A model life and sound advice from one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.
[by Ben Romans]
IM FISHING AROUND TURNEFFE ATOLL IN BELIZE with my wife, pursuing a dream I’ve had for just about as many years as I’ve been a fly fisherman: to catch a permit. So far, I’ve failed to connect, but I push on, because as my grandfather says, “Never, ever give up.”
After our first day of fishing, we make a direct course back to our villa, riding the fine line between shallow bonefish flats and coral breakers. A storm that has lingered for hours over the open water makes a play to ruin our day, but it falls short. Less than a mile from the dock, the storm cuts loose and an amazing rainbow arches through the sky.
It’s beautiful, and for some abstract reason, I’m not sure why, I think of my two young boys, my folks, my brother and sister, even my wife at my side. It’s hard to be on water, see nature at its finest, and not think, “I’m blessed.”
Two hours later, while sitting on a patio and checking emails from home, I read the bad news. My grandfather, Donald “Earl” Romans, peacefully passed away while sitting at home in the comfort of his favorite reclining chair.
Grandpa broke the mold. He was a family man. He worked hard. He prayed hard. He deeply loved his wife of over 50 years. His idea of heaven was sitting in a lawn chair in the shade of the garage and trading stories over a cold soda. He was always firm but more than fair—the stereotypical salt of the earth other men aspire to be, and I already miss him dearly.
He wasn’t an angler or hunter in the sense of what it means to be a devoted angler or hunter today, though I always regarded him as an outdoorsman. If he needed fish for dinner, he knew how to catch them, and if something needed fixing, he was the guy in camp that could tinker the outboard into running condition or convince the engine to turn over in that old, unreliable Ford that pulled the boat to the lake in the first place. He was a true protege of the U.S. Air Force; a problem solver, always examining a setback and the pros and cons of its solutions from every angle possible. He was never a fly angler, but damn if he didn’t think like one.
After high school, I set my sights on Montana. When others tried to talk me out of it, Grandpa was one of the few encouraging me to go. He even helped me replace the stock FM radio in my Jeep with a discounted tape deck so I could listen to something other than the wind on those distant mountain roads. Earl admitted he was no wiring genius, but when Charlie Daniels’ “Uneasy Rider” blasted from the speakers on our first try, he just stood there and smiled.
My current distance from home only amplifies my grief, and I’m distraught about my chances of making the funeral. It’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve made, but I’ll stay and pay respect in my own personal way. I’m comforted knowing that’s likely what Earl would want.
So I will travel out tomorrow with a heavy heart, search for permit, solemnly remember my grandfather, and hide tears behind polarized lenses. If I don’t catch anything, I’m probably better for it. It might happen another day. I learned a long time ago the key to most things, be it life
or fishing, is “Never, ever give up.”