Deer Dad

How a chilly morning in search of whitetails meant more than hunting.
  1. The grandfather I've never met is standing at the surf's edge in my mind, on an empty beach I've painted from a memory passed down to me as a child.

    His khaki pants are rolled above his ankles, but waves crash into his calves and little baitfish dart between his bare feet. He steadies a long, wooden fishing rod against his thigh and wipes the spray from his glasses with a handkerchief, then jams it back into the breastpocket of his undershirt and regains his grip.

    There's a little boy beside him, unsteady in the tide and he's staring up earnestly, in awe. They are alone on this late-summer afternoon that I've imagined half a century ago, a father and son whose time together is running out.

    The boy's blue eyes study each grain of sand that sticks to my grandfather's sweaty, wrinkled brow, every gray hair the easterly wind shakes like a reed, and they trace every shadow that ripples between the sinewy muscles on his forearms.

    My grandfather keeps a finger on the fishing line...

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