Three Things and Fishing With My Dad
Recently I received an e-mail entitled "Three Things" and the first picture and set of "three things" had my mind going to back to my youth, and thinking of my Dad. Here is the pic:
And the first Three Things in life that, once gone, never come back:
The picture is like a snapshot of a memory. Look closely. See the girl fishing with the man? Well, that could have been me and my Dad circa 1970.
I spent hours fishing with my Dad. In the beginning, we'd go searching for Night Crawlers. Those are the big, ugly, slimy worms that later would be used to bait the fish. I hated that part. I revolted against picking up those huge worms and plunking them in the bucket. But after a rain storm, you could find those big suckers hanging out on our driveway. Dad would say "It's a good time to get the Night Crawlers" and I'd shriek silently to myself, "Oh no!"
He'd grab a big flashlight and the bait bucket, and we'd go out in the dark to the driveway and the front yard of our house. Dad would shine the light saying "there they are!" and I would cringe. While Dad filled the bucket with worms, I tentatively picked up one or two. You see, I never told Dad that I hated those worms, but I'm sure he must have guessed. I wanted to please him, and if you wanted to be a good fisherman (fisherwoman?) you had to get the best bait. So I'd pretend that I did my part, and Dad would let me get away with it.
Once daylight came, and we had a bucketful of worms, we'd go fishing. Sometimes we'd walk along the brook that traveled by the house, and sometimes we'd go to the lake a few miles away. The time would come when we'd have to put those worms on the hook, and I would cringe again. I'd pretend that I couldn't do it right, so Dad would eventually hook the worms for me.
Then the best part came. We'd cast the lines from our poles, and wait. We fished for brook or lake trout back then. And as we waited for an unsuspecting trout to nibble on the worm, I'd take in the sights and sounds of life in the fresh water. If I listen with my mind I can still hear the pleasant gurgle of the running stream, like a slow melodic tune that never ends. The water would weave its way over the rocks, hitting tree stumps or dams built by beavers, and travel on. Sometimes the air and water hitting the rocks caused bubbles to form, and Dad would tell me to put my line right there, because under those bubbles the fish were "hiding."
And I guess they were also "hiding" from my fishing line. I don't recall ever catching one fish from those areas! In fact, I really didn't catch many fish at all! But it was the experience of being with Dad, standing next to him and casting out the lines together. That's what I treasured most about fishing.
Then one day, Dad came home from work with the secret of all fishing secrets! Mario, a guy who worked with my Dad, said that the best bait for fish was corn niblets. And Mario was the authority. Dad listened to every word that man stated, and followed his advice for years. People in my family will remember the name, I'm sure. If Mario said it, we were doing it. Funny thing is, I never did meet Mario. I wonder today if he ever existed at all, or if Dad just made him up to get his own way with things!
In any event, we switched our bait from Night Crawlers to corn niblets, and I was happy. I could deal with putting corn on the fishing hook, and Dad no longer had to help me!
Did the corn work? Well, not really. But I wasn't about to say anything about it! After all, who was I to challenge Mario's advice?
But alas, as time went on and I grew up, those days of fishing with Dad became less and less, until they were no more. Yet still today I carry the valuable lessons I learned from Dad while standing next to him on the side of the brook. I learned that patience is needed in life, and that sometimes we wait and wait and never get a fish. But that's okay, because it's not always about the "getting", but about continuing to pursue the goal no matter what, that counts.
I learned that just as the stream continues to move, despite hitting rocks and trees and dams, so life continues to move whether we want it to or not. Time can't be held back or stopped, and so we also must carry on despite the obstacles we face in our lives.
I learned that standing next to my Dad, who was so tall and big in comparison to me, was a treasure. Because years later, when he became frail and not so big due to cancer, I could still remember how it felt to look up to him.
And I learned that just as the fresh water from the brook moves on, so do opportunities. The chances that we have today to spend time with those we love, may never come again. Dad passed away nearly six years ago, and I would give anything to be able to stand next to him and cast out a line just one more time. I'd even put a Night Crawler on the hook myself, if I had the chance, just to please him. But those opportunities will never come again for me.
So today I'll be thinking of those Three Things mentioned in the e-mail (time, words, opportunities) and wondering how I can make the most of all three in my life. And surely I'll be thinking of Dad, who understood that philosophy long before e-mail was invented.
But most of all, I'll be thanking God for a Dad who took the time to lead his daughter around the brooks and streams and to teach her some of the greatest lessons of life while waiting for a fish to bite.
And, yes, I'll even be thanking God for Mario, and of course, for corn niblets!