Dad, Are You Watching?

I went fishing with my dad today for father’s day. I’m not much of a fisher, but dad like is and we went a couple years ago and that turned out to be very enjoyable, even if my first two catches were a power line and a stick.

Dad had just moved to Lake St. Louis in Missouri to be closer to his job and found a lake nearby. He said he liked that for the same reason he didn’t use live bait: it’s easier. “I can grab a pole, find a spot, and start fishing right away. When I’m tired, I just turn around and go home. No mess, no fuss.”

That’s exactly what we did. We found some spots by the lake and just started casting as soon as we got there. We didn’t want to keep any, just have some fun fishing. I started getting back into the fishing groove, staring out onto that lake for a long time, trying to forget I had to pee.

Between the two of us, we caught 2.5 fish. My first one got off the line right before it hit land, so he escaped. My second one was a bit interesting. I got him on land, but then he, too, got free and started flopping around. These were bass fish and I knew those fins could cut. I didn’t want to touch it. I’m not sure how much a fin cut actually hurts, but screw you, Mr. Fish, you can die. I actually tried getting him back in the water with my foot and a stick, but he kept flopping the wrong way, so forget it.

It was then I decided to ask Dad what to do if I caught one. He reminded me how to hold the fish on the line properly and get a finger in its mouth, then take the hook out and toss it back. He demonstrated later on, then said I could do the next one. I kept casting, secretly hoping that I wouldn’t catch anymore. I’m a pansy. Not that Dad needed to know.

When we went to another side of the lake with more hope for success, Dad told me to cast it out just shy of the opposite bank. “Make it look like something fell from the tree,” Dad said. “Bass wait there and if they see something splash, they think it’s a bug or something, so keep it moving so it looks like something that’s hurt and they’ll snag it.”

Maybe you guys can cast a line the way you want, but I can’t figure out how when I cast straight forward, it goes left or right or straight down to my feet. I don’t fish much.

But then, it happened. I shot a perfect cast right at the edge of the opposite bank and I heard Dad say, “Perfect!” I’m 24 years old and that phrase still lights me up. My next few were horrible, barely clearing my own bank, then one landing on the opposite shore and I had to yank it through the weeds and I’d already caused on line to snap. But then, it happened again! I got the perfect distance and instantly, I looked over at Dad, but he was looking away at his own pole. Again, 24-years old, and my brain still says, “Dad, are you watching?”

I watched him fish for a while and I wished I’d brought my camera. I had a good shot of dad off to the side, his line in the water, the sunset reflecting off the lake. My dad is 52 now with a full head of gray hair. He still has his health, and I think he’ll be around a while longer, but I know that our days together are limited. I wondered how many more times we would fish, how many more times we would talk about our lives, and how much more he still had to teach me.

Sometimes I think I have the lamest Christian story ever. I know people who talk about how God rescued them from drugs, alcohol, prostitution, abuse, or some combination of those things and more. I, on the other hand, was born in to Christianity. I had struggles in school, but nothing like those other stories, and in college, I got serious about it. Whoop-dee-doo. That’s why I’ve always dreaded giving my testimony because mine is the palest shade of vanilla in any group I know.

But looking at Dad, I don’t mind it so much. After all, it’s thanks to him that my story is so boring. It’s thanks to him I never got into drugs and alcohol, that I never rebelled or ran away, that I didn’t go through a cycle of loser girlfriends, that I wasn’t ashamed to let people into my house, that I was eventually able to move out on my own, and there are other things I’m still thanking him for to this very day.

So, as we reeled in our lines for the night and walked back to the truck, I couldn’t help but be grateful and proud to the man who worked night shifts he hated just so he could be with his family in the daytime, who prayed to God for me and my brother more times than he could count, and who lived a Christian life true enough and respectable enough to imitate.

So happy father’s day. Thanks for watching.

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