I may have found a portal into heaven because I swear I stared straight through the eyes of a trout and found my mother and her parents within. Today would have been her sixty seventh birthday but she didn’t get far beyond sixty six before joining my grandparents on the other side of the earthly eddy line. After the funeral a gentle soul in a black suit handed me the small velvet pouch I’d requested, and I returned with my mother to my Uncompaghre River Valley.
Mom and I always had a bit of a catch and release relationship. I’d swim out in the stream, test the waters, and she’d hook me back in with a strong line. Once released again, I’d take along a scar, grow stronger, and swim swifter. I think it’s hard for women to develop adult relationships with their mothers without actually becoming a mother, and we never quite swam to the same current. But there was always a line connecting us. Her last catch was the cancer that took her and her enduring fear I’d never be released from that same threat. Nursing her through those last days we lost the capacity to communicate but her eyes always smiled. When they closed I didn’t feel the release. It took longer.
It took the river. There’s a fishing spot I love—swift aquamarine tail water flows like liquid glass over boulders that shimmer beneath, and then collects in a deep teal pool bubbling like champagne before the next plunge. It’s a spot for fishing, reading, or looking into heaven. That’s where my mother released me one last time as I set her free. That’s where I needed to be this morning.
The rainbow took the nymph I offered as I stood on “Mom’s Drop” and the dance began. I never felt such a muscular pull before and when she jumped on the line out of the water it was clear I’d caught my largest, most glorious fish. Silver flashed under the water as she swam in tune to my bent pole and came ever closer, revealing a streak of crimson and teal down her belly. She presented at my feet, right there at that rock where I’d said goodbye to mom, and just stopped fighting for a bit. Our eyes locked—trout and woman—and I swear there was acknowledgement of the glorified moment. And then she just flicked off my hook and disappeared as my shiny green nymph launched into the olive tree behind me. I stood shaking, shocked, and grateful, feeling as if my mother had sent that majestic animal to me. The man that watched it all applauded. It took me awhile to recover my wits and my nymph, and then I fished on.
Happy Birthday Mom. Thanks for catching and releasing me. And tell Grandpa about that big fish!