Blindsided. That’s what it is. When a life happening suddenly startles my consciousness into complete awareness. Blindsided. My thoughts, my attention, my energies, are all going one direction. An unexpected stop sign pops up and there I stand, vulnerable and exposed, with complete different thoughts and feelings rushing around me.
Nonchalantly I walk into the card shop. Father’s day cards surround me. I hadn’t felt much since my Father’s death, but now, standing there, I realize there is no one left to receive a card. They are all gone. My grandfather, my Father-in-law, my step-Dad, my Father. I’m vulnerable and exposed. I’m startled, once again, by the frailty and finality of life. But I have to smile when I think of Jim.
Jim became my step-dad when I was still in High School. Jim was a commercial fisherman. My friends thought that was a very strange profession. Even though I grew up in southern California and although the beach was close, the canneries and fishing boats were not close by. So my friends thought my sudden love for fishing boats was completely off the wall.
Truth was he owned a fishing boat. He fished in what is known as the Catalina channel, that area of water between Catalina Island and the Southern California coast. He had a big butterfly like net which he would use to scoop up mackerel at night and during the daytime he would look for swordfish. He had a long plank out the front of the boat and when he spotted fins he would run out to the end of the plank and harpoon the fish. As soon as the boat was full, he would cruise over to the canneries in San Pedro or Newport Beach and sell his catch.
It was really neat. The best part was that on weekends he would take my Mother and me with him. We would help him look for swordfish and sometimes he would even let me harpoon a sunfish or something. Other times we would all go ashore and play on Catalina Island. I especially liked passing by the Navy ships. I’d get the binoculars out and check out whatever was on deck.
Jim, himself, was one of a kind. A renegade, a rascal, and one of the most lovable men I’ve ever met. The day he told me about his encounter with the sea monster we were sitting topside on the boat, searching the flat water for a fin which belonged to a swordfish. His well-worn captain’s hat and likewise skin made the sparkle in his eyes even more obvious. He grabbed my mother’s shoulder to make a point. It worked. I watched him then as I watch him now. But, now it’s with memories eyes. I believe him now as I believed him then.
It had started with Jim, but over the years I have watched a lot of fisherman. My husband and I were in Baja Sur, Mexico, it was early morning, and I was watching a fisherman as he swung the net over his head and dropped the perfect circle into the water. He waited and then suddenly jerked it closed. He lifted up the net and the flashes of silver revealed his success. He inverted the net and the sparkles fell into the inner tube which was floating next to him. I watched as he repeated the procedure. Although I had never seen this man before or seen very many net fishermen on the shores of the Sea of Cortez, it really does seem as though most of my life has been spent watching fishermen and it probably has.
When my husband and I became Christians, other’s attitude towards us may have changed, but never Jim’s. I marveled as much at his acceptance as I did at his idiosyncrasies. My attempts to tell him about this wonderful Savior were met with his simple logic. He claimed that since his past sins were committed with his full knowledge he couldn’t ask God to forgive him. For some reason, we could never get over that hurdle.
I gave up one day. We were alone in the car, and after 25 years and two strokes his argument was still the same. I knew it may be my last, or his last, chance. But the hurdle was still there. I gave up. All those years, all those discussions, all those prayers, and it was still the same obstacle. I gave up discussing and witnessing.
Months later, from the nursing home, he called my Mother to tell her he was a born again Christian. A Mexican preacher with a small group had held a meeting in the home and Jim had asked Christ into his heart. Jim? Where did the hurdle go? You mean there really are results from nursing home ministries?
Six months later he was gone.
So I watch the fisherman. As I’ve watched my husband, my son, my sons-in-law, my grandsons. The poles, the nets, the hooks, the spears, the boats. I’ve watched them all. And, I’ve participated. Sometimes you catch a lot, sometimes you catch nothing, and sometimes, you watch the guy in the next boat catch them all.