I know y'all always want me to write about my latest fishing or outdoor adventures, but this week I really need to stray a bit from that simply because I need to get something off my chest.
I have always been a somewhat sensitive type and when I find a groove that feels comfortable, I stick with it. Call it a routine or whatever but when something comes along and messes with that routine, I cling to those old ways much as a sleeping cat does when you go to pick it up and it extends its claws and holds on for dear life. That's me.
So what brought this on? If you read last week's column about the loss of Capt. Stratty Pollitzer at such a young age, that event got the ball rolling in my head. Two days later I get a call from a gentleman who lives in Palmetto Bluff asking me to go offshore fishing with him next week. Toward the end of our conversation I did some name dropping, asking him if he knew George Edgar -- also a Palmetto Bluff resident and a great friend of mine -- and was told that he passed away that very day. In the space of a minute, my comfort zone in life came crashing down.
George was a gentle giant of a man. He and I fished together, laughed together and, during quail season, he, local Mac Dunnaway and I would hunt together on Fridays. The odd part of this story was that not four days earlier I couldn't get George off my mind and because I have learned to pay attention to such feelings, I called him. The voice that answered was no more than a whisper and, after talking for a bit, I learned that George had just had surgery on his throat. Then to hear that George, like Stratty, had died, it was like my "routine" was no more. Quite honestly, I felt lost -- no doubt because my own mortality had come front and center.
I may be old, not "old old," but old enough to know that the majority of my life has passed. That week's chain of events made me want to act like a turtle tucking its head inside its shell and not emerging until a new comfort zone came to be. I found myself picking up the phone to call my kids, my closest friends and siblings so they all would know how much I love them should something happen to me.
It was as if another life cycle had passed. After keeping track of these cycles, it seems to happen about every seven years. The last cycle occurred when my best friend died in my arms while we were fishing offshore and not long afterward, my brother Tim died of pancreatic cancer. It was as if someone had thrown me in a washing machine during the spin cycle.
Please don't think I am manically depressed because I'm not. I know it is all part of life and that if I show a touch of patience, a new cycle will begin, and all will be right in my world. But until that happens, there is only one thing that can make the transition easier, and that is getting out on the water.
People ask me all the time why I like fishing so much. Quite honestly, catching isn't the reason. From the very first time my dad took me out of sight of land, I felt a calmness that I had never, ever experienced before. And since that very first experience, when the going gets tough I get going out on the water. It doesn't make any difference what the crisis might be -- be it death, the loss of a girlfriend, an argument or whatever -- the water has a way of sucking emotions right out of me. There isn't a drug made that can take the place of nature's beauty.
I think the first time I really understood just how powerful a force being on the water could be on my emotions was when I was 14 years old.
One evening my parents had gone to the Savannah airport to pick up my oldest sister, Alice, as she was coming home from college, when they plowed into a logging truck that was left in the middle of the road. My parents were hospitalized for nearly two years, and my sister was in a coma for four years before she finally died. My sister Grace and I were the only kids not off at school, so families would take turns caring for the two of us.
Though the families all had hearts of gold, it was a very confusing time for me. Each family had different values and different rules, so after about the third family turnover, I used the ocean as my escape. Looking back to that cycle, it was the ocean that saved me.
So here I am again facing a new chapter in my life. My old comfort zone has gone and now I have to search for a new one. And until a new cycle shows itself and brings its unique comfort zone, the ocean is where I'll be.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.
RELATED CONTENT There was no one out there quite like Capt. Stratty Pollitzer Try your hand at bottom-fishing for red snapper during 3 weekends in July Funding for Waddell Mariculture puts smiles on fish faces