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The last time I went fishing with my dad

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Editor’s note: This is the second installment of cartoonist Jack Ohman’s series “The Care Package,” for PBS NewsHour.

Cartoonist Jack Ohman’s aging father was in no condition to go fishing, but when his dad said he wanted to go, Ohman spent days figuring out how to make the trip happen.

Ohman recently revisited that trip and what he learned about his father that day.

From the time he was a kid, Ohman and his father fished together, usually bringing home nothing but jokes about the day’s poor catch. They may not have had a lot in common, “but we had fishing,” Ohman said.

Three years after his father’s health steadily began to decline, Ohman knew this trip was important, and he couldn’t have picked a better time to take it.

When he and the boatman lifted his father and placed him into the boat, the Oregon sky was blue, the birds sang and the flowers were in bloom. “It was unbelievably poignant,” Ohman recalled.

It was a banner day. Ohman’s father not only caught the most fish but also the biggest. By the time the trip was over, Ohman eagerly offered to plan the next one.

“I said, ‘We could go again,’ and he said, ‘No, I don’t think so,’” Ohman said. “That’s when I knew. This was his way of telling me, this was it, he was closing up shop.”

There was nothing Ohman could say. He never brought it up again.

His father died nine months later.

Ohman knows he’s not the only person who has grappled with a parent’s mortality.

“This is a story that millions of Americans are experiencing everyday,” Ohman said.

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Read part 3 of 5: What I wish my dad said before he died

Reporting by Laura Santhanam

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