Last month, Welsh photographer Philip Jones posted this picture of Llangwm in Facebook’s, “I live in Pembrokeshire and I Love it!” group. Loving the waters of South Wales, I was transported to awakening mornings to see the sun break over Fishguard harbor.
Philip generously allows me to write these stories inspired from his enticing photography. Make sure to visit his site.
A Sea of Grief
“Are you ready?”
Adam nodded, solemn as only a twelve-year-old could be.
I was surprised when he accepted my outstretched hand. My nephew was at that point where showing affection wasn’t a cool thing for a boy to do. I smiled and gave his fingers a squeeze.
We stepped into the cool water of Llangwm cove, glad for our waist-high waders even in the shallows. Further out, dense fog blended the bottoms of the handful of boats into the motionless gray water, hiding the depth of the sea. I knew where to place our feet because I’d made this trek a hundred times.
The early morning light was dim, dawn taking its time joining us. I’d awakened Adam at four and we’d eaten a quiet breakfast, got our fishing gear together and walked from the house to the edge of the water. I’ll admit to a moment’s gratification when Adam gasped at the first glimpse of pink-orange sun seeping through the thick, horizontal bank of low clouds.
We climbed on board and settled into the small boat.
“Aunt Sara, why is the boat named, ‘I’m A Sea’?”
“Because your grandpa had a sense of humor.”
“You know the phrase, ‘I’m all a sea,’ meaning that you’re somewhat lost, without direction? Maybe missing the thing that you should notice, right in front of you?”
“That’s how my dad felt when he came home from the war. Or from being in the military, I should say, since it was more than one war.” I thought of dad, rarely talking about those things, the times of his life that had made him who he so strongly was.
Adam didn’t look convinced, but with an adolescent’s pragmatism said okay.
I started the outboard motor and we puttered out of the inlet, the rising sun warming our backs. I watched him, admiring the resilience of the kid, get the poles prepared in the few minutes it took us to round Rocky Point. Shutting off the motor, the silence settled in and the lines were soon dangling in the calm water.
“When did grandma die?” Adam’s eyes stayed on his pole, avoiding my gaze.
“It’s been twenty years.” I thought of mom and smiled at the memory of her.
“Did you ever stop missing her?”
“Not a chance. Any time I think about her, I miss her.”
He was quiet for a few minutes, gently bobbing his line up and down in the motion dad had taught him. “So probably it’ll be that way for me about grandpa.”
“Probably.” The pull at my heart threatened to unleash the tears I was doing my adult best to hold back.
“Does it stop hurting?”
“No, it sure doesn’t, but it changes.”
Adam’s shoulders started to quake causing his line to jerk in the sea. I reached for him, aware that my hug may not be what he needed. His pole jumped and in a moment both hands were holding tight to pole and reel and he fought with what had to be a monster of a fish. Tears were rolling down his face and leaving droplets on his fleece as he started to laugh loudly and with much enthusiasm.
Bewildered, I watched him pull in a large mackerel and plop it into the bucket in the middle of the boat. Adam wiped his face and locked his pole into the holder on the side.
I couldn’t wait any longer, “What is so funny?”
“Oh, Aunt Sara, I started to think about how grandpa was always telling me he tried to catch that granddaddy of a trout on the lake and this fish was fighting hard and it felt like grandpa was sitting here telling me to pull the darned thing into the boat already, that it was time for elevenses, he was hungry, and I couldn’t stand it. I just started crying and laughing and I’m glad he was my grandpa, you know?” His large brown eyes implored me to understand.
I hugged him, “I sure do know, sweetie.”
“Is this how come you still miss grandma? Cause as long as you tell stories about her or I tell stories about grandpa, we kinda keep them with us, right?”
From the mouths of babes. “Right my sweet Adam.”
He dumped the bucket with the granddad of mackerels back in the water and started telling me grandpa stories I hadn’t heard before. We laughed so much that morning in I’m A Sea that we never did catch another fish.