Can't Be Done
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
I distinctly remember flying around the old logging road corner watching the boat trailer roll up hard on one wheel. Way up. I was positive it was going over and pissed about smacking my head on the ceiling of the Jeep and spilling my beer. Our gear was everywhere, mixed with old McDonald's bags, tins of Kodiak, dog toys and empties. You just laughed and, by some miracle, the trailer righted itself in a haze of dust. And then we fished.
And that is who you were. Fearless, with your foot to the mat. Always on the slimmest edge. Bigger than any moment or any room. Life volume set to 11, all the time.
And that, perhaps, is what made our friendship so unique. Me the uptight one with schedules, and plans; always needing to be prepared. And you, with no schedule and no plan; always taking the moments as they came.
Like that time we planned to get in a quick after-work river session. I was, of course, there and ready at the prescribed time, gear organized, rod lined, fly selected and wadered-up. Waiting on you. Thinking maybe you'd forgotten. But, 15 minutes late, you rolled in; out of the car before it even slammed to a stop. Soon after, realizing you'd forgotten not only your flies, but more importantly your waders. I figured we'd just call it, but you saw no issue wet-wading in boxers and dress shoes. And hell, I had plenty of flies for both of us, right?
Damn we fished a lot.
I still remember when you invited me to join you and your buddies on the Holy Waters of the Au Sable during your annual trip. My first time. Rolling in, fly rod with no leader or tippet, a couple random flies from the local shop, my waders and boots still in the boxes that arrived on my doorstep the day before. And the requisite casserole for dinner one night. To say I was a little green would be like saying the sun is a little hot. I walked in the cabin only to find you all sleeping off whatever had gone down the night before, so I put some coffee on and waited on the deck. Then those guys went upriver to huck streamers while you helped me get lined up and we worked our way downstream. You patiently instructing. Me a messy student. I'll never forget that first fish, an eight-inch planter that is still my greatest trophy.
Then later that night, after steaks on the grill and way more than the twelver I ridiculously brought along, a game of Yahtzee. Me infuriated that you would take four threes for your "four of a kind" when you clearly needed them to get your bonus on top. You, maybe not in the clearest state of mind, but confident in your plan yelling "don't micromanage my Yahtzee game." A phrase I still use. A meaning only I really know.
After that it was as often as possible. The Pere Maquette, the Jordan, the Rogue, the Muskegon, the Flat. Fishing whenever we could. From blazing hot summer nights chasing smallies to sub-zero winter mornings searching for chrome.
I remember that rising trout tucked into the timber with a weird current that you tried over and over and over to catch until finally relenting saying "can't be done" -- another Matt-ism I sometimes use.
I remember slamming through a sweeper and nearly taking you out of the boat the first time I ran the sticks. I remember chugging Hot Damn because I couldn't stop shaking catching that huge brown mousing together. I remember you on the net, slippery gravel and filled waders. I remember days in the boat so cold our beer froze and playing pull tabs at NaTahKa waiting for our feet to thaw. I remember you tying on a rusty Mepps you found on the bank out of desperation on that slow night on the Rogue. I remember being chased out of the river by lightning, satisfied to drink soggy beers on the tailgate and watch the storm roll through. And I remember your wedding reception and those trout-shaped bottle openers you and Laurie gave out. I still carry mine.
I remember arguing and bullshitting and laughing. Lots of fucking laughing.
I remember you challenging me to write down my life goals, or at least guideposts, which I did:
First, Choose Adventure– intentionally choose opportunities for adventure and when life offers multiple paths, choose the most adventurous.
Second, Invest In Relationships That Matter– spend your time, energy, emotion and money on the relationships in your life that matter and spend heavily.
Last, Grow Every Day– find ways to improve yourself mentally, physically and emotionally every day.
Honestly, Matt, I've tried to live them. But, I don't always get it right. Hell, I get it wrong more than not. You were always trying to get me to loosen up and I was always trying to get you to be more buttoned down.
I remember that last time on the river together, fishing the Hex. What a debacle. That was the night I decided I wasn't cut out to do life on 11 and stopped answering the invites.
I remember you calling out of the blue last summer, wanting to get together with the families and my bullshit excuse to dodge it. I remember the Christmas card you sent this year with you and Laurie and the kids.
And I remember getting the call from Pasco this past Friday, letting me know you had passed. Just like that. Well before your time. And sitting in shock. The guilt choked up in my throat. Trying to stop the tears from staining my face when I tried to swallow it. Then thinking to myself, "can't be done" and letting them flow like a steady current. Ashamed and embarrassed.
I miss your laughter already. And the arguments. And the push to live more fully you always gave, that seems even more relevant today.
Tight lines on the other side, brother. You will never be forgotten.