On Sunday I was driving through northern Wayne County to meet a customer and look at a piece of land. Little did I know that the day ahead, and today as well, would find me filled with thoughts (and regrets) of my Dad.
Driving along the rural, fog-misted countryside dotted with farms, horses, and Holsteins, I found myself taking a bittersweet trip down memory lane as I passed by familiar signs: Upper Woods Pond, Duck Harbor Pond, Lower Woods Pond. These were places where my dad took me fishing, or planned to, one day.
I showed my customer a piece of God’s country – man, what a beautiful piece of land. Nearly ten acres, overlooking a relatively unspoiled lake. I found myself stating “My dad would have liked this place.”
After leaving my customer, I stopped short in the road by the Upper Woods Pond sign and headed back. When I got there, I was surprised that the pond was much smaller than I remembered. Heck, it had been more than 25 years since I’d been there with Dad. I don’t think we caught anything there, but somehow, I thought the pond was much bigger.
An older man was hooking up his boat and heading out. “Catch anything?” I asked. “No,” he said, then proceeded to tell me that his young grandson, now curled up in a ball on the seat of the pickup truck, was not feeling well and wanted to go home. I smiled and said goodbye. I looked out over the water and saw a boat with two people in it, casting their lines.
Was it me and Dad? – were we sitting in companionable silence, or perhaps was I complaining that nothing was biting? Dad was saying “You gotta have patience, patience.” Then he shook his head and lit up a Camel.
Dad, why couldn’t it always have been like this? Why couldn’t we have gone fishing together more? Why couldn’t the You and Me who got along great in the boat get along in the house?
“You haven’t got any brains, you’re so ignert!”
“You’re not my father! I hate you!”
“No wonder boys don’t like you, you’re ugly when you look like that….”
Just a bit further down the road was Lower Woods Pond. This was more like I remembered – but I didn’t realize it was a little bigger than Upper Woods Pond.
There’s Dad and me standing on the dike, casting lines, casting…trying for the big one. Mom was over by the car with Peaches, that stupid dog that Dad and I both hated.
“I hate that dog…”
We had that in common, we had fishing in common, we both liked The African Queen, James Bond, Columbo, and Clint Eastwood.
Why couldn’t we like each other better?
“Karen, you stupid ***![censored]”
“I wish you had never adopted me!”
Hurtful words, painful to both of us…too many, too late to erase them.
Further down I make my last stop – Duck Harbor. I’m coming here because I always wanted to and Dad and I never got to go there together – don’t know why. We went on early morning fishing trips a lot…never was sure why we didn’t go to Duck Harbor. When I arrived, I realized why. It was too built up; too many houses, too much activity on the lake. Dad liked wild, untamed country.
Later that afternoon, The Man About the Place and I were at Promised Land State Park with the kids. We inflated the boat I bought last year. I wanted to bring the fishing poles but they were missing hooks and I forgot how Dad had taught me to tie them; they’ll have to wait until another time, when I have time to Google “fisherman’s knots.”
Anyway, The Man and I took turns taking the kids out on the lake – floating somewhat aimlessly. My oldest daughter was frustrated that we didn’t seem to move quickly enough; constantly seeing a certain house was bothering her. She wanted to get past it.
I didn’t light up a Camel, but I did find myself saying “Ya gotta have patience, Daughter. Patience.”
I loved the Dad in the boat with the license on his ratty red coat, his bright orange hunting hat, and a six pack of PBR in the cooler (with one can actually empty, with a false bottom to hide illegally gained “over the limit” trout). He let me have sips of his beer (never told Mom). Somehow, the memory tells me I liked the beer; even though now I can’t stand the taste of beer..weird…
You were my dad, my hero, even if you did lose my stringer of fish down the Delaware River because I caught more than you.
I miss you, I need you, I love you. So much it hurts – why am I realizing this only now, years after you’ve gone? Why did it take me so, so, so VERY long to forgive you?
Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
More of my Puzzle Pieces journey.