As Father’s Day is coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad lately – the lessons he taught me and the fun days we had together. Some of them stick out because of how hilarious they were.
We (our family) spent a lot of time fishing when I was little. I remember those days – usually because of how cold they were – especially out on the boat during the Fall. The thing I remember catching the most of was Mackerel. When we returned to the dock, Dad would clean them and then into the freezer they would go until the winter months. To this day – I hate Mackerel because there were usually a lot of bones, and you had to be careful when you ate them.
Life got a lot better when dad started buying his lobster traps – but that’s another story for later.
What I liked about fishing was just the time spent with each other talking, strategizing which lure to use, and then waiting for the bites to happen and the challenge of reeling them in. I would usually try to reel the fish in, but then I would usually get tired because I wasn’t strong enough to get the fish on deck – so I’d hand the fishing pole to him and say, “okay – your turn.”
Later in life – Dad kept two fishing poles in the back shed at their home in Florida. One day, we were walking down the street in their neighborhood that overlooked Sarasota Bay. We could see the fish jumping out of the water. Dad said, “there’s probably bigger fish underneath them that are chasing them.” “We should go get bait!” I said. “Probably shrimp would be best,” he said, “we’ll pick some up tomorrow.”
The next day we drove over to the bait and tackle shop on Anna Maria Island and bought two large boxes of shrimp.
I was so psyched to be with him, walking with our fishing poles down to sit on the bench along the waterfront. It was just like old times. I thought about how many years had passed since we had stood on the back of the boat fishing.
We baited the hooks and then sat waiting. Every time I would feel a nibble, I would jerk the line and then – nuthin. When I reeled the line in, the bait would be gone, but no fish would be there. This happened again and again and again.
Dad and I continued to sit together, talking, and fishing. We’d talk, and then I’d feel another jerk on the line. I’d tug it again, reel it in again only to find the shrimp would be gone, and there would be no fish on the end of my line. “What the hell?” I would ask dad. Maybe it was the lures we were using. Perhaps the shrimp was on the hook the wrong way. I was exasperated.
But we continued to sit there for hours talking and completely emptying the two boxes of shrimp we had purchased.
“I feel like I just took them out for a nice dinner,” I told him.
But as exasperated as I felt, the most important thing was having the time to sit with dad and talk to him and have a relaxing afternoon together. As we packed up the tackle box and the fishing poles, I felt sad that our afternoon had ended, but it was getting late, and mom would be cooking dinner by the time we arrived.
It was during our walk back to the house that dad happened to mention that the fish didn’t have any teeth.
“What???” I asked him. “WHAT????”
He explained to me that the fish we were trying to catch had tiny teeth, and because of this, it was challenging to catch them. “So, we just fed them two boxes of shrimp?” I asked.
“Yes, sometimes you can catch one, but not usually.”
As we got closer to home, I remember laughing and thinking that all this time, he knew this but didn’t say anything. And then I remembered the great time we had, spending the afternoon with each other.
After he died, I remember walking into the back shed – his shed – where all of his tools and tackle boxes were. I would look up at the two fishing poles, wishing I could take the one I always used with me. But then I would think about how old it was and the logistics of getting it onto the plane. I decided that I would fish another day but leave the poles in Florida, hoping that someone else would enjoy them as much as dad and I did.
Life is short. Spend time with the people you love the most. Even if the fish are just taking all of your bait, the most important thing is the time that you are spending together. – Lesson learned.