Author’s note: In 1982 my middle brother, Alan, donated a kidney to our younger brother, Terry. This is a story I wrote in 2002 about familial love and a gift of life – with a little fishing thrown in for good measure. Ten years later, Alan and Terry celebrated the 30th anniversary of that transplant and another fishing trip was planned to celebrate that life changing event.
Dawn: June 11, 2002 – Stuart, Florida on the Atlantic Coast
The alarm clock reads 6:00 and though still not quite awake, my adrenaline is beginning to assert itself. The much-anticipated fishing trip to these vaunted waters is close at hand. I head to the balcony of our motel to check the wind and I see my youngest brother, Terry, down by the pool studying his Bible. Nothing surprising there — He studies the Good Book with great passion. It was he who put this trip together, not just for enjoyment, but as a celebration.
It was not a birthday celebration but rather to honor a day 20 years ago when Alan, his older brother, gave him the gift of life – a kidney. That gift, so freely given, has allowed Terry to live a life filled with family, fun, and work that would hardly have been otherwise possible.
As on any fishing trip there are memories. I never thought it would be so much fun catching bait. Those little gold hook rigs magically caught greenies and sardines three, four and five at a time. The legions of barracudas lurking close by took exception to our stealing their breakfast and often would cut them in half before we could get the little baitfish back to the surface.
The barracudas were not the only predators prowling about. A large fin cutting through the surface hammered what was likely a 10- to 20-pound king mackerel we had hooked. That large fin turned out to be a six-foot shark. No more king mackerel. It was pretty awe-inspiring to watch the top of the food chain going about his daily routine.
It was certainly hair-raising to see a big barracuda gaffed and flopped into what was seconds before a crowded portion of the boat. When the big ‘cuda came aboard he and his evil looking mouthful of teeth had the back of the boat to himself. I had seen those chompers at work earlier in the day and had no wish to make a close inspection of them. Putting a still irate barracuda in the boat with you is like biting a green plum. You know it ain’t ready and you wish you hadn’t done it.
Sometimes the low points of the trip are memorable. On our first day out, the mighty Atlantic Ocean was tossing about with considerable vigor. My cohorts and I had certain feelings of discomfort that made a trip to the rest area a necessity. I will have to say that, even after a trip to the bowels (no pun intended) of the boat, I was not cured, but only temporarily relieved. Other trips were needed to purge that disgusting disease which can only be completely cured by putting both feet firmly on the dock.
As on any good fishing trip the thrill of the fight is what we all looked forward to. There was plenty of action to go around and lots of singing drags to keep our attention. There were numerous tired arms and legs when a fighting king finally succumbed to the pressure of hook and line.
All these highlights notwithstanding one moment of the trip stood clearly above the rest. Strangely enough it happened, not fishing on the deep blue sea, but at supper when everyone was clean and relaxed. It was during that moment that Terry stopped and paid tribute to his older brother, Alan, for what that gift had meant to his life. It was a moment when Alan shared his innermost feelings of family love and the pride he took in being able to help his brother through a terrible time. In that same moment, grown men on a macho fishing trip could not keep their eyes dry and a fishing trip turned into a celebration of life.