For as long as I can remember my brother has loved fishing. He has loved everything about it from the solace of sitting on the riverbank and listening to the water as it flows by to the feel of the pole in his hands and even those wriggling disgusting worms as you thread them on the shiny hooks.
I remember as a child digging for worms so he could go fishing and I remember sometimes opening containers in the refrigerator thinking I’d find food only to find moist earth that seemed alive in it’s movement from the nightcrawlers. I always hated actually baiting the hooks but I understood the serenity of sitting on a riverbank and listening to the water.
It didn’t really seem to matter whether you actually caught many fish or not. Of course it was a bonus if you did catch them, but the act of just sitting there with a pole in your hand, communing with nature and clearing your head was the real prize.
Since I first got up here to Northern Virginia in February when Monte first found out he had cancer he’s been talking about him, my dad and my brother going fishing. That was a BIG part of his childhood and his adulthood. The rivers, streams and quarries of Nelson County have always seemed to sing a siren’s song and call him. Every once in a while it seemed he would just be compelled to go “back home” and fish.
Last week when hospice was called in and they started his liquid morphine under his tongue it seemed that his wish to go fishing again was not going to happen. I took my parents up to see him on Tuesday and Wednesday and he wasn’t very responsive. He slept most of both days.
Thursday morning he told his wife, Ana, that “Mommy and Daddy are coming to get me today to take me to play down by the river.” My cousin and I went to see him and he seemed so much better. He wanted to go sit down by the river. The Rappahanock that Suzi so eloquently wrote about last week. We found a nice little park right by the road and Edgar that he used to work with went with Cheryl and I to help get him out of the car and down there. We brought his folding lawn chair and got close enough to the river that he could see it, smell it and hear it over the sound of the traffic that was rolling by.
A few minutes later his brother in law called and when he found out we were at the river he asked if Monte wanted a fishing pole. Edgar asked him if he wanted him to bring a pole and he said “If he wants to” which lately means yes so I told him to tell Freddie to please bring a pole. He did and Monte got to sit there for about an hour with a fishing pole in his hand. All he caught was a couple of tree roots I think but I think the act of just sitting on that bank with a pole in his hand did his soul a world of good.
The fact that I got to witness him sitting there and enjoying something that he loves so much for maybe the last time both honored me and saddened me. I love my brother so much but watching him literally withering away is heartbreaking. As much as I love my brother and want him to stick around… I don’t want him to suffer and I know he is. I just hope when his time here is done that he gets to fish to his hearts content and “the one that got away” will be him.