“Dad,” Josh whispered as he jostled my shoulders. “Wake up, it’s time to go.”
“What?” I asked as I rolled over, rubbed my eyes and peered at Josh through the slits of my barely open eyelids.
“Wake up, Dad, it’s time to go,” he excitedly whispered again.
“What time is it?”
“Go get dressed. I’ll be downstairs in five minutes,” I said as I stared at the clock and rubbed my face with my hands. As I sat up on my end of the bed, I was beginning to hate this idea. Unfortunately, it was my idea and although it sounded great when I was stuck in traffic on Friday afternoon on my way home, at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, I was regretting my decision. I am not a morning person, especially on the weekends, and I am not a fisherman but Josh loves to fish.
His Uncle Paul takes him fishing when Paul comes to visit. Last fall, the cub scouts had a fishing day at a local pond and Josh had the best time fishing with his friends. So I thought about the two of us fishing together when I got caught in traffic on my way home. Work has been hectic lately and I have been at the office a lot over the past few weeks. There is a lot to get done before the end of the Fiscal Year, so I have been home less than usual at night and our weekends have been extremely busy over the past month.
So when I got home on Friday night, I asked Josh if he wanted to go fishing on Sunday morning. He was excited and immediately said, “Yes!” At the time, I was excited to spend a little one-on-one time with Josh before I had to start another crazy week at work. In theory, it sounded like a great idea.
I rubbed my eyes again and let my eyes focus in the dark room. I took a deep breath and I quietly got out of bed, threw on a hat and some play clothes, and I snuck out of the room. I sheepishly trudged down the stairs and looked in the refrigerator for anything that was caffeinated. Unable to find anything to help me wake up, I grabbed the bait and waited for Josh to come downstairs. A few seconds later, he bounded down the stairs exuberantly.
“Ready to go?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” he replied bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Josh was roaring to go and couldn’t wait to cast his line into the water and start reeling in the fish. “But can we throw back anything we catch?”
“You don’t want to fry up the fish?”
“No. I don’t really like fish.”
“Well, don’t worry. I don’t gut and filet fish like your Uncle Paul does. So yes, we can throw back anything we catch.” And with my response, Josh was ready to get the trip started. We grabbed our coats and headed out to the car, loaded up our fishing gear, jumped into the vehicle and drove to the local park. As I parked my car, we perused the coast line for a good spot to drop our lines.
Once we found it, we grabbed our gear and walked down the small trail to the rocks by the water. I opened the tackle box and grabbed a couple of hooks and weights so I could rig up each of our fishing poles. Afterward, I grabbed my knife and cut up the bait.
“Come here, Josh, let me show you how to bait your hook,” I said as I grabbed a piece of the raw shrimp.
“You want me to do it?”
“I will do it this time but if you want to be a fisherman, you have to know how to bait your hook,” I said as I started to run the hook slowly through the shrimp. He watched intently as I showed him how to push the hook through the shell. “Make sure you do it slowly so you don’t get your finger caught on the hook. Sharks like human fingers but fish aren’t such a big fan.”
Josh looked at me strangely for a second and then he started to laugh as he began to understand the joke, “That’s funny.”
I couldn’t tell if he really thought my joke was funny or if he was patronizing me for being an old man who wasn’t very funny at all. Either way, it didn’t matter. As soon as I had the bait on his hook, he picked up his fishing pole and asked, “Do I get to cast it now?”
“Cast way,” I said as I moved my fingers away from the end of his fishing pole. And a second later, the first hook of the morning hit the water. I turned and started to put the bait on the end of my hook and shortly thereafter, I cast my line out into the water. And then I sat down on my rock. We sat in silence for a few minutes while we just stared out at the water, waiting and hoping that a fish would bite and add some excitement to the morning.
Josh reeled in his line and seemed disappointed that he hadn’t caught a fish yet. “So this is it? We just sit here and wait?”
“And talk,” I added. “Normally, guys come out, drop a couple of lines in the water, and shoot the breeze while they wait for the fish to bite.”
“Really?” he asked as he pulled some seaweed off of his line.
“It’s cool to hang out with friends and do things like play golf or to fish.”
“Yeah, you’re right, I guess. It is kind of cool just hanging out here by the water and fishing,” he said as he cast his line back into the water. And it was.
As Josh settled back onto his rock to wait for a fish to take his bait, he started to talk about school and some of the work he was doing. We talked about his friends and his soccer team. I teased him a little about girls in his class that he thought were ‘cute’ and we delved into some of the characters of his two favorite things; Pokemon and Bakugan.
I told Josh about some of my childhood stories. He liked hearing about the trouble I got into at his age and the punishments my mother would dole out. His favorite story was about the morning that a long, black snake came slithering across the floor of our kitchen when I was a child. Because I have always had a fear of snakes, he let out a loud belly laugh when I told him about my reaction when I saw the snake coming toward me.
And before I knew it, I had learned something; fishing wasn’t so bad. I used to dread fishing because I never caught anything. I also bore very easily, so sitting around waiting for a fish to hop on my line was an extremely laborious and boring task for me to undertake. But as I sat by the water last Sunday morning and fished with my son, the plan I had hatched on my commute home on Friday night was coming to fruition. I was spending quality time with my son.
After a couple of hours by the banks, the sun was climbing higher into the sky and we decided to pull up our lines and head home. We gathered up our fishing gear and we carried it back to the car. We decided to go to Dunkin Donuts for a treat and then we drove home. Before the car engine was turned off, Josh jumped out of the car and ran into the house.
As soon as he was inside, Stephanie asked, “How was it, Josh?”
“It was great!”
“So tell me, did you catch anything?!” We had worked on the story Josh would tell Mom when he got home so he could draw out the suspense and as he told the story, it seemed to work.
“I threw my line out into the water,” Josh said as he started the story, “and then I waited. I felt a tug on my line and I reeled it in and it was tough, so tough, I could barely bring it in. And when I finally got it out of the water, I showed Dad what I had on my line and guess what it was?! A Crab! I had a big crab hanging on the end of my line eating my bait.”
He started to laugh as Stephanie asked me if he really caught a crab. So I took out my cell phone and showed her the pictures of the crab dangling off of his line as we told her and Chloe all about our morning of fishing.
As I reflected on our morning together, I realized how some of the most trivial things in the world can change your life for the better. When I woke up Sunday morning, I despised fishing. Now, I can’t wait for the next chance to go back out to the shoreline and drop my hook into the water. Because on my latest fishing trip with Josh, I learned a lot more about the young man my son is becoming. My son isn’t my little boy anymore. He is growing up to become the kind of person I hoped he would be when he was born.
It is amazing what one can learn just by “Goin’ Fishing!”