Two Old Men, the Sea, and Me | John Tiralla

    Knock, knock, knock. The lights flash on in my room, as I curl beneath the covers. I feel the warm hand of my father on my shoulder. He nudges me. It is 2:30 in the morning, and he asks me the question I’ve heard so many times before: “Are you coming, Johnny?” I slowly roll out of bed, throw a hat on my head, pull on some clothes, and trudge down the stairs. We both jump in the car and drive over to my uncle’s house. There he is, anxiously pacing around the boat and completing the last inspection before we go on our adventure. “Ready men?” he asks. 
    We all get in the car and make our way down to the Kent Narrows, on the Chesapeake Bay, the place we call home on the weekends. I fall asleep in the back seat, as my Dad and Uncle talk about how bad the Orioles’ pitching is. When we arrive at the boat ramp, it’s still dark. We slide our modest vessel into the water.
    The water is flat and serene. We quietly motor out to the channel. My Dad gathers our phones and puts them in a box, locked away underneath the bow of the boat. When we are on the water, we are fully connected with our surroundings on the bay. Once we reach the open, it is time to unravel the crab traps and set them strategically. We engage in light competition with the other watermen to secure a good spot. Thirty small metal folding boxes release their doors at the bottom of the bay, inviting any crab to enter. The first run is pretty slow. We only catch three small crabs. We also catch, however, the flash of a ray, the splash of a striped bass, and even the shadow of a bald eagle, as it soars through the air.
    We all chatter about the yard work we dodged that day, whether it was mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or sweeping up Mom’s massive piles of garden debris. We sing made-up songs and gobble up zero calorie snacks. Sometimes we are silent, taking in the warmth of the sun and the smell of the brackish water. I can’t divulge everything. As Uncle Greg says, “What happens on the Narrows stays on the Narrows.” Our ritual of crabbing is so much more than catching dinner and being a little silly. It’s about spending long days, when our only measure of time is the angle of the sun; it's about spending time with two amazing men who have taught me the more important pieces of life and shaped me into who I am today. They have taught me how to be diligent and thorough in whatever I do, to be patient, and to show respect to everyone. Whether I am going the extra mile to pull the boat out of the water, patiently awaiting the first crab of the day, or striking up a conversation with someone at the dock, their influence on me has been important to my development as a person. Their sense of humor, humility, and integrity are as true as the changing tides.