How do you cope with the death of your daughter, a child so young and fragile that she never had a chance to eat solid food, a chance to hug you back or, perhaps most importantly, to understand how much you’ve grown to love her in her short life?
How do you prepare to face the best anglers in the world, 98 or 99 long-term pros who’ve seen it all, done it all, and can catch big limits out of a parking lot mud puddle?
The chasm between the two inquiries seems huge on first inspection. The former, of course, is quite literally a matter of life and death, while the latter, though still important, is in essence a game. Yet when you’re confronted with either situation, the latter of your own volition, the former most certainly not, the answers are the same.
You have no choice. You just do it.
There’s no pussyfooting, no toe-dipping, no transition period. Get with the program or the program will chew you up and leave you behind.
This is the message that Massachusetts pro Byron “BJ” Haseotes conveys as tears well up in his eyes. It’s barely an hour into the second day of his practice for this week’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River and emotion is getting the better of him. Midway through his 2010 Elite Series rookie season, fishing against the best of the best at Pickwick Lake, he got the call from his wife Tiffany that something wasn’t right with her pregnancy.
Their little girl had an outsized hole in her heart. Not yet born and she already had letters ascribed to her – ASD, atrial septal defect. She needed surgery, perhaps at a week old, or maybe a couple of years later, but it could be corrected. Unfortunately the alphabet soup kept coming, and when little Evangelina was born in August, the doctors came out of the delivery room looking “like they’d seen a ghost,” he recalled. Then they slapped three more letters on her notebook – LPA, a left pulmonary artery sling – which in layman’s terms meant that her airways were being suffocated, making her breathing labored, when it was possible at all.
Today Haseotes is initially reserved and philosophical – “God only gives you what you can handle,” he’ll say – but the still fresh tears belie a different reality, one he’s quick to verbalize: “When things get thrown at you so hard and so quickly, it’s only human to question things.”