My son’s voice was fading. Head leaning against the back of the opened fold-up chair, I faced the warmth of the morning sun. Legs stretched out, I propped my feet on top of the fence that kept small children and adults alike from dropping and flaying in the waters that surrounded the small metal pier. Sure didn’t wanna scare away the fishies.
A night crawler firmly attached to my hook, I patiently waited for it to either drown or be nibbled on-affording me the opportunity to sit and daydream, converse with my child in hushed tones and soak up some rays.
My child, an experienced fisherman, has never caught a fish. Too many distractions. He likes to experiment with different lures and baits. Takes all helpful suggestions from more seasoned fisher folk than myself with serious consideration. His unwritten mission statement is to try most anything that will stick to the end of the line at least once.
“How do they (the fish) KNOW they won’t like a certain bait if they haven’t tried ’em?”
His logic makes sense when he explains further, “Whenever you make brussel sprouts, you make me keep tasting them every single time…”
“Yeah, but you don’t like them.”
He nods in agreement as he reels in the line. “But you say maybe someday when I get older I will. So maybe it’ll be the older, bigger fish that I’ll catch.”
Clicking over the bar on his reel, his awkward all elbows, knees and feet transform into one of fluid motion. Cuts through a slice of sky with his mighty saber, freeing his line. Exhaling with an audible sigh, he aims across the horizon, unfurling a song of ribboned hope born of all fishermen. As the faux food, attached to the hook mark the lake’s surface, he holds still, waiting, hoping.
“I just figured out why fishing is so cool.”
He pointed to where the rings slowly expanded in the final moments of movement where his lure dropped. “’cause every time you cast out, it hits a bull’s-eye!”
Chuckling, I considered the truth of his statement. With measured movement, the line crawled across the water’s glassy surface, fragmenting it into patterns of fragile cracks as he once more reeled in.
Meandering down the pier, he headed towards a fellow fisherman. I grinned. Poor guy didn’t have a clue. This kid of mine could extract information from a rock. Tenacious of spirit, if a stranger held a rod and reel, information WOULD be gleamed. Spontaneous of attitude, but plotted by desire in connecting, the conversations and opportunities almost always ended with both he and I traipsing home with more bait, lures and weights than what we started out with.
I dozed as they quietly talked. Gave Tim a thumbs up when he asked permission in sharing our lunch with his new bud.
As the snowy white egrets skimmed the lake, the wood ducks mirrored the glass in perfect unison, dancing through sky and water as the music of breeze filtered through the trees. Male mallard ducks, with their emerald jeweled heads, chased competitors from reeds where their mates nested. We munched our sandwiches in companionable silence, watching the world, as viewed from the perspective of the lake, move in a forward motion.
Lunch finished, the fishermen wandered back to their favored place to fish. Later I noticed that the two were joined by yet another. Shaking hands, he introduced himself as the first fisherman’s son.
It is strange how we, as parents, are so anxious to cut the apron strings that keep our youth clinging, but the nearly invisible line that connects through the subtle art of fishing is knotted securely against the forces of time to establish and re-establish opportunities beyond the surface.
A child’s familiar voice breaks through my train of thought…
“I know you don’t want to get pregnant any more, ’cause you think you’re too old, but do you get PMS?”
Now, do I REALLY need to interject here how I felt as that innocent blurb was spewed out through the oh-so-peacefully quiet skies? My first instinct was to grab all the weights in the tackle box in hopes that once I jumped off the pier I would sink low and long. My second thought was to throw a couple of ’em at my child. Common sense ruled under a Higher Power, proving once again that miracles indeed, in this modern age still happen. My face reddened, and not from the sun, as acute embarrassment washed over me.
The fishermen were polite enough to keep silent. I watched as they quickly turned their backs to us, shoulders shaking in mirth. I was afraid to speak, to ask, but like that lemming, headed for the cliff’s edge anyway.
“What?!” I squeaked in response.
“Well, I was watching the mallard ducks and noticed the guys keeping away all the other male ducks, and the females are hiding in their nests with the eggs…I know they lay a bunch of ’em…”
As he was sharing these important facts, he slowly sided up to me and continued…
“Now, everyone knows that the eggs have to be fertilized before they can be babies, but I was wondering what happens when they aren’t. They still lay the eggs, whether they have babies in ’em or not, and HE said,” (nodding to the younger fisherman who still had the grace to face the water with his shoulders hunched down), “that he thought that the lady ducks probably had PMS.”
He paused for breath while I, depleted of oxygen, still held mine.
“I told him that I knew ’bout that stuff, but I didn’t think it applied to ducks. Besides, I really don’t think you do either. You usually save your mad times for when I try to sneak outta doing my homework or when I hide my stuff under my bed when you tell me to clean my room.”
Sometimes silence is better than opening the mouth. Don’t have to dig an enlarging hole that way. I nodded in agreement. Later, after the younger fisherman left, I walked up to the other as he was packing up his gear. “Wanted to apologize for my son’s…sharing.”
Slowly, the wizened old gentleman creaked to a standing position and stood tall. Readjusting the wide band of his sun bleached hat, his pale blue eyes locked into mine.
“Ya know, I’ve had some mighty strange conversations over the years with other folk who like fishin’, but gotta admit, this one was a tad…” (here he grinned, searching, but coming up short for the right words…) “different. After my son left, we kept talkin’ ’bout the habits of ducks, bait, rocks in mountains, rocks in the deserts, rocks in the ocean…his rock collection. We talked on ’bout which would be more dangerous, a viper with an attitude or a black bear coming out of hibernation. He asked me what I liked to do when I was his age, when I learned how to fish, and if ‘en my mom made me taste vegetables I didn’t like when I was young. He talked ’bout what scared him when he was little and what still worries him now. He asked me what scared me when I was little and what worries ME now…”
This gentle older fisherman paused, looking down at his feet, then looked back up, peering deep into my eyes. Quietly spoke:
“Then outta the blue, like it was the normalist thing in the world, he asked me if I was goin’ to church tomora. I told him I stopped a long time ago. Your kid said to me, ‘Know what? When I was young,'” (he snickered), “‘I went through this time where I didn’t wanna go, too. It would be lots more fun to stay home and play, or watch cartoons and stuff.’ I asked him what happed to change his mind…’well, going to a church you like is kinda like fishing, wherever you, (and here your kid cast his line out again, dropping it into the water), ‘go you’re surrounded in a circle after circle after circles that touch, but keeps going out and out and out…and sometimes, when you least ‘spect it, you catch something…'”
“…And I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19
Tim actually caught more: two bluegill and one bass!
By Karen Rice