Any time we pass a river or a lake, or anytime someone mentions bass fishin' or trout. Even the smell of a campfire sends waves of childlike bliss and peace through my body.
And I remember my dad.
My father is a great fisherman, the best I've ever seen. He knows how to cast a line and perfectly bait an Eagle Claw hook, size 8. He holds the pole and maneuvers the rod so elegantly you'd think he played piano. He has seen thousands of fish go in and out of his boat, and seems to remember every time he's lost a "big one" to the waters beneath him.
I remember sitting quietly near my father as we trolled through the water, our poles set defiantly in our hands. I would watch skiers speed past our boat, or hear music blaring from a nearby house boat, and I never envied them for the fun they were having. I never wanted to be part of what they were doing. I wanted to be next to my father, pole in hand, listening to the midnight waves flapping against the side of the boat. I wondered what those people were thinking. I wondered why they wouldn't rather be bass fishin'. I was where I wanted to be. And it was the most peaceful feeling I've ever felt. Learning from my father, as he learned from his. I can definitely tell you I enjoyed those moments much more than he did. And much more than he will ever know.
During those camping trips, he taught me to respect other fishermen. How to lower your voice to a hushed whisper so the fish won't get spooked. I remember looking out from my sleeping bag, two o'clock in the morning, and he was there on the shore, his line softly moving with the current. He'd have his cap on, and his hands in his pockets. I'd watch him as he fished in the dark while everyone slept. I sure love my daddy, I'd think to myself. Then I'd get my pole and join him. We'd sit in silence and watch the water ripple with bluegill bubbles, and I'd imagine I was in a fishing tournament on ESPN.
I wanted to be like him.
But things change, and people grow up. Parents get older and children have their own babies. We learn the best and worst from our parents and pass things on to our own kids. I watch Emma as she grips her own little fishing pole in her tiny hand. She happily hums the chorus to "Fishin' in the Dark" and rests all three feet of the pole into the water. Her daddy explains to her how to hold it correctly, but tiredness for a three year old comes quick, and a moment later we're lurching quickly to save the barbie pole from meeting a tragic end in the bottom of the lake.
We were there in the boat with my father, and he held Emma in his lap as he was reeling in a huge bass. He wanted to make this her very first catch. She held onto the pole with him, as they could see the bass coming angrily up to the surface. But in a moment, the fish was gone. My dad was so upset that she wasn't able to catch it. But Emma jumped up and grabbed her pole so quickly and started shouting, "I want to catch one! I want to catch a fish!"
I watched them as my mind replayed many a fishin' trips as a little girl. I wondered if my father would ever know how much it meant to me. I know Emma will have her own memories with her own father, and someday she'll look back and miss those little girl days. My heart ached as I remembered those precious moments with my father. You can't have beautiful childhood memories without growing up and feeling pain at what you've lost. What you remember to be the best time of your life. And what you secretly wish you could have all over again.
I guess that's just how it is.
So we packed it in, put the poles away, and headed to the dock. I could see Emma grinning, happy to be sitting on her Papa's lap, and Rowen sitting comfortably on Dan's lap, his tiny fingers wrapped around the steering wheel as Dan drove the boat through the cool blue water.
When it came time to leave the boat, my father asked if we wanted to stay longer. I wanted so badly to sit next to him. To hold our poles in silence and listen to water flapping against the boat. To spend just one more moment talking about how things were when he was a kid. Or listen to stories about his own childhood.
But alas, things are different now. Kids get tired and responsibility calls. So we gathered our two children in our arms and told them to hug their Papa and Grandma goodbye. They did, and we watched my parents drive away. I felt a longing in my heart and a deep love for a father that taught his daughter many things. And for memories that will never really go away.
And then I listened as Dan and Emma laughed and sang in the car as we drove home. She asked him silly questions and he laughed out loud. Her eyes beamed as she hung on every word her daddy said.
And I realized, in that very moment, she was making memories with her own father. And I knew she'd remember this moment forever. It was their moment. Their memory. And my heart filled with joy.
.....And I forgot that I was sad ❤.