And whether by accident or not, my grandmother, with the help of some unexpected and dark events, taught me something even more important than fishing, something that, even after such a long, long parade of days, I still cherish, like an antique fly rod, and wish to pass on.
The lesson happened in the middle of trout season, on the first day of summer, when several incidents came together, perhaps randomly, and formed the extraordinary event of June 21st. I was fourteen years old and very, very hurt and angry.
Why, you ask?
A year had passed since my grandfather died of a heart attack while fishing a nameless, but very beautiful, pool on the Junction River. My grandmother and father came to believe that if someone had been with him he might have lived.
But in spite of their belief, my grandmother often told me, “Amanda, be thankful he at least died doing what he loved. Besides, I know he’s waiting for me. Maybe by the time we meet again he’ll stop burping at the table.”
I tried to see it my grandmother’s way, but couldn’t. Deep down inside the truth was I desperately wanted him back so he could hug me and tell me fishing stories I knew weren’t all true. Besides, he lived close by, so he was the one I often ran to when the fighting between my mother and father—sometimes about all the money my mother was spending on pot—got real bad.
Whom did I blame for the fighting? I guess both of them even though I knew my father was only trying to stop my mother from getting high. And I wanted her to stop. I hated the smell of marijuana. The smell meant my mother watched television with a stupid grin on her face, a grin saying silently, but loudly: don’t even try to get me to help you with your homework.
To make things worse, I couldn’t look forward to my father coming home because that usually led to another fight and to me running to my room, slamming the door and putting a pillow over my head. The pillow filtered out most of the words, but the anger always found a way through, and made me pray for my mother to stop getting high.