by Gail Monroe
Although this love story is written as fiction, it is being lived out in real life.
|Every time Aunt Hattie retold the story, it got better and better. What made it all the richer was the listener didn’t know if each story was true, or not. Going back fifty years often made the details sketchy. We had heard the story many times as we were growing up. When we were children, we were held captive by Aunt Hattie’s story-telling way with words. As adults, we would smile with understanding.
It seemed Aunt Hattie went on a trip. Of course, Aunt Hattie was always going on trips; the surprise this time was she didn’t come back. At least not right away.
Aunt Hattie met a man. Not just any man either, but a rugged fisherman who lived in a fisherman’s shack. Hattie didn’t mind. Giving up a lucrative job, large house, and nearness to family and friends, she packed up a big yellow truck for the long journey, said her goodbyes, and headed south to join him. Shocked and well-meaning people tried to offer advice, both good and bad. It didn’t matter, Aunt Hattie went anyway.
Her fisherman would head out in a big boat most every day. Sometimes he was gone for two or three days. It was told Aunt Hattie was right there at the dock to greet him when he came in. “My fisherman” she called him with love in her voice. Some family members turned up their nose at his supposed lack of education and roughhewn ways, while others watched with trepidation. Still others saw it as a great American love story. Of course it was not idyllic. There were moments as there are in any relationship, but from what was told, to see them together was all that was needed to know the love was real.
He taught her everything she needed to know: how to bait a hook with shrimp, perch, or crabs; what bait to use under what circumstance; how to cast out and reel in. He bought her the choicest pole and reel he could find so she could bring in a wonderful catch. He showed her the best places to fish on the island he loved so much. He willingly cleaned the fish she caught and many times even cooked the fish as she prepared the side dish. They often went snorkeling together experiencing the beauty and wonder of the underwater world.
Their new house was a true fisherman’s home. Fishing poles hung from the living room ceiling, parallel to the floor; fishing hooks and sinkers dotted the landscape of dressers and end tables; fillets filled the freezer, ready for the next meal. He was the go-to man among his friends and longtime island visitors. His cell phone actively involved in the relaying of information: the weather, the hottest fishing spots, the latest catch and, of course, the details: who caught what, where, how long was it, and what did it weigh.
She told of time passing quickly; of plans made and never fulfilled. But, she also spoke of the hours they spent on the boat, or standing on the jetty fishing in their spare time. After a long trip of helping others catch their fish, he would disembark, head home to rest for a few hours, then go to the pier and fish far into the night. He loved his life and he loved his island. Aunt Hattie loved her fisherman.
Many years later, Aunt Hattie returned. Her beloved fisherman was gone. His ashes sent to the four winds across the Gulf of Mexico where he had spent his life. She always said he hated to be confined and she sure as shootin’ wasn’t going to imprison him in a pine box and stick him under ground. Aunt Hattie was quite a character. She said he needed his freedom and she needed to know her fisherman was where he would have wanted to be.
Everyone needs a “fisherman” in their life. Someone who can so win their heart they are willing to give up everything familiar to follow their destiny; to journey into a life of unknown. The life of Aunt Hattie and her fisherman was not always understood by some, seen as a wonderful romantic adventure by others, and lived out day to day with love and passion. It was great love story that she always re-told with a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.