REMEMBER WHEN (fiction)
I picked him up at 10:00 a.m. and he was sitting on the porch dressed and ready to go. His wife greeted me as I walked up the steps and he looked up at me and smiled that familiar smile that I had come to know from our many years of friendship. Unfortunately the smile did not reflect the reality that a cruel disease had robbed him of all the memories that we shared together.
We had a lifetime of shared memories; camping, hunting and especially fly fishing. What adventures we shared, what places we had experienced together, what wonders of creation that we had witnessed. There was that trip to Alaska when we rented a raft and spent a glorious week floating, fishing and camping. We roped the raft down through boulder strewn rapids, we camped on gravel bars constantly watching for bears and we caught salmon, grayling and trout that are the stuff of dreams.
We had rituals that involved several trips during the year to special places. We traveled to Montana in the spring and again in the fall, fishing the legendary streams; the Madison, Missouri, the Bighorn and the fabulous spring creeks. There were the fall duck hunts and the comradery of setting hunched over in a cold duck blind watching the sky for the incoming birds. We shared days afield looking for upland birds and for deer and cold crisp days pushing the hedgerows for cottontail rabbits. Now they are only memories and I am unable to tell if behind that enigmatic smile he remembers any of those times.
Today we were going fishing together again. There is a pond near his house that is owned by a friend that is filled with panfish; bluegills, crappie, perch and bass and a couple times a month I picked up my old friend and we spent a few hours at the pond. There is a short dock on the pond and I would take a chair and my old friend could set down and we would fish. Despite the fact that he no longer could talk and I was unsure if he understood anything that we were doing if I put a fly rod in his hand he would cast. I would strip off enough line so that he could make a short cast and then I would put the rod in his hand and he would cast. Somewhere in the recesses of his brain the memory still existed and the muscles would respond, not a sloppy attempt but a crisp cast that had a tight loop and a smooth crisp delivery. Unfortunately after the cast was made there seemed to be no connection between what he had just done and why he had done it. I would take the rod from his hand and if I hooked a fish I would land it and show it to him. He would smile and then I would put the rod back in his hand and he would cast again. He never seemed to tire of casting and watching me hook and land fish but beyond the casting there did not seem to be any further connection with what we were doing.
Time passed and although his smile never failed he became less and less responsive. We could no longer make our trips to the pond but I would come and sit with him. I would talk to him about our trips and he would simply smile but when I looked in his eyes they were blank. Often he would fall asleep while I was talking but I would continue to talk hoping that he could hear me.
One cold winter day, one of those days when we might spend tying flies together, the phone rang and my old friend had slipped away in the night. Somewhere along the road of life I had lost the physical companionship of my friend but I never lost the friend that shared so many of life's special moments. I still see his smile and it warms my heart.