My brother and I use to fish the rivers to the north. We would make a day of it, waking before dawn and driving up in the mountains that further delayed the sun’s rise. The fish are more fierce there, my brother once explained to me when I was young. I had believed him, because to a young child, anything that could survive under the ice of frozen rivers and lakes were more than just a little awe inspiring.
I remember the peace that would come over my brother as he cast. The natural ease in the motions spoke of his devotion to the craft, and it always motivated me to try harder with my own casts. I could never make the line dance like my brother, but he would always smile at my attempts. He always took the time to teach me, to slow down my eagerness to throw the line as far as it could fly. Through his patience I learned so much. I never asked him why he troubled himself to bring me along on these trips. Fishing gave my brother peace of mind. Even when I was young I noticed how relaxing it was for him. For hours he would fish in silence, long after I grew bored and took to the woods to see what varmints I could rouse for entertainment. When I came back to the river banks, he would still be there, wanting to cast just one more line out over the waters.
Now that I am older, and can look back with new perspective, and I can understand part of the reason why my brother brought me along. We lost our father when I was two and our mother was always busy with working two, sometimes three jobs in order to make ends meet. I didn’t know what it was like to have a father, but in fact I never spared it any thought. I had my older brother, who took it upon himself to fill that role in my life, and I didn’t feel like I needed anything else. When I was older I found a photograph of him and our late father, together at the edge of a lake and him a young child holding fast to his ‘first catch’.
Perhaps he fathered over me because it eased his own pain, or to remember the father I never knew. Whatever my brother might have been feeling during those times remains a mystery to me. It never occurred to me to ask. I do that while I was still a child, he never allowed me to see the darkness of the world. The sadness and the pain. He created light and happiness for me. I grew up content and full. And when I stepped out into the world on my own, I had the strength of him behind me.
When he left for the war, I didn’t occur to me that he wouldn’t come back home.
I miss him, and as I hold my own son in my arms now, I can’t help but thank him for all that he gave me. One day, when my son is old enough, I am going to take him fishing in the mountains. I’m going to tell him about the fish living under the ice and how they fight their way upstream. I am going to tell them they are the fiercest of fish and I hope he smiles at me and believes every word. I’ll teach him to cast the right way and when he messes up over and over, I’ll smile and show him the correct way over and over. I’ll do my best to give him everything that my brother gave me.