August 31st 2011
The quiet ripples in the lake were almost covert under the glare of the sun; soft wrinkles in the water formed whenever the line moved. Doss tried to keep still, but every few minutes the wind would snatch the line and make it dance along the water – dark shadows of fish lurking underneath scattered like a firework, scales glinting rainbow just under the surface.
He’d been out here for hours already, since the sun rose, and every day before that. Fishing was something that ran in Doss’ family and he was raised on the water – raised with the tackle box as a rite of passage into manhood. The cottage was old and run down, but he wasn’t here to for that.
He came for the lake.
Doss was taught to fish by his grandfather, and come up to his cottage every summer and every weekend he could. He grandfather had retired not long ago – his lifetime at the steel factory reflected in his joints and back. And still Doss joined him as much as he could, taking time away from his job as an IT consultant to come help care for the cottage now that Nan had passed.
Doss had been waking up earlier than usual lately, as he was getting more and more worried about his grandfather’s arthritis and immobility.
There was talk about selling his cottage and moving him to a retirement home, as there were a lot of repairs needed and with his condition he just couldn’t handle it anymore.
“There will be a nurse on staff 24 hours a day, Doss,” His mother would say.
“There will be fishing trips organized!” His uncle Matt had told him.
Doss sat on the grass against the tree every morning, line in the water, trying to forget about it. All the wonderful memories at the cottage would be swept away forever. He grew up here. The breeze rustling through thick maple trees was the only sound audible, and the smell of sweet grass and sand put Doss at ease.
A tear formed and slowly slid to his chin, comprised of all the feelings he was afraid to share with his family. ‘I don’t want to be without him.’
A crack came from behind him as a twig snapped – two sparrows darted out of a low hanging branch and waltzed in the wind before settling on an adjacent Willow. Doss turned his head to see his grandfather slowly making his way down the path, taking a few extra steps of footing each time before moving his cane farther down the trail.
Silently he made his way to Doss and sat beside him on the blanket under the tree.
“You caught your first fish under this tree.” He smiled staring out at the lake – the lines in his face engraved with memories of happiness and loss. Doss looked at him and nodded, reeling in his line to put more bait on it. “Let me.”
Doss held his rod firm and gradually lead the end of the line right by his grandfather who took the hook daintily in one hand, while grabbing for a worm with the other. His smile turned to concentration as he fumbled with the hook, missing the bait each time as his fingers - crippled with a life’s worth of manual labour – could hardly bend to manoeuvre around the metal clasps. When he realized he wouldn’t be able to do it, the look of devastation in his grandfather’s eyes made Doss’s heart ache.
“Here, Poppa,” Doss lightly took the hook from him and easily baited it, throwing the line back in the water, “don’t worry about it.” The two men sat quietly as Doss reeled in and re-cast his line, looking out onto the water. He was trying to find the words to tell his grandfather he still needed him, and Doss wanted him to know that he loved him – he meant the world to him.
Unexpectedly his grandfather’s hand landed on Doss’ wrist, stopping him from reeling in his line. Doss turned, worried, and looked at him, his wrist grasped by a man whom he adored.
“I love you, son,” his grandfather had tears in his eyes too; a man who went through a war across the world was now overcome with emotion, “and I need’ya to know, that this cottage can be torn to the ground today for all I care. You’re the only thing I care about.” His hand squeezed Doss’ wrist and the feeling of loneliness and sadness left Doss completely, relief washed over him.
There both of them sat, on a blanket under a tree overlooking the lake in silence; the same lake that had changed their lives and created a bond that transcended time. The same lake a young Doss claimed to be too small and vowed to leave behind.
He looked over at his grandfather who was smiling – eyes gleaming – his face truly devoid of worry. Doss smiled too. And now all he wanted in this world was to stay.