It was a warm July day and where Lauren sat on the riverbank the long-bladed grass rose up to her shoulders. In her lap she held his old wicker creel, its top open, and inside an ancient Pflueger reel, a well-worn, oiled leather fly wallet, and beside them, taking most of the space, a dull silver urn.
Watching the gentle river slip by the young woman recalled the dream that brought her here. In it she saw the old man wading slowly across the saltwater flat, looking to where the pale turquoise ended at the reef and became a vast azure horizon. The open, seamless water was the terminal end of the river of time, birthed high in the mountains of his past. He held the rod low, looking for one last prize.
In her dream it became springtime and he fished for small, bejeweled eastern brook trout. The light, wispy flyrod fit his young man’s hand and trout came willingly and joyously in the dance of youth and light. Then it was summer, and he fished placid, lazy lakes, where damselflies skimmed sun-burnished water as sullen brown trout and feisty rainbows rose often to sup on the flittering hatch. She saw the old man was reenacting times from his stories, the many scenes of a young man’s unappreciated days, spent passionately, but all too quickly.
Now, in her dream it was autumn, the season of somber water, muscular current and dark, raw-boned cold – a time for rivers of resolute salmon, lorded over by grizzly bears, and haunted by eagles perched high in the bold, yellow aspens.
Finally, back on the saltwater flat in her dream, the light was fading but she sensed he had one final cast to make and watched as he held his flyrod firmly and low, walking slowly toward the drop-off. Sunset was a thin line of green fire retreating behind him as the old man stepped over the reef into the deep blue ocean and waded toward the New Moon. With skill born of a lifetime, he powered the rod’s arc to unroll a perfect cast into a school of emerging stars.
Lauren knew it was her father’s wish that they go fishing one, last time. He’d whispered it to her in that room with the gray light coming in the windows that he never left. So, this was it, and it was good. She rose from the grass carrying the urn and stepped down the bank into the slow current. At midstream she unscrewed the lid, tipping its contents out, letting the ashes fall to the surface and drift away.
“Welcome home, Dad,” she said. “Tight lines.”