He Was Ready!

Rose Of My Heart

We’re the best partners this world’s ever seen

Together as close as can be

But sometimes it’s hard to find time in between

To tell you what you are to me

When sorrow holds you in her arms of clay

It’s raindrops that fall from your eyes

Your smile is the sun come to earth for a day

You brighten my blackest of skies

You are the rose of my heart

You are the love of my life

A flower not faded nor falling apart

If you’re cool let my love make you warm

Rose of my heart

Hugh Moffatt


Yes, he was ready! Now if the fish would just cooperate.

He remembered when he had first met his Rose. She worked at a coffee shop on the pier and he was stricken—like a lightning bolt he would later say—the first time he saw her. She had a passion for life that was matched only by the love, tenderness, and respect that she showered on him. He had thought that fishing was his one true love in life until he met her but had quickly rearranged his priorities. If love is truly shared, theirs was the ultimate example. Yes, physically passionate at times, especially at first, but more importantly, long term, an emotionally passionate bonding that could weather the inevitable ups and downs that take place during almost every relationship. It seems simplistic to say, but there was an unspoken but acknowledged understanding that each was the most important thing in the other person’s life. Theirs would be a lifetime affaire d’amour: an affair of love.

He would write her poems, sometimes short, comical and nonsensical, sometimes long, passionate vows of love that would have made Scharazade proud. She would send him hidden notes and when found, they would always bring a small tear of appreciation to his eyes. But there would be no more notes.

He was ready if the fish would just cooperate.

He also remembered his first visits to the pier. The visits were with his father, another passionate person. His father seemed to exude a passion about life itself but especially enjoyed his job, his main hobby—fishing, and his family. As soon as “little” John was old enough to safely fish from the pier, he thought it was when he was about four, daddy took him out to the pier. Patiently his father taught his son how to cut and prepare the bait, how to place the bait on the hook, and then he showed him how he would one day be able to cast a rod. As for “little” John, a hand line over the side of the pier proved productive. Small hooks and small baits dropped down in the depressions between the pilings yielded a seemingly unending number of perch, small croakers, and battlin’ mackerel. It’s true that one day little John dropped a hook down through a small hole on the pier and hooked a fish too big to be brought up through the hole. But for his dad, it only brought more praise and affection; amazingly he never remembered being scolded for the mistakes that small boys can make on a pier.

By age five he had his own pole and it wasn’t much after that that he caught his first white seabass (after a very early morning bait catchin’ expedition to catch the live bait needed to attract the bass). Before dawn had arrived they had a bucket of lively herring and just as the sun was rising over the inland hills John caught the 14-pound fish that seemed as big as he. That summer, after catching bonito, barracuda, and halibut from the pier, he was accepted as a regular by the pier rats, the youngest member of the fraternity to be so honored. It was simply one more development in the life of “young” John but it brought a special pride to his father.

As he grew so did his skills at catching fish and by the time he reached his teens he began to fish the barges and half-day boats that called the pier their home. His father sometimes went with him but was often too busy to go along.

Eventually, “John” branched out and would ride the waves to Catalina and San Clemente Island. Even later there were trips down the coast to the magical (it seemed) home of the yellowtail—the Corondo Islands. Eventually he could say he had traveled to most of the era’s hot spots: San Felipe for giant totuava, Mulege for big yellows and roosterfish, the middle islands in Baja for giant bass, La Paz and Cabo San Lucas for marlin, dorado and yellowfin. The fishing was great but he did always miss one thing, the fact that his dad was not along as a companion. True he had a number of friends who accompanied him on his trips but he always wished his father had been able to see and experience the fishing.

His father preferred to fish from the piers. He took pride in the occasional lunker-fish but was content to visit his friends, wet his lines for a few hours, and enjoy the life at the pier. Yes, he liked to catch a fish, but the fishing itself seemed more important than the fish. His only regret was, similar to John’s, that they got little chance to fish with one another. His son had become an adept angler who, like many, wanted to try for more and more, bigger and bigger fish. It took him away. And then one day there was Rose, but he understood John’s affection for her. She was not only a good person, but a person good for John, and he was pleased that his son had found such a prize. Yes, Rose was that rare woman who possessed a combination of beauty, intelligence, a sense of humor, and devotion to her mate. No, he didn’t begrudge the fact that Rose took much of John’s time away from him, he simply missed the time he and John had spent together on the pier and knew that time once lost could never be recovered.

John remembered the day his mother had called. His father had suffered a heart attack while fishing on the pier. Except for his doctor, no one had known he was even sick, but apparently the arteries had hardened over the years and the exertion of fighting a big old bat ray, a hundred-pounder or so, had been enough to end his life. At the funeral, his father’s friends, half jokingly, had said it was a great way to go but their comments had little affect on John at the time. His father, whom he loved, was gone and there seemed an emptiness in John’s soul that would never go away. Thank God he had Rose to pull him through his darkest days; her love sustained and continued to give meaning to his life.

Yes he was ready! Now if the fish would just cooperate.

Many years passed and John continued to fish the boats but increasingly the thrill of catching the big ones was gone. Perhaps it was the sheer number of fish he had caught over the years; perhaps it was the excesses in take he had witnessed on the boats. And, although it might be true to some extent that the “golden years” of California fishing seemed over, that the fish were reduced both in number and size, the biggest change was in John himself.

One day, John decided to return to his father’s pier. He was content to once again visit the pier, see his old friends, and catch an occasional fish. Although the passion to fish still lingered, his purpose for angling had evolved. He appreciated the fish he caught and zealously guarded the environment at the pier. One day he almost was attacked for reproaching an angler who failed to follow the rules. No, he didn’t own the pier, but he and his fellow pier rats felt as though it was their duty to protect the pier and the fish. No one would be allowed to abuse this home away from home. And John now realized that it was this fact, that the pier was a home away from home, and that the pier enabled a family of friends to enjoy the sport together, that was important thing. It was the real attraction for his father. It wasn’t the fish as much as the community of angler-friends. He also realized that the time away from his father—and the pier—was a cause of the emptiness he felt following his father’s death. It was guilt of a sort, even if an undeserved guilt. The things that plague men’s minds are often wholly without reason but where logic and emotion mix there is often confusion.

He was ready, were the fish?

He remembered the day he got the worst of all possible news, Rose had lung cancer and was going to die. The news nearly caused his own death and he could still vividly recall the excruciating pain that had seemed to grab his body, as well as the numbing fear that he would not see Rose again. Rushed to the hospital with a heart attack, his first memories were of awakening to Rose’s soothing voice. She saved him and nursed him back to health even while she herself was losing the battle against the deadly disease. John reciprocated and even while still frail himself repaid his duty to Rose as she herself slowly withered away. Never would his passion and love wane as he attended to her every need and worked to make her life comfortable. Cancer can be a cruel and terrible thing but John proved that true love can also temper the pain and ease the suffering. John pleaded and begged with his God to spare her life but to no avail. The doctor had been right and Rose had been unable to avoid the hands of death. John would gladly have traded places but such actions are only in the realm of fiction, he would go on while she was gone.

But there was a price to pay for the agonies that John endured. John had tearfully held on to his “Pretty Rose” as her life ebbed away, kissed her cheeks, closed her eyes upon death, and then collapsed himself. It was another heart attack but this was a massive attack, one from which he was lucky to survive. At least that was what the doctor’s said. Machines and skilled hands kept him alive, even if at times it seemed against his will. Now his doctor was adamant: bed rest and minimal activity for at least the next few months. A full-time nurse was assigned to his care and John seemed to accept his status as an invalid. He would watch a little TV but most of his time was spent reading Rose’s old letters and going through a lifetime of “things” that Rose and John had collected over the years. The bell collection that she had amassed was sent to a favorite niece. The crystal Christmas trees and her beautiful Christmas plates went to their granddaughter. Her prized collection of recipes was donated to the “Gourmet Club” where once she had been president. Their record, tape and CD collection was sent to a local charity, all that is except for the records that contained “their” love songs, and they had several. Within a month John had gone through, organized, and disposed of most of their things. He seemed content and the nurse was pleased with his progress.

But though his body was still weak, John’s mind was strong, and he remembered the days at the pier, his father, and his father’s funeral. One day he convinced his nurse Rachel that a little fresh air at the pier would be good for his health. Maybe he could even catch a few small fish as long as he took it easy? After checking with the doctor she said it seemed OK and helped him pack the light rod and reel and tackle box that he said he needed. The drive to the pier was amicable and he seemed in good spirits. After sitting him down on the bench, and seeing him drop his light tackle into the water, she headed over to the coffee shop.

Of course John had no intention of catching small fish. He had arranged to borrow one of his friend’s heavier poles and soon cast out the requisite whole squid baited on a big hook. His goal was one of those big ol’ mud marlins, a bat ray, and hopefully it would weigh a hundred pounds, just like that one that had taken his father’s life.

Yes, he was ready to see Rose—and his father! Now if the fish, the big fish, would just cooperate

Ken Jones —2003

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