I like to think that I live my life only regretting the things I did; rarely regretting the things I didn't do. I've shared a few of the things I didn't do and regret. Today, I'll share another.
I didn't take the time to enjoy my Dad's company.
Somehow, I'm betting that I'm not the only person that feels that way. I know for a lot of us, especially those of a certain age, Fathers were distant figures to be respected and feared (WAIT TIL YOUR FATHER GETS HOME AND I TELL HIM ABOUT...!). But, Fathers have a different side, too. One that I was lucky enough to get a look at.
My Dad had a career and hobbies and chores around the house. He worked his week, but he wasn't someone that was married to a job. He took time off to optimize it with the family (2 consecutive weeks at Christmas holidays and a week or two during summer). He didn't work excessive or crazy hours and rarely traveled for work. He was a hunter and a fisherman. And, while I don't remember him killing many things during his hunting trips, I have many fond memories of him cleaning and frying fish.
My Dad was a quiet man. I was not a quiet child. So, you can imagine how frustrating it was for both of us when he would take me to enjoy his hobbies. I clomped through the woods and scared away anything that might be there. And, I couldn't sit still in the boat and my rocking and talking scared away all the fish. Daddy could sit for hours without making a sound. Just looking; his chin jutting out and a serious look on his face. And pointing out anything that was interesting to me.
I was miserable. I couldn't sit still without falling asleep. I had to go to the bathroom, and on the boat, that meant hanging whichever side had to go, over the edge of the boat, without falling in. It didn't matter whether it was frosty cold or steaming hot, Daddy could sit still and enjoy the beauty of nature, enjoy the reflection of an island in the still lake, enjoy clouds rolling in on the horizon, enjoy walking through woods that were so deeply carpeted with leaves, we had to walk carefully to keep from falling in any holes. When we were moving or doing something, that's when I enjoyed being with my Dad.
But, I wish I had spent more time learning to just sit quietly and watch the day develop around me, like my Dad did. Maybe that's a skill for adults and not for kids. I think he and I would have enjoyed one another much more if I'd learned it. Not knocking the good memories, just wishing there were more of them.
But, I digress. This is a story about one day, one boat, a bunch of friends, and a whole lot of fish.
This was long ago. My Mom, Sister, Dad and I were in the aluminum john boat, sitting at the bottom of the spillway on the lake. It must have been spring because water was rushing over the spillway. Just beyond, there was a stand of submerged trees. And, one of the people Daddy fished with found a honey hole of perch, or bream (or as we called them, brim). I can remember that there was an older couple from the church that had been at the campsite with us and a boat full of their kids and grandkids who were also camping, another family that camped with us regularly and hunted and fished with my Dad, and a mortician that we went to church with that just happened to be at the spillway that day. Daddy didn't fish that day. Nobody in our boat would touch the worms and thread them on the hooks. That was Daddy's job and he usually did it while he fished. But, this day, he couldn't get his hook in the water because as fast as he baited our hook and we dropped it in the water, we had a fish. We caught fish after fish after fish in rapid succession. I don't know how many we caught. All I remember is the excitement. All of us trying to keep our lines from getting tangled. All of us catching fish as fast as we could drop a hook in the water. Laughing, joking, telling fish stories and comparing who'd caught the biggest one. It was so fast, Daddy didn't have time to open the ice chest and drop them in. He was just dropping them in the bottom of the boat, baiting the hook and moving to the next fish.
We fished until we had so many fish that there was danger we couldn't clean them all.
And, then we all went to the campsite, cleaned fish all afternoon, and ate all the fried bream we could for supper.
That was a happy family day. Not the only one, but one of the ones I remember most fondly. The family, all together; no one arguing, all of us working together to catch all the fish we could. And, my Dad baiting our hooks. And, me getting so excited I yanked the pole and poked him with one.
Okay, I accept that this memory might not be exactly how it happened. But, if it isn't, please don't correct me because I don't want to know that it was any different than just the way it is in my mind. A perfect Walton's kind of moment.
Most of all, I want my Dad to know that not all my memories are of me squirming and wishing I was doing something else...anything except sitting and waiting.
The Bible says that on the rock that was Peter, God built his church. On the rock that is Bud, God built a family. And, his family has built their own families, taking with them the memories of what God built through my Dad.
Happy Father's Day.