I grew up on the water.
when I was too young to swim,
I’d float behind him in a metal tub with a tube wrapped around it, attached to his belt loop.
once I could swim,
I’d catch shrimp with my toes in the mud,
and scoop crabs. . . until the water was over my head, and the tide carried me off.
then I’d have to go back in the tub.
eventually I could stand and swim and throw my own net.
even pull my own tub, with my sister in it.
it’s how he “watched” us.
we saw alligators.
some nights we’d stay until the water and sky were both black. . . so we’d have to climb in the tub and float behind him since he couldn’t see what was around us.
most mornings we’d start before the sun came up.
we never even knew as kids,
to be scared.
in fact, cast net fishing and crabbing was one of the very few things we knew at all.
I’m only now learning, just how terrible of a caretaker he actually was. . . .
((& also, how lucky))
my nephew goes home tomorrow,
& they couldn’t fish tonight because the water was too rough.
I watched as his massive cheek pressed against the window in the front seat,
and he stared towards the floorboard.
“he’ll pout the whole way home now” grandpa said.
I remember those days.
When all I looked forward to was a heavy,
heavy net, full of mullet and God only knows what else.
I remember pulling the sack behind me. . .
the smell, like mud and salt water and fish scales all mixed together, with a little sweat.
it makes me sleepy just thinking about it.
I remember when we had to leave.
& how sad I’d be, eager to wake up and do it all over again.
tonight, I am thankful they’ll be able to look back, with more than the memories.
photos, are good like that.
joe douglas + paw