Joey, Allie... This is for you. May these stories be like tiny feathers that will one day drift down out of nowhere, bringing back great memories and smiles. You have brought me true joy with your laughter and song. This is your roadmap back to your youth and my guide home when memories fade. What a blessing it has been! What a blessing it continues to be.
My husband has dreams of family outings that simply don’t play out the way he envisions them. Once a year, the kids and I gather round and participate in some outdoor expedition sure to bring happiness to “Dad.” It only takes one trip to steer him off of this insane pursuit of unrealistic family adventures. This year’s annual attempt at family fun was a fishing trip in the dead of winter. When we woke that morning to rain, I should have said "No!" When I demanded that we take sacks of groceries, extra clothes in case anyone gets wet, an assortment of ointments for everything from contact dermatitis to cobra bites and enough camera gear to look like a tourist, my husband should have said "No!" Instead, we loaded the gear, text our children to rise from their beds and get into the truck, and headed off to the lake. Note that I consider myself a professional angler with my Snoopy rod and reel and can cast a plastic lure across our backyard pool, past five cats and around our patio table with great skill. It’s those giant saltwater rods and reels that challenge me. Once aboard the boat, my husband gave me specific instructions not to cast the reel. This defeats the entire purpose of fishing. I knew this was unnecessary advice and immediately flung the rod at the water. Much to my surprise, his advice should have been heeded because unlike the Snoopy Rod and Reel, fishing line went everywhere except towards the fish. It’s hard to hide a giant twisted ball of monofilament line coming from your reel and my husband soon spied the mess I had made. No words were spoken. After what seemed like a very long time, the fishing line was back in place and the rod was placed in a holder. Again, I received instructions not to cast the reel or even touch it. He explained that you have to keep your finger on the line when you cast or the line will tangle. He obviously believed I was not properly skilled to perform this maneuver. Now that I understood the concept, I was curious if only a second was a precise measurement of time needed to create such a large and tangly mess. Surely, you could lift your finger for a split second and still have control. Apparently not is that answer to that question, as I stood there a second time with a giant ball of fishing line tangled around the reel. Since my daughter was driving the boat, I wondered if my husband would be focused on her, giving me time to untangle this mess I had gotten myself into. Apparently not is the answer to that question, as well. Once my rights to cast had been stripped away, my daughter drove us further into the cold and my son huddled at the back of the boat texting friends and family back home in warm, dry places. I was the only one determined to catch a fish and call it a day. I should share with you that when you are fishing with really big fishing reels, you should not wear a hoodie with draw strings that dangle loose and free. Since I was unaware that a giant striped bass was on the end of my line attached to a rod I didn’t cast, my husband yelled at me, “Fish On.” I’ve since learned that those two words demand immediate attention by all and everyone has a duty to fulfill whether it be to stop the boat, reel in the other lines or set the hook and bring in dinner. I panicked and leaned over to reel in the giant fish when the drawstrings on my hoodie wound right up into the reel. In a split second, I had reeled myself straight up to my neck and stood there with my face attached to the rod and a 20 lb Striper attached to the other end. The fish was pulling. I was panicking. Once again, I hoped that nobody would notice and the best plan I could come up with was to yell, “Don’t be mad, Don’t be mad.” Without turning to look at the situation I had gotten myself into, my husband prepared himself for whatever mess I had created this time. I can’t remember if we got the fish or not, but I do remember sitting in silence as he removed my drawstrings from the reel and realized this was nothing like fishing with buddies. There’s a reason men fish together. It's to keep people like me out of the boat. Now, if a day of swimming and excellent meals is on the agenda, the kids and I are the ones you want to take fishing, but if you want to actually catch fish, it’s best to leave all of us behind and find someone who longs to hear those words “Fish On.” I still panic when I hear those two words and do my best to move out of the way and avoid being gaffed or hooked in the head. The kids are great about going along for the ride and stand ready to post pictures of me with my head attached to a reel or of their father realizing that his dreams and his reality are two different things. Both are good and blessed is the man who finds the fun in each.