If you married a man who was a fisherman, who fished not for single trout or salmon but for herds of whitefish which he then sold to stores and restaurants so tourists could enjoy an authentic Lake Superior meal, your whole life would smell of fish. But you probably wouldn’t have been thinking that when you married him. Then the fish smell that peeked out from under his Zest shower would seem earthy, extra, something other men didn’t have. Those men would seem soft, their pants too creased, afraid of deep water. A man that smelled of Zest and fish would wrestle the others to the ground. Little would you know this would mean you would be cleaning fish for the rest of your life. And that you, too, would smell of fish.
Yesterday, I found the scribbled notes my husband made on the back of an envelope, his preparation for a speech he was to give to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a nonprofit organization he founded just before we were married. I’d sat at one of the lovely banquet tables in the middle of 200 people while he had held the envelope and given the speech but, as often happens, I’d heard only parts of what was spoken. Even though he is the person I can most consistently hear, my hearing disability often precludes getting all of what someone says in a large crowd in a venue with high ceilings and glass walls. I knew that he’d thanked the people who had traveled a long way to attend this event that was so special to him, his best friend from San Francisco, our friends from Chicago. And I knew that he mentioned my name because he looked at me and people applauded.
But it wasn’t until yesterday when I looked at his nearly indecipherable handwriting on the envelope that I understood what he’d actually said. He listed the people who had come a distance to the event and then noted “the person who came the longest way – Jan – 30 years.”
And there is the essence of casting one’s lot with someone. Like the fisherman’s wife who didn’t know or didn’t care that she, too, would eventually smell like fish, I cast my lot with someone because the person he was wrestled the others to the ground. It was a decision made entirely in the moment without any thought to future fish to be cleaned, decks that would need swabbing, or boats that would end up parked in the yard for years. I never gave a thought to the future.
It was, at that time, and now, too, a gift to be mindless and to not care about what would happen next.