If I may take a moment of personal privilege, I want to write about an experience from last week. A few weeks ago, Chris, my younger son (43) decided his brother, Mike (46) and I (never mind) should renew our Man Cards for 2013. He proposed a fly fishing trip to Arkansas. We would all arrive on Monday and leave the following Friday. No hotel for us; we rented a small cabin—I’m not about to sleep in a tent for a week in the middle of winter. Now Chris and Mike are avid fishermen. Both love fly fishing, though they don’t limit themselves to that. I, on the other hand, last went fishing about 37 or 38 years ago.
That fishing trip was with the two of them. We lived near Reelfoot like and I thought they needed to be introduced to the sport. As I recall it, this meant I would affix their floats and hooks, as well as bait the hook. When we landed a fish, I would be the one to take it off the hook. (We tossed them back because I didn’t want to clean them. Too big a yuck factor for me).
I remember the day well, partly because one of the highlights was Chris hooking his arm. Before I could get to him to gently remove it, he yanked it out. He lived and apparently it didn’t turn him against fishing. But this blog is not just a walk down the dim shadows of my memories. Here’s why.
I’ve never been fly fishing. I have no, I repeat no, equipment or experience. So my kids were the ones who tied the heavier lines onto the leader line. They selected the perfect fly and they tied the tiny fly onto the leader. They showed me the proper stance and the proper cast. They showed me “line management” (at which I stink, BTW). I stood in the Little Red River in someone else’s waders. I caught a tree trunk, a rock, some river bottom vegetation and very sore leg muscles. The next day, we tried spin casting off the dock. Different kind of rod, different kind of line, different kind of (a new word I learned) presentation, and a different way to cast.
I remember a little of that from long ago, so casting came back quickly. But when I got the first trout, it was one of them who tried to net it for me. For a lot of reasons, this one got away. One of them re-loaded for me. Bam! A hit. A successful netting. I didn’t gut it or cook it, but I ate it.
Throughout this trip, our roles were almost completely reversed from long ago. They were the patient ones. They delayed their fishing long enough to help me. They encouraged me. They rewarded me with a virtual Blue Ribbon for catching the most fish in the shortest period of time. One of them drove me to Heber Springs and back. The two of them cooked for us. I got to have fun because they were unselfish and attentive.
In the last quarter of my life, moments such as these will become more common. There will be a ladder I will no longer be able to safely climb. A gadget I can’t hook up. A memory I’ve lost. It will be their love that will climb that ladder, hook up that gadget and give be back, if for no more than a moment, the lost memory. Such is the circle of life. Jesus made it clear that we are to care for those who can’t care for themselves. Even if it only means reminding them of the joy of being with loved ones and recapturing the memories of fishing. Or making new memories. As one of them wrote in an e-mail, “I know I will remember this the rest of my life.” Me too.
Merry Christmas, Jerry