however, I wish I could have better appreciated the artful sport. My grandfather could hook a fish with ease, and reel it in skillfully regardless of size. Myself, on the other hand, always struggled with the easiest aspects of of the sport. I recall him teaching me how to cast a line and how, as a child, I was concerned only with how far I could send it, rather than finding a good spot for it to go.
I remember I used to live about two blocks down from his house, and that I passed it on the days I rode my bike to school. Some days, I could wave to him as he was drinking his first of many cups of coffee on his front porch. Other days, my sister and I would stop by after school to visit with him (and raid his cookie jar) before we went home. We would usually watch TV with him and forget to call home, so our mother always called about half an our later, usually a little irritated, but she was happy he had visitors. On the weekends, we would eat dinner with him and my grandmother. We always complained that the mashed potatoes had too much pepper, but now mine do too. He had a huge pecan tree and my cousins and I spent hours outside collecting the fallen nuts. On Halloween, he would decorate his house better than any other house in town. He would have the scariest, most elaborate costumes. Trick-or-Treaters looked forward to his house every year, much like I did.
My grandfather was much younger then; more content with how he’d spent his life. Although he is still alive, there are days that I can tell he is not with me. His chronic pain keeps him up at night and irritated during the day. I now spend more time driving him to doctor's appointments than anything either of us would enjoy. I don’t mind at all though, as he deserves every bit of help I can offer.
This is a man who was raised a cowboy and has been one ever since. He married a beautiful woman who blessed him with five mouths to feed, and them with 12 grandchildren, and them with (so far) two great-grandchildren. She has taught me that while he seems perfect to me, he's always kind of been a pain. Still, if I had a one way ticket to anywhere, it’d be to his favorite spot on a lake, where his memories are intact and his joints move freely, and I could enjoy the witty jokes and endless laughs for another day.