Fishing and Fatherhood

Dear Roy (Father-in-Law, Dad, Mentor, Fishing Buddy)

I was watching a segment on TV about some men who were remembering times they went fishing with their fathers.  It set me to thinking that the only father I ever went fishing with was my father-in-law, YOU.

It was you who taught me how to tie a proper hook knot.  At first I was a bit uneasy with the implication that the knot I taught myself to tie as a fatherless boy was not as good, but I realized that the reason I felt that way was because the empty place where a father should have been hurt too much to open to someone who was not that man.  However, the knot you taught me became my knot and it is better than what I used before.  This is just one example of the role you have played in my life as my mentor through fishing.

While fishing we had great adventures and great fun.  We got caught in storms, almost got lost at sea once, had to drag the boat for about a half mile in my boxers, through the Tampa Bay canals to get it over the shallows, got swallowed up in fog, several times had to work on the motor while way out in the Gulf, and once even tried to water ski in 3 foot waves when there was a small craft advisory out.  There were times we got baked in the sun and others when we almost died of hypothermia!

I loved every minute spent with you fishing.  Some of the greatest memories I have are those we shared reeling in the fish and filling up ice chests with food that we got to take home and share with the family.  It made me feel good about myself and good about life to do something guys do with a patient, giving guy who although he had three daughters, did not have a son until he gained a son-in-law who did not know how to be a son to anyone, but got tricked into it through the wondrous, magical craft of fishing.

It was in that boat, or on that pier that we became friends.  You gave me respect and made me feel better about myself for being a fellow fisherman with a man who was a seasoned veteran of the sea.  We shared the wonders of the deep catching all kinds of fish, some of them so weird and strange that few have ever seen them except in a picture.  We held them in our hands, kept the ones we could eat, threw back the ones we couldn’t and after the end of the day went back to the women and children feeling like heroes, winners, risk takers, and providers, in other words, we were fishermen!

You taught me honesty.  I already knew it and tried to always be honest.  But there is honesty and then there is “fisherman honesty”.  You taught me that they are one and the same.  When you measure a fish and it is too short to be a keeper, you throw it back, period.  If the fish was almost 16 inches, you would say it was almost 16 inches.  You wouldn’t even round it off to make the story better.

One thing, you cleaned EVERY FISH.  Even when we were bone tired, and we already had plenty to make a good mess, you went on to clean the little fish that take as much time to clean as the big ones but hardly seemed worth the trouble to me.  I guess growing up poor and having to maximize resources is so much in your blood that even when persuaded into dumping the little ones, you did so with reluctance and some degree of guilt.  I admire that about you.

I could write a book about the fishing experiences we have had but I’m writing this to just say thank you for being my Dad by being my fishing buddy.  God used you to make me feel better, and to make me BE better.  You’re the best Dad I ever had.