Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.
A.A. World Services Inc (2013-12-02). Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition (Kindle Location 4976). A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Volumes can and have been written on one of my most favorite activities in the world, fishing. Tales full of hyperbole. Stories about the one that got away. Articles and books on gear and technique. And of course stories that seem to tell tales of life lessons, patience, acceptance, allegories about death and dying. What could I possibly add to this tome of information on the subject of fishing?
Probably not much.
The idea for this post came during a meeting the other day. A few of the gentlemen in the room were talking about acceptance. Acceptance of things related to their sons in particular. One man told us how he’d just watched his younger son play his heart out on the gridiron at a spring game, and how difficult it was for his son who’d lost his older brother in a tragic accident recently. The pain was palpable. Another talked of how his son, now 13, no longer really wants to hang out with dad and how he missed taking him fishing.
As I listened to these stories I thought about last weekend. We’d been home for a week after our trip to Shenandoah, and I really had the hiking bug bad. I had thought all week about getting out on a trail again. I’d planned out a trip in my mind to Patapsco State Park, where we could hike a short hike that ended at a playground. It was going to be a magnificent Saturday, weather-wise. We would be back in the woods, but close to home. There was a destination that admittedly wasn’t as awesome as the ridge at little Stony Man Cliffs, but it had a playground that my son would love. In my mind, this was a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. It was going to be be great.
Except that my son had other ideas.
As I poured my coffee that morning he said, “Dad, I think we should go fishing today.” Through the kitchen window, I noticed his tackle box on the table on the deck – the usual disarray that an eight year old’s tackle box is, hooks strewn across the table, line like spaghetti in creeping out from under the trays, more plastic worms than one boy could use before he gets interested in girls. Two poles were leaning against the chairs. He’d clearly already been out to the shed to fetch his gear.
“I don’t think we’re going to go fishing today, bud, I was thinking we’d go for a hike after your haircut.” Well, I’d added insult to injury. Mr. Grey hates, hates, hates getting his hair cut, and I’d pissed on his campfire too. Predictably, he went into a tailspin and I did my best to hold it together. And I actually did, my wife even complemented me on it.
Now, my answer was less about going hiking and more about the dread that filled my heart at the idea of going fishing with my son. See, in my mind, fishing takes planning and organization. I need to identify the species I’m going after. Bass dictates one set of lures, pike a different set, and trout still another, perhaps even a completely different style of fishing. And if we’re going to hit tidal water, we need to know the tides. As with everything, it’s a complicated affair.
Additionally, fishing with Grey really is an exercise in patience. I remember the first time I took him fishing. I naively thought that I’d be fishing too. I imagined him casually and patiently fishing with a worm and a bobber while I fished with spinners and spoons. It would be idyllic, a boy and his dad, enjoying an afternoon by the lake, talking about whatever came to mind, or just enjoying the silence. See, that’s how it is when I go fishing with my friend Andy, so of course it would be like that with Grey.
Except that he was five.
He wanted to fish like dad, and wouldn’t let is worm stay still. He’d real it in as soon as I cast it out. And I had to cast because a fresh piercing in my hear with a fish hook didn’t seem like a good way to end the day. I didn’t get to fish at all. And still haven’t on any fishing trip we’ve gone on to this day.
So, the idea of switching my plans from hiking to fishing it just wasn’t in the cards. Simple as that. I could push it. I could make it happen. And I would.
When Mrs. TKD got back with him from his haircut, he was still in a pissy mood. She said to me, “I know that fishing for you requires planning. I know that it’s a big endeavor for you. But it’s not for him. He just needs a hook and a worm. It doesn’t even matter to him if he catches a fish. He just wants to stand next to the water with his dad.”
And that’s when I realized, I needed to accept that my plan wasn’t going to work. No matter how great it was in my mind, hiking was not on the agenda. “I’ll be in the shed,” I said.
Still pissed off, I gathered up my tackle box, which should have been organized as I’d left it, but it wasn’t because Mr. Grey had raided it. All the little boxes were in different corners of the shed. They were hidden under crap that I’d just heaped on top of them. (Mrs. TKD keeps telling me that we need to clean up and organize the shed, maybe she’s right…)
With a little effort, I had what I needed. I bought my license online and told Mr. Grey that we were going fishing. And as my friend Daniel says, transformation is real. Everything was okay. I was his new best friend. We both smiled as we pulled away and headed to 7-Eleven to get some worms. We headed to Jonas Green Park under the Naval Academy bridge and threw in some lines.
We didn’t catch shit. The tide was low. The water in the bay is still cold. It was exactly as I knew it would be. But it didn’t matter. Not to Mr. Grey and not to me really. We spent an hour or so there and I enjoyed being out in the sunshine, standing next to my boy by the water.