Fishing Lessons

 
For Writers Island Prompt #21 The Fisherman
http://writersisland.wordpress.com/

The Fisherman

“Betty!” My father’s voice echoed in my ears. I immediately sat up, wide awake from my afternoon nap. My Dad had died just over fifteen years ago, at home, in a city one hundred miles to the North. Yet, the voice was unmistakable, the childhood nickname spoken in a tone of impatience, almost anger.

The call had come from the basement of my small rented home, where the debris of a fifty-plus year existence was stored along cement walls and on metal shelves. It was the tone of that voice that had me questioning, until I remembered that my father’s fishing equipment, bequeathed to me after his death, had been stored down there with all the rest of the stuff that couldn’t find a place in my little house.

My father was a generous and patient man. He loved his family, telling people stories from his childhood, driving down unknown back roads while singing silly old songs like the one about the man who watched his wife get ready for bed. Saw her place her wig on a high shelf in the closet, put her glass eye on a plate on the dresser, and her false teeth on the chair, then lamented, “My little dear, I want to love you, but you’re scattered everywhere!”

Dad made things from wood, like tables and clocks. He enjoyed playing cribbage for nickels and dimes, fishing, talking to people, and was an avid Packers fan. He drove an 18 Wheeler for a living and was a bright, affectionate and caring individual, who loved to laugh often and with others.

Those might sound like rather ordinary attributes until they are mingled with my father’s early history. Put out for adoption when he was six months old, he was placed in a foster home when he was four, and his adoptive parents discovered they could have their own children. Research points out that his history might easily have lead to some form of anti-social behavior. That isn’t a description of the man I knew and loved.

I was eight years old when Dad finally agreed to let me go fishing with him. Having nagged him for almost a year, I was beyond excited when he finally said it was okay. There wasn’t another human being I wanted to spend the time with. However, there were a few things, he said, I needed to know before I could accompany him.

First off, I needed to take care of my own equipment. That meant making sure rod and reel were in working order and I was prepared to lug them to the fishing spot, even if it was a trout stream he was sure he could locate a mile behind my uncle’s cabin in the North woods. We never found it. I lost a boot in the mud back there, but I never dropped the rods and reels.

I had to be tough, bait my own hook with torn apart segments of live night crawlers and remove whatever I landed, be it weeds, a perch, or a big, nasty catfish (he called them ‘bullheads’). On the waters of the Bay, in a rented boat, he showed me how to maneuver my line gently to work it loose from a snag, and to patiently reset it if it had to be cut away.

Filling a bucket with perch is fun and he made it a contest of who would catch the biggest and the most. After several hours on the bright water, I was ready to curl up in the car and sleep all the way home to the Southwest side of the city of Green Bay.

No such luck. Dad said if I wanted to go with him again, I’d have to be prepared to clean whatever we caught. I knew he meant it because he had recently taken two car loads of my brother’s neighborhood friends and told them the same thing as they climbed out of the cars at the end of the day. Several of them told him that he could keep their portion. He accepted the gift but they never accompanied him again.

My tired body protesting, I learned as he patiently showed me how to use the scaler, guided my small hand as he taught me to cut off the head just below the gills, make one slit all the way down the fish’s belly, then push out the entrails with my thumb, rinsing what was left in clear cold water. I was fascinated as the now cleaned and gutted fish left crimson clots that floated half submerged in the large white plastic bucket.

Finally arriving home with our prize, I refused to give in to my exhaustion as Mom floured and fried our fresh catch and Dad regaled her and my siblings with several anecdotes of our day spent on the water. He made it sound like an adventure and praised my willingness to learn the lessons he set before me.

After that, we went fishing often. He would tell me on Friday night where he intended to go and I would hug myself, not only because we were going on another adventure, but because it meant that I didn’t have to be involved in Mom’s round of Saturday morning cleaning chores.

My father always liked to get started early, believing that the fish were most hungry at dawn. That meant he would call me before it was light out. I would roll over and fall back to sleep, counting on him to call me again when it was time to leave. He told me several times that if I continued to have to be called more than once, someday he would leave without me. I didn’t believe him, we were fishing buddies.

One Saturday morning I awoke to the sound of the car reversing out of the driveway just outside my bedroom window, where I had once again fallen back into slumber. I gasped in distress, unwilling to believe he’d leave me behind. I ran to the window overlooking the garage which stood open and empty. I suddenly understood how one of the perch I was so good at catching felt; swimming along carefree one moment, hooked and pulled unwillingly to the one place I didn’t want to be in the next.

It hurt deeply. I spent the day finding quiet corners where I would cry, then get angry at my Dad for leaving me behind. My Mom and siblings quietly ignored my distress as we scrubbed floors, dusted, and vacuumed the house. Each of those chores felt like an added burden of silent punishment, an embarrassing reminder that I had really screwed things up.

With childish bravado to cover my fear that I had irrevocably and foolishly lost this special highlight of my young existence, I plotted a revenge that would see me quietly refusing to accompany Dad the next time he asked, trying to convince myself that he would ask me to accompany him again. He had to. Two weeks later, he came to me on a Friday night and asked me if I wanted to go with him to Sturgeon Bay the next morning. When he woke me up in the dark, I was out of the bed before he was out the bedroom door. We never discussed the pain-filled lesson I had learned the hard way.

We went fishing often, through my teen years and even into adulthood. The adventures were many and the memories are bits of treasure I hold onto when sorrow finds its way into my everyday moments. Six months before he died, sick with the effects of chemotherapy, my father drove with my mother, to a cottage where my husband, four children, and myself were enjoying a vacation. Too sick to trust himself to the rowboat, he sat on the dock with rod and reel in hand, and waved to my son, husband, and me as we rowed into deeper waters half way across the lake.

He was still there, in his lawn chair, when we returned with the deepening evening shadows. As the boat bumped dully against the wooden dock, he looked straight at me and said, “You caught a big one, didn’t you? I could hear you whooping and hollering all the way across the lake.”

As I pulled my first Northern from the water, I looked at him quizzically and asked how he knew it was me that had caught it. “I taught you how and I did a good job,” was his grinning response. We cleaned the Northern and my mother fried it after dragging the pieces through flour. Another adventure.

I suddenly understood my father’s most recent visit after all these years of separation and silence. Months of struggling with the depression of grief, after loosing a significant individual from my life, had found me giving in to the desire to sleep, often at odd hours of the day. My father, who loved life, didn’t want me to miss out on the adventure of my own and whatever time I still have left. It was time to get up, get moving. I certainly didn’t want to be left behind. We both knew he wouldn’t come back a second time.

Advertisements

About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: https://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in Fishing Lessons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Fishing Lessons

  1. vivinfrance says:

    Have I read this before? Even if I have, I loved every minute of your memorial to your Dad – what a happy childhood you had. Your Dad had an excellent pupil, as well as a subtle way of bringing you into line.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Viv, this was originally written over six years ago and posted to a forum I used to run back then. When I saw today’s prompt, I went back in my files and got it out, tweaked it a bit and posted it. I did do another essay about my dad and what I see as the legacy he left of and to me, a couple of months ago. It wasn’t as specific as this one, but may be what you are reffering to.

      And you are correct about his subtle leadings. He allowed me to make choices and that is always good teaching behavior. Yes, the times I shared with my Dad were happy ones and I loved the man fiercely. Still cherish those times because they were the best of those years.

      Glad you enjoyed reading and thanks so much for the comments,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  2. anthonynorth says:

    An excellent recollection, if tinged with a hint of the bittersweet.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Thank you Anthony. I had to check myself at the word ‘bittersweet’, because I have never put those memories within that frame of reference. I always smile when I think of my father, even that day when he came through my subconscious to let me know I was in danger of closing off my own path and journey.

      However, your word is exactly correct. My father died at the age of 69, when I was in my late thirties. I’m 64 now, so think that was rather young, lol. Especially as I have only stumbled recently upon some major insight into what our relationship has really meant in terms of my own choices and journey.

      Thank you for reading, and for the deeper insights you always bring,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  3. Deborah says:

    Such a wonderful story, you can feel how special he was to you, thank you for posting it, it was lovely to be able to share your memory x

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Deborah, thank you for your kind words. I lived, for several years, with a young woman who was an incest victim. She found it very difficult to believe my stories about my father because of her own frame of reference. Then one day, she quietly came to me and gave me a song to listen to. It was Tori Amos, singing Winter. It mirrors these feelings I have about my father and my young friend was letting me know, she finally understood the reality of other possibilities.

      That story and the lyrics to the song can be found at my other blog, listed under Tori Amos:

      http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  4. Mary says:

    Elizabeth, it is interesting to me that we both wrote about fishing with our fathers. I caught perch too as a child. Loved perch then (at fish fries) AND now. Still am not a fan of home cooked perch though. Your story was very touching, gave me a lump in my throat at times. It definitely gives me a picture of the kind of man your father was and of the relationship you had with him.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Ahh, Mary, another point of commonality. I never liked the home cooked version either, lol. But sat through those dinners just to hear my Dad’s stories. He made our ordinary activities sound so much deeper and more meaningful somehow. You might really enjoy the poem and lyrics I mention in my comment to Deborah above.

      Thanks for reading and always for your comments,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  5. Diane says:

    How fascinating that you heard your father’s voice call you after he had been dead a number of years.

    You learned some important lessons from your dad. I know it was hard when he left without you that one day, but it was a valuable lesson nonetheless. Your father let you know loud and clear where the limits were.

    You write about your father with warmth and realism.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Diane, it is common to have auditory dreams, and I had been sleeping. I’m into dream work and analysis, and I knew the voice was straight from my subconscious and held an important message for me.

      And as I said above, my father gave me choices. He never addressed my bad behavior, did warn me of the consequences, and then followed through. I now know, that he would have gone right on asking me if I wanted to go fishing. He simply gave me the opportunity to take responsibility for my choices. And I did that, and yes that was an extremely important lesson taught through love and affection. The best way to learn if possible.

      My father was far from perfect and had flaws, I may have to write about some of that in another essay, lol. This one was about his lessons on fishing as a metaphor for life. I’m just glad he was patient and gentle.

      Elizabeth

      Like

  6. systematicweasel says:

    Wonderful post! Very much enjoyed the read! =)

    -Weasel

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Thank you Weasel, and that reminds me that I didn’t leave a comment for you on the dream you wrote about. As I’ve said, many times, I’m into dreams and yours is rich with imagery and symbolism. I couldn’t think where to start, so left it til later. Maybe an email would be better?

      Elizabeth

      Like

  7. Susannah says:

    A wonderful story rich with imagery, thank you for letting us share your memory.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Susannah, I’ve been dealing with a lot of new insight that involves my relationship with my Dad. It was immediately there when I saw the prompt, and had actually been thinking about writing something about it anyway. So glad I did, because it has only deepened that new awareness. Love it when that happens,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  8. Marianne says:

    A stunningly beautiful story, full of bittersweet memories and love. And how wonderful of you to share the photograph of your father as well!

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Hi Marianne. As I said above, I’ve been dealing with some amount of new awareness about our relationship. Flipping through some old photos, I came across this one several days ago. So, knew exactly where to go and find it. The picture was taken at a rented cottage up North. Another fishing spot. Glad you enjoyed the story,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  9. Irene says:

    A warm-hearted recollection that left me feeling soothed by your memory. I can identify with that feeling left by my father. Thanks Elizabeth for sharing.

    Like

  10. 1sojournal says:

    Thanks Irene, glad you found something of value here. I do like to write poetry, but at least once a week, I have to post some prose as well. Keep my hand in, sort of speak.

    I really liked your response to the prompt as well. It never fails to surprise me at how wide a variety of ideas and responses come from one prompt. It shouldn’t, that’s the uniqueness and individuality that creativity allows, but it always does.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  11. Judy Roney says:

    This really touches me. I love the photo you added so we could see your “fishing buddy”, your dad. I understand totally that he is still there with you teaching you and pushing you along when you need it.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Hi Judy, glad to see you here. My spam filter tossed you out, but that’s more than likely because you were unknown to it. Happens sometimes, and I did get to fish you out, lol. As I have responded to these comments, it has pulled up a great deal more memories, things I hadn’t thought of before, or at least not for a long time. And they have new and deeper meanings. I’m really glad I did this post. It is good to honor what has shaped and formed you.

      Thanks for your kind words,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  12. pamela says:

    Elizabeth, I must say this brought tears to my eyes.
    I also had a great relationship with my father and this heartfelt piece was a great reminder.
    Pamela

    Like

  13. 1sojournal says:

    Hi Pamela, am glad that you had a response. I often have those when reading your poetry. At least one or two lines will jump out at me, and then I have to go back and start over again, lol. I have always known that my relationship with my Dad was somewhat unique, but always thought is was based in something else. Am only now beginning to realize that there were several different motivating factors. That is good, because it is changing my perspective on other things. Thanks for stopping and I look forward to more exchanges,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  14. KB says:

    What a wondeful tribute to your father.

    Like

  15. Brian says:

    My others… well, I’m glad you have such wonderful memories of your father. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Brian, I’m glad I have them as well. They created a very necessary balance. I think there is a saying about how no one gets out of childhood without some scars. At the least, some bumps and bruises. I have both and my father was an important path in resolving many of them,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  16. BJ Roan says:

    That was a wonderful story! I understand the early morning issues. 😉 It’s a wonder Hubby hasn’t left me home on more than one occasion. Very well told memory piece. Loved it, even the bittersweet ending.

    Like

  17. 1sojournal says:

    Thank you BJ. I liked your fishing story and related to it very well. Hubbies are a different matter and I have a very funny story about that aspect that I might divulge at some point. My father didn’t let me liveit down for a good bit. He did love to tease.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  18. I have only been fishing twice in my whole life! But this story touched me! I felt the highs and lows, the bonding, the sense of just being! Beautiful!

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Thank you Gemma, I haven’t been fishing for several years, but would certainly try again if I could find someone who wouldn’t mind my slowed down and careful pace. Was supposed to go this coming weekend, but looks as though that might get cancelled. Someday, I’m sure. Thanks for reading and commenting,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  19. Jane says:

    Hi Elizabeth-

    Beautiful, moving, poignant! Thanks.

    Jane

    Like

  20. Marie Elena says:

    Elizabeth, my eyes are moist as I write my response. My own dad and I are very close, and did a fare amount of fishing together in my growing-up years. There were always lessons to be learned, bonds to be built, and memories to mold. Though aging, dad is still living (two doors down), and I have so much for which to be thankful. Your dad sounds very much like my own. Your piece touched me deeply.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Maria Elena, thanks for sharing. It is so satisfying to read about other’s experiences, and doubly so to know that ones own found a small spot in the mind and heart of another.

      Elizabeth

      Like

  21. ladynimue says:

    This was entertaining, informative and yet so inspiring at the end !! Enjoyed it thoroughly !!

    Like

  22. 1sojournal says:

    Thanks Lady, its great to know those things happen as a result of writing. It’s one of the best and biggest reasons for responding to these prompts. It’s a lot like reading a magazine that carries a theme throughout its pages. So varied and yet unique each and every time.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  23. A very touching story about your Dad. Dad’s can be wonderful people in our lives, and as children I think — in love, we forgive them, when they can’t give us what we need. Perhaps we love them, because they try. And then we get our chance to try that “parenting” game, and we find out how hard it is. Certainly not just falling off a log.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      You remind me of my younger sister. Dad took both of us out on the Bay when we were probably 4 and 5 years old. A storm came up and the motor failed. He had to row us all the way back in. I remember laughing and giggling as the water splashed over the sides of the boat. She remembers the terrible fear she saw in Dad’s face that day. I don’t know if either of us actually remembers the moment through those child’s eyes, or through the eyes of the parents we became.

      Thanks for reminding me of that one,

      Elizabeth

      Like

  24. As I was reading the posts, I caught another thought. The day your Dad left and didn’t take you along, was a foretelling of the day he would leave you forever. This thought makes me so sad, I almost can’t stand it. But I think in life as in dreams sometimes there a wonderful messages. And whether you got “it” or not, it sounds like you got it.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Annell, that message wasn’t lost as I wrote this piece of my story. I was volunteered to do the nursing chores the last week he was alive. I had to check his blood sugar levels and give him his insulin shots, things I’d never done before. I also bathed and held him and rocked him. And each time I did those things, I felt his spirit enter my hands and travel up my arms to finally settle in the region of my heart. On the last day he was alive, he was struggling so hard to breathe, that I told him that it was okay to rest now, to let go and trust us to take care of Mom. Then I left the room because I needed to cry. My younger sister was sitting next to him, and told him that she too agreed with what I had said. Told him she’d sing him his favorite song if he would try to relax. He passed away in the middle of the song. He knew he was loved and we knew we had been loved by him.

      Elizabeth

      Like

  25. Oh, and I agree about the prompts. I think they take us out of our own little whirl pools, we often find ourselves.

    Like

  26. Tilly Bud says:

    I missed this. What a wonderful story; I was gripped. You tell it beautifully. Your comment about his death was moving.

    Like

    • 1sojournal says:

      Tilly Bud, thank you for your kind words, they are deeply appreciated. When the Hospice nurse told us that one of us must do the nursing duties, my Mother and sisters turned and pointed at me in unison. I was stunned and asked, “Can’t we at least take a vote on this?” They replied, “We have.” I was scared shitless, especially of giving the shots. But will always be grateful for those final moments I could give my Father. They meant a lot to me and helped me a great deal through the grieving process that followed.

      Elizabeth

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s