Ever since I can remember, my beloved 87-year old grandfather, Grampie, has had a hearing problem. It has gotten worse in the last twenty years, and he hates his hearing aids. They must not be comfortable (or maybe he’s hiding from Grandma!) as he’d rather not hear what’s going on than wear them.
As his hearing loss progressed, more times than not, I’d come to visit, receive my hug, and we’d sit in silence, or I’d catch up with my grandmother while he looked on. Occasionally, he’d chime in about a subject unrelated to our discussion, and we did our best to yell our response slowly so he could read our lips. It occurred to me that I hadn’t had a real conversation with Grampie in many years.
He used to fly fish. In fact, when reading Gary Borger’s “Nymphing,” I stumbled across a story of the two of them fishing together. I thought of him often while attending fly fishing school two years ago, and I couldn’t wait to tell him about it. As I imagined his reaction to this girly-girl’s new “hobby,” I wondered how I could possibly tell him. Every story became reduced to one or two words, hoping he’d understand them. Would I say, “I fish!” or “I’ve learned!” Maybe I’d shout, “Can you believe it?”
I decided to bring a photo, instead. My first fish on a fly rod.
I skipped into my grandparents’ cozy home with that picture in hand. I set it on the table in front of him, and the most amazing thing happened. He put in his ears for me, and we talked. I told him all about school, and he asked me about flies. He gave me his well-worn copy of Selective Trout, and we bonded in a special new way.
Ever since then, he puts in his ears when I walk in the door, and we talk about my fishing adventures. Where I’ve been, what flies I’ve used... and he shares stories and secrets of fishing spots I hope to visit someday.
On my most recent visit, I brought pictures from fly fishing in Florida. I caught fish that I’m pretty sure he’d never caught, and I was excited to share.
I showed him a picture of me holding a Jack, with my manicure matching the blue ocean.
I showed him a speckled sea trout with two crazy vampire teeth!
I showed him a ladyfish, still dripping salt water. He asked if ladyfish are pretty small, and I searched for a particular photo of me with the biggest ladyfish I'd caught. I pulled up the photo and a look of total bewilderment came across his face.
I expected him to comment on how big the fish is, or ask a question about the size of the rod, but he looked at me and asked, “You got a dress on?!”
I laughed and smiled, as his two visions of his granddaughter collided: the sundress-wearing, jewelry-sparkling, manicured princess who wears inappropriately fancy shoes, and the soon-to-be serious angler with a desire to learn and a heart full of passion.