• The christmas gift

    The Christmas Gift

    The sun felt warm on half of my face and burned comfortably on one shoulder but the air was cool where it blew on my shaded side. The gin clear riffle shimmered like crystal with the refraction of the sunlight, the water deepened into a light green, filtering to an even darker green as the riffle poured into a deep eddy pool. I couldn’t see into the depths of the water but I was positive it held fish.

    The white of my strike indicator floated like an ice skater across the surface currents of that deep emerald green pool. Before my eyes the indicator was moving slightly slower than the current and dipped just barely to the right, I raised my rod in a soft tentative hook set before my mind even really had processed and registered the indicators movements. I felt a soft tap, tap and a head shake as the line tightened in my hand and I set the hook harder this time driving the point home and forcing the big rainbow to do her best freight train impression as she surged out of the back of the pool and across another crystalline expanse of shallow water. The greenish gray back of the large rainbow silhouetted against the light of the gravel and sand bottom. I held my rod high and released the line in my hand and let her run marveling at the speed, power and beauty of her as she exploded across the shallows, she stopped only to sulk and thrash deep in the shadowed depths of the next pool. As I patiently let her settle down still savoring the moment, feeling that direct raw power of the rainbow bouncing and surging through my rod tip and coursing down the bamboo into to my arm and my chest, into my very soul, I looked up to see my oldest son several hundred yards upstream and clearly his rod was held high and pulsing, his line flashing in the bright afternoon sunlight as he was fighting a fish of his own. I heard my youngest son behind me asking how big the fish was, and giving directions on how to land the rainbow … … like I hadn’t been landing fish on a fly rod without his help for over twice as long as his short 18 years on this earth. But it all made me smile and laugh as a deep contentment spread across my very soul making me feel alive, happy and at peace all in a single fulfilling moment of recognition … … … I could feel the triumphant beating of my heart echoing through my chest in a rush of adrenaline… …

    But the panic of recent events that leading up to that fishing trip are what really makes that moment shine for me. During my September fishing trip to Colorado I noticed some peculiar pains when I had been hiking. I modified my trip a little and didn’t do one extended 5 mile hike deep into a high country valley because the hike out was such a ball buster. I hadn’t thought much of it at the time, just that I was getting older but it worried me a little. And just last month I had been on a hiking/fishing trip up the side of a mountain in the Smokey’s when I realized that my chest and shoulder were hurting pretty badly. When I stopped hiking and let my heart beat slow things quickly returned to normal and I just kept my pace limited for the rest of the trip. But deep in my mind I knew what was happening. My great grandfather had died of a heart attack at 48, my grandfather had died of a heart attack at 48, my uncle had had his first open heart surgery at 48, my father had had his first open heart surgery at 48 and I had just turned 48 November 1st. In my mind I had no doubt that it was finally my turn. Well for once I did things the right way instead of ignoring my fears and telling the world “damn the torpedoes full speed ahead” … … I actually scheduled a Dr.’s appointment. The Dr. did the full work ups on me and told me I was an idiot for not taking my blood pressure and cholesterol medicine like I was supposed too (well actually he was very polite about it and handled it very professionally but I could tell what he was thinking). He added that he wanted me to do a stress test soon … … well business travel took up a week or two and I didn’t actually take the stress test until last Friday. But, suffice to say that I flunked that stress test like a freshmen business major taking a senior level molecular physics course. As the Dr told me that I had serious heart problems and that they needed to do a catheter and probably stents in my heart on Monday, my thoughts instantly jumped to a planned fishing trip on Thursday with my two boys at Unicoi Outfitters (a gift from Jimmy Harris which I truly can’t thank him enough for) and another much anticipated trip to Patagonia in February. Thoughts of how to save those two trips crossed my mind almost before anything else. But conversations of delaying the heart procedures were very short and very one sided… ... … and death was mentioned far more than fishing so I spent last weekend following the Dr’s orders to be virtually inactive, sitting at home and reflecting back about my life. I thought of family and friends and all of the plans that I have for my life. But I realized that all of those thoughts and plans were now going to be subject not entirely on my ability to make them happen but also on how well I worked at maintaining my heart. You always fear the unknown the most and this was a long, long slow weekend of facing my own fears and my own physical failures. But somehow Monday morning arrived, it took it’s own sweet time in rolling around but eventually I found myself lying virtually naked in a crowded room full of young pretty women … … but the fantasy ended there as they were shaving parts of me that I didn’t really want shaved and shoving tubes up my groin to see what was happening in my heart. Everyone’s fears proved grounded as one of my primary arteries was 90+ % blocked. Fortunately modern technology was able to use balloon and stent technology to open it back up for me before that particular artery blockage was able to live up to its well deserved name of “the widow maker”. I spent a short but uncomfortable night in the hospital Monday night, once again thinking of my life to date and my life in the future. I knew that I needed to change some things and take better care of myself but I also knew that I didn’t want to lose who I was in the process and that living my life to the fullest still had to be apart of who I was. Against the wishes of some of my family but not fully against my Dr’s wishes I went to work on Wednesday and worked a full normal day. Not because work is so important but because it is a major part of who I am and I needed to prove to myself that I could do the things I needed too. The Davis family learn at an early age that when it is time to go to work… … we go to work … … so I did. And the 2nd rule of the Davis family which is when you are not working you ought to try to go fishing. And in keeping with that same thought it was important for me to go fishing with my boys today. Not because fishing is so important on its own but because fishing with my boys is so important to how I want to live my life. I needed to go fishing … … so I did.

    The big rainbow stopped sulking on the bottom and she made one more dash for freedom, but the deeply bronzed back of the flamed Lacey Bamboo rod turned her and she obediently followed the rod’s pressure like a dog on a leash to my feet. I heard Drew gasp at the size of my fish and heard Ricky whoop with delight at his own fish which I assume he had just landed.

    As reached down and grasped the cool wet sides of the fish to pull the hook loose I could still feel the racing pounding of my own heart echoing in my chest but more importantly echoing loudly in my brain as I am deeply in-tune with that pulsing beat these days and mentally monitor it closely. I felt a moment of fear as I realized that indeed my heart was racing faster than the white water current a few yards away. As I stood to watch her swim back into the depths I stopped to let the moment sink in, realizing slowly that I wasn’t feeling any pain in my chest. I knew suddenly that all was right with my world … for now.

    I was standing in a river, my boys were by my side, the sun was shinning magically on the water and I had been given another shot to do things right with my health and heart and to try to take better care of myself. Life is good … … way to good to be leaving it now … … I realized that I had better take advantage of my gifts. The gift of a second chance and that I should focus on enjoying the world around me … … the everyday and the spectacular are both blessed.

    None of us know what the future may hold for us and certainly my heart still has lots of risk, but for now I am in the game with the chance to control the outcome … and that is more than I could ask for and maybe even more than I deserve … … but I will take it anyway.

    Many of you are in similar situations or for some far worse situations and my health issues are easier to manage than many … … so to all of us take the time to get yourself checked out and do what the Dr’s tell you to …….. but don’t be afraid to live as much as you can with in the confines of their instructions.

    A few “thank you’s” need to be part of this story. Thanks Dr Arnold for taking care of me. And please take a page out of my book you need to go fishing soon…….. life is too short not too. And thanks to Jimmy Harris of Unicoi Outfitters for the gift certificate, little could you know how much it would mean to me. And most importantly thanks to God for letting me still be around to write this.

    Here’s too stories yet to be written.

    Dick Davis
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The christmas gift started by rbaileydav View original post