Our family likes to fish. Well, at least most of the men do – and, by most of the men, I mean our dad, myself, and my late grandfather on my mom’s side. Uncle Smokey likes to stay clean and avoid things like fish guts and the woods. Smokey smokes so he doesn’t have to breathe other people’s exhalations. It’s not the nicotine, it’s the FILTER. Anyway, he was tricked into fishing a couple times, but now he’s onto us.
One day our non-fishing grandfather decided he would put in some time with the grandkids and go fishing with us. He shocked everyone by getting up from his spot in front of the TV, setting his beer on the coffee table and announcing he was coming along fishing (I suspect the Raider game may have been blacked out). We all paused. Grampa Art had spent World War 2 in the Pacific, and that was pretty much enough outdoor excitement for the rest of his life. He was interested in playing golf and watching sports. And watching golf.
We all piled into a car and drove off to the water. We pulled up to a pier on the San Francisco Bay. We each were handed something to carry. Smokey and I had my tackle box and a rod, dad had chairs and the overly optimistic net, Gramps had bought the beer and the bait. He handed the bag of bait to MILK, who was 3 or 4, to carry so she could feel like she was contributing.
We got to the railing and set up. Grampa cracked a beer and began retelling the story of the time he fell in the water with his good binoculars on… (the punchline was that they always had a view of the water after that HAR HAR!) You could trigger this story merely by showing him a picture of a sailboat – old men are great that way. Our father set about untangling my perfectly kept fishing gear and trying to rig a hook and sinker set. When he finally finished, he asked for the bait. “MILK has it,” Grampa said.
We looked over at her where she sat with an empty bag, still happily chewing, her little cheeks puffed out like a hamster’s.
“I guess she was really hungry,” Grampa deadpanned. “Don’t you ever feed that kid?”
“Oh for the love of…” Dad sighed. “Yeah, I’m hungry too, anybody want to get a sandwich?” Dad gestured at the tourist trap dockside diner nearby.
“Sure!” I said and began haphazardly stuffing line and gear back into my tackle box. “maybe they have some bait for sale in there.”
“Probably better if mom doesn’t hear about this,” he added.
Gramps just nodded. Then he added, “or your grandmother.”
It was better if mom didn’t hear about a lot of things.