Two long hours were spent battling the giant fish. The relentless Baja sun punished us both but especially the one holding the rod. I knew my brother was in trouble. He couldn't take a hand off the tackle without risking it being ripped from his grip. I spent the previous hour pouring water down his throat and on his head, only no amount of hydration was going to turn things around for him.
The huge fish was majestic, breaking the azure surface in aerial splendor many times early but now stayed in the dark blue deeps. It was apparent the monster fish had no intention of surrendering its colors. The 6'2, two-hundred plus pounds of man at the other end of the line clearly did not intimidate this predator of the deep.
There are short, seemingly inconsequential snippets of time that can reveal years of monumental trial. The great Artist sees a finished work in each brushstroke and can reserve a lifetime to complete a masterpiece.
It had been forty years since we shared a boat together. Time in the boat was a familiar venue as kids but somehow life got in the way. We'd remained close even into these latter years but for some unexplainable reason we forgot about life in the boat.
It was our father's eightieth birthday and a revisit to the Sea of Cortez to celebrate was in order. The morning of the trip dad took ill and had to cancel, leaving brother and me in the boat for the first time in half a lifetime.
Fishing in the Baja gulf, an exquisite body of water rich in trophy game fish was proving a bust. Fishing was agonizingly slow and beastly hot, so lots of time to talk. It was the second to last day around noon when line began ripping off one of the smaller tackles; a foreboding sign. Big fish on smaller tackle can mean only two things.
Up to this point, two brothers having experienced a fullness of life lived at the highest and lowest of points just finished catching up on three decades of previously undisclosed, gritty details. The kind of details not fit for casual phone conversation, around the holiday table or a small town newspaper.
The brutal struggle now between man and beast became ghastly symbolic of what he was currently going through; a culmination of years in the heat of battle towards finishing well. When I pointed out the striking irony, my brother's formidable strength buckled for an instant, almost costing him his grip on the rod. A heavily perspiring leveled glare, not unfamiliar to a little brother, let me know not to say another word.
When seventy-five more yards of high-test line spooled off the reel, I yelled he was not going to be able to finish on his own. GIVE ME THE ROD!
My brother took a deep breath, steeling his resolve, “NO, ...I CAN'T YET...but...don't go anywhere.”
Sometimes letting go requires more than just a decision. Sometimes it requires someone or something else making the decision for us. For my exhausted brother, it was an extraordinary three-hundred pound Blue Marlin now dogged by a large hungry shark in the water. The intensity in the fight was now clearly understood. This regal creature of the deep was fighting the known as well as the unknown.
Just before lunging half way over the side of a the boat, older brother gave up the rod. Before retching his lungs out in heat-stroked delirium, the dictate was clearly heard, "MAKE SURE TO LET HIM GO…he deserves to live".
But those words were partially misunderstood by captain and first-mate. Rapid cursing in Spanish and highly animated gestures told the tale of tough, weathered men measured by the fruit they harvest from the sea.
"Let's get the fish to the boat first…", was all needing to be said to quell the mutiny. For the next hour, we battled the beast unto extreme exhaustion for everyone. My hands cramped impossibly numb and arms were on fire.
"Lord, I don't know if I can go the distance...".
My pride then faithfully pointed out this was only half the time my brother spent in the battle.
Another half-dozen times we’d war to get the fish up to the line's leader, almost to the boat, then he'd take another fifty yards out. We all knew this big Marlin was special, possessing a strength inexplicable.
In the end the wild, Wet Warrior relented. And to the chagrin of the razor-toothed Grim Reaper of the Sea, he’d given everything... save that final minute of life granted to return wiser to the rejuvenating depths of his world.
More lessons in the boat.
The captain turned the vessel into the hot wind for home. I stumbled below deck to find my brother prone and awake but dead silent and still. We just stared at each other a while, mute. The bone tired half-grin on his face spoke a thousand words.
The greatest revelations into the soul happen in silence, like the finishing touches on a beautiful masterpiece ready to be unveiled.