Fishing with Tim King in Bradenton, Florida - 7-10-16
In July, 2016, I was gratefully granted the opportunity to meet the father of two very special friends of mine here in Bradenton, FL. Kristin and Katrina King, two of the first people I had met and become friends with following my move to Bradenton from Detroit in April, 2013, had shared with me over the last few years many heart-warming, entertaining "growing-up" stories about their "dear ol' Dad" - Tim King.
But it was not until the spring of 2016 that they shared with me the dark news that Tim was dying of cancer, and the ugly killer had stepped up its pace on taking Tim away at that time. One night, while out with them, I asked Kristin if I could somehow meet her Dad. I wanted to get to meet the "legend" who helped implant the vivacious, mischievous, downright friendly personalities into them over the years.
In early July 2016, I received an email from Kristin, saying that her Dad was planning an afternoon fishing visit to her home, located off the Manatee River with the Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway off in the distance. Tim had been having a few "good days" mixed with many painful ones, and he wanted to come visit the daughters while he still could muster the strength and fish with them one last time.
Tim King also had one special reason to make this trip from Clearwater to Bradenton. He wanted to give Kristin - his oldest daughter - a special gift he had hand-crafted for her while he was slowly, painfully succumbing to cancer and losing more than 100 pounds weight in the process. Despite the agony of facing his own mortality and the unthinkable pain he was experiencing, Tim King wanted Kristin to have something tangible that she could properly remember him by...something in which she could still feel his presence even after he was gone.
The gift was a beautiful solid wood two-seat bench, which Kristin's boyfriend Matt had successfully anchored to the base of their dock before I had arrived that Sunday afternoon. Tim wanted Kristin to be able to hold his hand whenever she sat in this bench, so he engraved his hand print on the front of each of the armrests! He told Kristin "Whenever you want to hold my hand, just put yours over my hand print". What a thoughtful and amazing gift - crafted during his final weeks of strength and physical ability.
After I had arrived and met Tim, shook his hand and chatted briefly, I "stepped back"with my Sony Cyber-shot DSC HX50V and try to capture the afternoon's activities on the long pier, as my own quiet personal gift for my dear friends Kristin and Kat. It was a very mixed-emotional day for us all. Tim was alert and appearing to enjoy himself fishing off the dock, while masking his omnipresent pain very convincingly. He was still what his daughters had described to me as his sarcastic, comical self - just a thinned down, pained version. He laughed and joked with them and us all without even a whimper of discomfort - as was the way for the tall, strongly-built proud-to-be-their father Tim King.
The day was hot, as one might expect from a July Florida afternoon. But a sweat-soaked tank-topped Tim King somehow managed to make it through a few hours with his daughters and a few of their family members...and gratefully me as the "peripheral eye" of the scene with my Sony softly clicking away with the hope of capturing some instant, very precious moments of what turned out to be Tim King's final visit to his daughter Kristin's home. Near the end of his visit, I orchestrated Tim and Kristin into his gift bench to her...to capture them sitting together on the day he presented this lovingly crafted gift bench to her. Among the shots I took, I got them as they shared a truly sweet, meaningful kiss on the bench.
I had a daylong dark feeling that this would been the only chance I'd ever have to capture them all together in pictures. So I stayed in the background much of the day - Sony in hand - and tried my best to shoot from the hip and capture the spirit of the day. I wish the story could have ended happier overall...Tim sadly passed away in early September, 2016. But that July 10, 2016, Tim King wanted to be a loving father once more to Kristin and Katrina as he had been so often in their past, and he was just that and so much more that day. Tim gave his daughter one last "normal" day, and the images I produced that hot summer Florida afternoon proved to be so precious for us all - especially for Tim King's dear daughters Kristin and Katrina King.
Postcript: Tim King also attempted to finish a similar personalized bench for his younger daughter Katrina, but could not manage to do so before passing. But his love for both was well expressed in his unselfish efforts to even attempt the benches, let alone finish one.