A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth. Instead of its bringing sad and melancholy prospects of decay, it would give us hopes of eternal youth in a better world. ~Maurice Chevalier
The pier has grown old, decrepit, feeble. I find this sad for that pier, over the years, has provided me with countless hours of joy, countless memories, countless moments of solitude where I contemplated my life one fishing cast at a time. It extends 8 feet from the shore with skinny legs set deep into the lake water providing stability when the waves coming crashing in after the speed boats zip by in their continual loops around the lake.
When I was really young and still enjoyed swimming, it was the platform from which, under the watchful eye of my mother with her head buried in a book, I launched myself into the water. The dives were of the racing variety because the water was not very deep and, by race diving, I only penetrated a foot or so beneath the surface. Or we ran and launched ourselves as far as possible like the long jumpers in the Olympic games. The abrupt entires were my way of overcoming the coldness of the water quickly, in one fell swoop where I instantly went from hot and dry to soaking wet. When the swimming was finished and we were chilled, we lay our towels on the pier and warmed ourselves in the sun high overhead and, at times, getting very sunburned.
Many a night, the pier held our clothing as we skinny dipped our evening bath. That was a time before my parent’s land had a house and we had to take showers at the lodge. Unfortunately, the lodge closed early so, many nights, a shower was not in the cards. We always used ivory soap for this ritual because the soap was biodegradable and, more importantly, floated in the event it was accidentally dropped or the next person missed the catch when it was thrown to them. I never did get used to the weeds rubbing against my legs in the pitch black of those evenings.
It was on that pier during one very lonely era of my life that I carved the words into it’s soft flesh, “One is the loneliest number I will ever be”. I was surrounded by people yet oh so very lonely because I seemed to be unable to make deep, soul nourishing friendships, seemed to always be the odd man out in the groups, seemed always to be distant from everyone but myself. It would be a few years after that night when I learned to both be a friend and have friends.
More than anything, the pier was a place we sat as we fished for the ubiquitous pan fish; bluegill, bait stealing perch, aggressive pumpkinseed, the occasional bullhead with it’s prickly whiskers and slimy, black skin, and the infrequent crappie that was so much bigger than the others it seemed to be a monster, was definitely a prized catch. I have spent more hours fishing on that pier than anything else, more hours fishing and bonding with those closest to me, those I love more than anyone else in this world.
We caught fish there but the time on the pier was about so much more than catching fish. The time on the pier was about bonding, about togetherness, about loving family, about passing the torch of togetherness from one generation to the next.
It was on this pier where my daughters landed seemingly identical nine inch pumpkinseeds one misty afternoon when they were still toddlers. It was on this pier when my son, at the impressionable age of 5, caught his first largemouth bass and became hooked forever on the challenge of landing the big one. It was on that pier I fished with my dad on tranquil evenings while the waves gently lapped the shore and bats flitted for insects talking about the mysteries of life (what I wouldn’t give for one more evening with him at my side), fished with my children hoping to instill in them the love of family time, and fished with my grandson many years later doing my best to pass on the legacy of love my dad and mom passed down to me hoping he will pass it on to his grandchildren long after I have breathed mortal breath.
More and more often, I feel like that pier looks. My body has lost it’s youthful ability to bounce back from adversity, from injury. We both have scars from decades of wear and tear. There are times when the ache in my knees makes it painful to walk and I must resort to medication for pain free walking as the pier resorts to splints and surgically repaired legs to keep it afloat. I wonder, if the pier could speak, what memories it would hold dear to it’s aged heart. For me, the memories associated with the pier are many, are cherished, are some of the most precious in my life.