Funny how things fall into place. I've
been thinking about writing this for a
while now, just never could put it to pen.
But the other morning, I came to work, opened
up my email, and there, right in front of me,
was the guide for this story; an email sent
to me by Debbie Friedrich, Terry's wife. It
was entitled, "Old Age is a Gift." I don't
plan on just copying and pasting this as my
article, but, if I may, refer to some of the
excerpts and how they apply to my life.
I suppose I'm considered old by some, such
as my grandkids. Then, on the other hand,
young by comparison of others. I'll be
fifty-four in September '05. Most of the time
I don't feel old, sometimes I feel older than
I am. But I would never "go back" to youthfulness
if I had to give up the life experiences I have
been through. Those experiences are priceless
gems of learning; some good, some not so good.
There were broken hearts, but later, healed by
either time or the compassion of another.
"I am now, probably for the first time
in my life, the person I have always
wanted to be."
That is the first line of the email I mentioned
earlier, and I will highlight each quote as I
use them. I don't know who the author is, but
by reading through the entire letter, I'm sure
it was written by a wise lady.
As I said, I've been thinking about this
very line for quite some time. I am truly,
for the first time in my life, the person I
have always wanted to be. I've mellowed. I've
calmed down. I tend to speak in a softer and
more understanding voice, and hopefully, try
to see things in others that others don't see.
Of course, human nature is always there to
interrupt this Zen I seem to have found in
the past year, or so. There seems to always
be that little fellow with the pitchfork sitting
on my starboard shoulder waiting and encouraging
me to "stick" it to someone. And now, it seems,
I can ignore the desire to strongly voice my
"I am often taken aback by that old person
who lives in my mirror."
A few months ago, I stood in front of the
mirror in the master bath, shaving and
brushing my teeth, and as I looked up
into the steamed reflection, there stood
my dad looking me straight in my eyes. "How
did you get in there?" I thought out loud.
I was surprised by his answer.
"I've been here all along, waiting for you
to grow up. It took you awhile, but I see
you've learned a few things that I hoped
I thought back to when Dad was alive, and
acknowledged to myself how many times I
was wrong, and through blind youthfulness,
thought he was the dumbest man on Earth.
I acknowledged to the old man that looked
back at me how much he had taught me about
life in general; common sense, small things
that mattered more than any materialistic
item or monetary value. It just took me
awhile to catch on.
Have I memorialized my dad to be far more
than he ever was? Maybe to some, and I'm sure
if he were still alive, he would think so, but
that's okay by me. He was the only dad I ever
had, and I know he loved me, even though he
didn't say it much. Those would have been only
words, and his actions proved his feelings
stronger than just words could have anyway.
I have clamed down. I now notice important
things that seemed small, but by far are a
larger part of my universe now. The quiet
voices of grandkids and the importance of
what they are saying. Their words are not
to be ignored, and their laughter is contagious.
I've learned these things, and these things
have made my world better and stronger. I
think my dad listened to my quiet voice, and
now I hope he can hear my laughter.
"I would never trade my amazing friends, my
wonderful life, and my loving family for less
gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged,
I've become kinder to myself, and less critical
of myself. I've become my own friend."
I'm not a wealthy man, not by monetary means,
anyway. I'm far richer than that. You all know
my wife Linda is my balance, my keel in calm or
rough seas. But I don't rely on her for my
happiness. As strange as this may seem to
many of you, I don't need her in my life; I
want her in my life. Big difference. And through
a failed marriage, leading me to years of counseling,
I finally understood the complexity of codependency.
Nothing can make me happy, only I can do that.
My friends are amazing, and I hold them near
and dear to me. There are only a few, and they
don't judge me, nor do I judge them. Acquaintances?
I have many. Friends are golden.
Yes, my hair isn't where it used to be; it
left me, and continues to do so. I have a
lot more silver in my beard than I did five
years ago, and I've earned most of it. But
would I have it replaced in exchange for the
experiences? No way. I'm comfortable with
myself, and I do consider myself a friend
of mine. I'm alone at times when I fish, but
I'm never lonely. That would be sad for me...
to be lonely.
"I don't chide myself for eating that extra
cookie, or for not making my bed, or for
buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't
need, but looks so avant garde on my patio.
I am entitled to overeat, to be messy, to be
extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends
leave this world too soon; before they understood
the great freedom that comes with aging."
I didn't buy a cement gecko, but I did buy a
very ugly frog that sits in a flower pot on
the deck of the pool. He wears an apron that
boldly states, "Old Toad Cooking." He's very
tacky, warty skin and his eyes are bugged out
and he's extremely fat. My bulldog, Flats, is
the only one that seems to care if he's really
in the flower pot or not, and gives him a going
over every time he joins us out next to the pool.
I was told by everyone in my past what I
"needed" to do, well, up to my divorce twelve
years ago. And being told what I need to do,
unless it's in a positive context, just isn't
accepted by me anymore.
I'm not very extravagant. I fish with flyrods
I've owned since I began fly-fishing. My reels
are the same, and they work just as well as
they always have. I cast well with them, and
they will still hold and control big fish, when
I'm lucky enough to catch one. But that last
cookie that no one else seems to want, maybe
out of politeness, I'll eat it, and I don't
give a dern about the few extra calories.
I have chosen my friends carefully, and I
expect if they call me "friend" they have
chosen me carefully. Sadly, I have lost
several good and dear friends. They were
too young to go, before their time, it seems.
They had grandkids, and the saddest part?
These grandkids will never know that special
friend I knew so well. That's the sad part to me.
When April had our first grandson, I
nicknamed him Buford. It all started
because no one could come up with a name
for the little guy, and as much as I like
to pick on our two girls, I spouted off
with his nickname. It stuck. Now he's eight
years old, and Gramps is the only one that's
allowed to call him "Buford," and if anyone
else does, they are immediately corrected,
as he says, "My name's not Buford, it is Ian."
When he was born, I wrote him a letter. A
letter of explanation, I suppose. He's never
seen it, or knows it exists. I never had kids
of my own, but I inherited two daughters when
Linda and I were married. Didn't want any kids.
So, when Ian was born, no big deal. Well, that
is, until Linda handed him to me. A package
smaller than most red fish I've caught, but
far more powerful. Buford took me to my knees.
The letter explains all of this to him, and he
will not be able to open it until he's eighteen
years old. Hopefully, I'll be around to see him
"I know I am sometimes forgetful. But! There
again, some of life is just as well forgotten...
and I eventually remember the important things."
I remind myself once in a while, "not to
sweat the small stuff." Why worry about
the things I have no control of? I read a
lot of posts on FAOL which, if I let them,
get me all stirred up. Notice, I said, "If
I let them." It is me who controls my emotions,
no one else. It's easier to not open the door.
Please don't take that the wrong way. If it
involves me, then I'll certainly throw a dog
into the fight. I once told someone, "Never
mistake my kindness for a weakness." I meant
that; still do. The rest of the ruckus just
isn't important enough for me to worry about.
If we take life too seriously, it will pass
So, you ask, what does this have to do with
fly-fishing? Here is my answer.
I've grown old enough to sit beside a lake
or upon a shoreline somewhere and choose
not to cast a fly into the waters. I can
enjoy just being a part of it. Or, maybe
not just a part, but all of it, and not
concerned about what others may think.
"I care less about what other people think.
I don't question myself anymore. I've even
earned the right to be wrong. I like being
older. It has set me free. I like the person
I have become. I am not going to live forever,
but while I am still here, I will not waste
time lamenting what could have been, or worrying
about what will be. And I shall eat dessert
every single day."
(and fish if I so choose to do so…or not).
'Til next time. ~ Capt. Gary
Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much
of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area.
After moving a little closer to the coast, his
interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still
visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."
He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's
and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little
over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow
water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came
around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary
doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the
waters will ever be present.
Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater
patterns in the early '90's and has participated as
a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers
on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting
and tying instructor and stained glass artist,
creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.