But that didn’t mean he didn’t care about what I did or that he didn’t love me.
Quite the opposite in fact.
Dad was the leader of our family of five, and to him, that meant he worked hard for his family to keep us warm, safe and fed. If that meant working 16-hour days, seven days a week, so be it.
And he did this for nearly 40 years before finally retiring in 1995. Right by his side was Mom, of course, sharing practically every moment with him in the family convenience store.
Dad wasn’t always at work. Occasionally, he did take a little time off, with Mom running things while he was away.
Besides tending his garden, he loved fishing.
It was on a lake that dad was in his element, where he could spend a few carefree hours. Those moments were rare, but he savored them, as did I.
We didn’t play ball, but we fished together. A lot.
In a bass boat at 5 a.m., with nothing but the occasional splash of a paddle, the thumping of tackle and shoes in the boat and some whispered conversation, we would share precious father-son moments.
We didn’t talk too much about anything except fishing. Bass or bream today? What spot should I throw to? Can you help me get my line off that tree?
Two memories stand out:
There was the time I used my uncle’s brand-new silver Zebco rod and reel. I was nervous to have something like this in my hands, but my toss went exactly where I wanted it. Unfortunately, the rod and reel also followed it into the lake.
The second standout moment involved a record-breaking early morning haul. Between my dad and me, we caught a stringer full of bass, perch and bream, including some pretty sizeable ones. Dad had caught another one, and when I reached for the stringer, it was gone. Apparently, I hadn’t tied it very well to the boat in all the excitement.
I looked at my dad, thinking, Oh, no, I’m going to get beaten.
Nope, he only laughed and said maybe the stringer got caught on a limb and we’d find it in the lake somewhere with all our fish still wriggling on the line. Alas, no such luck.
One of the fondest moments dad had was letting my son, Austin, “ride” on his bike. But their first fishing trip was even better. Both events were unforgettable.
The years since retirement haven’t been kind to Dad. His health isn’t great, having had hip replacement surgery in 2006, followed by a quintuple bypass less than a year later. He can hardly move without wincing in pain. His memories aren’t quite so vivid anymore.
But when talk turns to fishing or his garden, his eyes light up, the years fall away, he stands a little taller, his pain all but vanishes.
The best advice he’s given is simple and apropos: “Be grateful for what you have; don’t be ungrateful for what you don’t.”
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I’m grateful that I’ll have a chance to go fishing with you again today, to gain more memories.