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Raised … by a Mermaid

“…Somewhere beyond the sea…”

Dateline:  My Sea

I am the grandson of a mermaid.

Because I am the grandson of a mermaid, I have my own sea.  All to me, this sea.

It is to this place that I go home.  My sea.

Only I know where my sea is, and today I will tell you where this sea of me is at.

My sea, is upstairs in my attic.

My sea, is in an old Mayflower moving box.

A beat up brown and green box, duct taped sides, water marks on the bottom.

The name of my sea is marked on the side of the box.

The name of my sea is…Gram.

My Gramma.

Theresa “Tess” Robbins.

My mermaid.

“…she’s there watching for me…”


Like Sir Paul, with Mary, in times of trouble, Tess comes to me.  Today, for some unknown reason, troubled as I was, I climbed upstairs and sat on the ceiling floor boards and went back to my sea.

Tess, was born on June 22, 1897, in Canada.  I am in my veins part Canadian … and mermaid.

She left me on August 13th, 1986, left me physically, has never left me emotionally.

On my block where I was born and lived until I was about 10 or so, Montrose Avenue, I told all my friends that my Gramma was a mermaid.   The result being that some of my friends were no longer allowed to play with me “¦ my first slap of discrimination “¦ being that I was the only Grandson of a Mermaid.

On my block at least.

The proof I had of my Mermaid heritage is that for years my Gramma would take me down to the foot of Niagara Street, hold me up so I could see over the rock wall, and she would point to the river, the Niagara River and whisper on a breeze of lilac into my ear: “Donnie, that’s where I’m from … right there.”

Right there, being the Niagara River.

Where Mermaids lived.  You know, under the Peace Bridge over there.

So today, dealing with troubled waters, I went up to sit on the side of my sea, and wait for my Mermaid.

But instead, came my Grandfather, also from Canada, an alleged First Nation Canadian, meaning of being a Seneca Nation Descendant, who was born in 1885, 1886 or 1887.  Depended on when you asked.

And as I was sitting there looking through his stuff, including my very first tackle box, a beat up green thing that he gave me. I came across the crumbling bill for his funeral expense.

The bill came to $67.50 and Gram put down $10.

And at the bottom of the bill I saw the date that Grampa died.

It was in 1957.

January 27th, 1957.

Fifty-five years ago.


…if I could fly like birds on high…

Gramps … Clayton Robbins … was the greatest angler on the planet.   I’m sure it helped being married to a Mermaid and all, but I can tell you this right now with my hand on a bible … my Grampa could out fish KVD in a heartbeat.

In less than a heartbeat.

And Grampa taught me everything I know about how to fish which, since he is gone now, makes me the greatest angler on the planet who could out fish KVD in less than a heartbeat as well.

That is as long as both KVD and I could fish with the same exact bait that Grampa used, and taught me to use.

That bait being, semi alive and smelly.

That bait being the butt end of the Cuban cigar that Grampa had just finished smoking and chewing.

My Grandfather … Clayton Robbins … was the best butt end of a cigar for bait angler that there ever was.

We would sit on the breaker wall, he would finish the cigar that was constantly in his mouth, knock the embers off on a rock next to him, carefully thread the hook through the cigar leaves, and drop shot it into the water right in front of us.

And within moments there was always a fish, that I would never touch, on the rocks below my Keds.

Sometimes there would be a fish there before Grampa got his next cigar lit, or had taken another sip of the bottle of his “medicine.”

It was here, on the breaker wall of the Niagara River where I asked my Grampa this question, “Grampa is this the spot where you hooked Gram, was she the first Mermaid you ever caught.”

“Are cigars good Mermaid baits?”

“”¦then straight to her arms”¦”

Once Grampa stopped coughing, a cough relieved by several chugs of his “medicine,” he asked me why I thought “Tess” was a mermaid.   I told him she took me here often, held me up and pointed at the water and whispered in my ear, “that’s where I come from Donnie, right there.”

At which Grampa turned slight to his right, away from me and looked over his shoulder and then turned back and stared at me for a few seconds.

Grampa then put down his pole, picked me up, just like Gram did, and pointed just like Gram did, and just as I did when Gram did it, I started looking for Mermaids, except Grampa said this into my ear.

“Donnie, you see that gas station over there (I did so I shook my head yes). Donnie that’s CANADA. That’s where Tess and I are from – CANADA – not the Niagara River.”

And then, “Your Grandmother is not a Mermaid, she is Canadian.”

Fifty-seven years to the day that he died – Clayton – my Grandfather once again held me in his arms and whispered the truth into my ear.

One child’s Mermaid, is another man’s Canadian.

Which is exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks Grampa for coming back.


With the faint smell of the secret Niagara River Havana bait hovering near the box of my sea, I put all the documents back and went back downstairs.

And took Barb’s dog Riley for a walk in the rain.

And during the walk with the cold rain and saltwater streaming down my face, at Riley’s favorite fire hydrant I told Riley, “You know dude, my Grandmother was a Mermaid “¦”

At which the dog looked up at me, mid sniff of the hydrant, where I leaned a little closer and said to him

” …but Grampa? No. He … he was a Canadian.”

“…I’d go sailin’.”

Beyond The Sea

Bobby Darin