Go Fish! is a children’s card game I played a couple times in my youth, around sixty years ago. For my father, Go Fish was not a card game, it was an adventure. He loved to fish. When I was a boy, he went fishing whenever he could. He took me fishing one time when I was very young. On this trip, he did everything for me. He found the worms, baited my hook and even put my line in the water for me. I caught a fish—or at least a fish swallowed the worm with my hook in it. My dad pulled the fish out of the water, and placed it on to the river bank, where it flipped and flopped in front of scared little me. It was a Crappy, he announced to no one in particular, as he took its wriggling little body off my hook.
My mom and dad split up five years later. I have been haunted over the years by the opportunities I missed to share more fishing trips. I never got to hear about the joy of fishing that lived inside my father. I never knew if I did something wrong that day or not, but we never went fishing together again.
During that one fishing trip, my dad neglected to share a single word regarding why he enjoyed fishing, where his favorite fishing spots were located, what his most exciting fish was to catch, and so on. These were all things I longed to know as I grew older without him to talk to and learn from. That empty spot inside of me has remained all my life. Boys and girls need to hear their father’s voice sharing with them the answers they have found to little mysteries that they now pass on to them on as keepsakes.
I now have two grandsons who have no father living in their home. I have taken it upon myself to teach them at least some of the things I wished my father had taken the time to teach me. I had to learn nearly every important thing by trial and error and error and error. It was a sorrow-inducing, fright-producing, painful, tumbling path to the source of knowledge, wisdom and self-confidence.
Today my eldest grandson accompanied me on an outing to the lake just around the corner from our little hobby farm. Last night I showed him how to set the lawn sprinkler to water the front yard to encourage the worms to come to the surface and hide in the grass. When the time came, we took our flashlights and quietly walked the yard picking up the slimy, wiggling little worms necessary for fish bait in the morning.
Later, I showed him how to help me carry my beat up old canoe. We slid it into the bed of my faithful Ford F150 and tied it securely in place. I shared each step and sacred procedure for unloading, launching and sailing out into the lake. I told him the location of the hidden keys to the truck before we launched our craft.
I coached him through the agonizing procedure of turning around in a canoe seat to face the opposite direction, feet and all.
We got caught in the rain in the middle of the lake. We caught no fish but saw one jump nearby us. I had told him the location of the keys earlier but now he saw what it took to get to them. This was my secret hiding place after all, and now he knew it, too.
He said it was the most fun he had had this summer. He goes a lot and does a lot. So I took it as a genuine compliment.
I will attempt to share my little observations, joys, challenges and fears with both of my grandsons. I plan to share during private times I create for each of them. My goal is for them to have memories to look back on and cherish as they grow older. And I would be thrilled for them to do the same with their sons one day.