|Eli helping hold the Flounder "he" caught.|
|Caleb trying to figure out how the reel works.|
|GeeGee and Daddy watching for a bite.|
That morning, I wore a St. Jude tshirt, as I often do now, and was walking down the pier to the bathrooms, of course, with the kids behind me in a little duck row. The pier attracts just as many sightseers watching the fishermen as it attracts fishermen, and one such regular was walking past me. Slim in her clam diggers, with a little bag of bread pieces tucked under her arm for the birds or fish, she strolled the pier enjoying the activity. As we approached to pass each other, she put her weathered hand on my arm and motioned at my shirt. With a raspy but cheerful voice she said, “That’s my favorite charity to give to.” She patted me then began to move on. Quickly, I said, “oh, well then let us thank you.” And, I reached behind me and pulled Eli out to step in front. “This is Eli, and he is a patient there. We appreciate your gift to us.” She took a quiet quick breath, startled, and took a small step back looking down from under her sun hat at him. The girls and Caleb popped out from behind like I was some kind of Russian nesting doll. I tapped Eli on the shoulder with a sharp index finger and he looked over his glasses and said “hi” behind gritted teeth. She blinked herself back to the moment and nervously fiddled with her necklace. With enthusiasm she said “Well, hello there, Eli, I am just so proud to meet you.” She stuttered a bit, stalling to find words and I could see the tears welling in her wrinkle-trimmed eyes. Then she said “I’m sorry that you are so sick, but I can tell you are a strong and brave boy, and St. Jude is just a wonderful place…” She cut her words off and nervously crossed her arms and tried to say something else, but just kind of nodded her head and curled a quivery smile and a tear began to escape. She caught it with a quick finger swipe, patted him on the shoulder and took a step to walk on. As she passed she put her trembling hand on my shoulder and said in a raspy voice to my ear “Bless you, child,” and kept walking.