Every fall for almost four decades, my grandfather and grandmother made the long trek from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Port Aransas, trailing their camper and flat-bottomed boat behind their truck. They’d settle at a palm-studded RV park, their spot surrounded by fishing gear and shiny Airstream trailers, with a fragrant fish house out back where the anglers could clean their catches.
Everyone, it seemed, fished in Port Aransas. My grandfather, with a taste for flounder, would get gussied up in waders and head to the bays with a gig, like some character Hemingway might have dreamed up. Grandma approached the sport more casually; when she wasn’t casting a line off the jetties, she collected shells and puttered around. The two always drove back to Oklahoma in time to spend Christmas, when my brother and I would receive sea-themed dioramas fashioned from cockleshells, and my mom would restock her freezer with shrimp, flounder, and redfish.
In the 1980s, I moved to Texas myself, and I started visiting my grandparents on the coast during their annual three-month stay. In the decade that our autumns in Texas coincided, I trekked to the coast with whichever presence was most important to me each October—friends and brave boyfriends, who suffered certain grandparental scrutiny. And often, I went alone, save for my faithful dog Zach, who loved to frolic in the surf and chase sandpipers on the beach. When I visit the coast now, I think how the ocean so eloquently illustrates how time never stands still, and how perhaps nothing and nobody ever really disappears.
From the October 2003 issue.