Fishing. I’ve spent a lot of time when I was little going fishing. Most of the time it was with my Dad. I have to admit that I never really “had it in my blood” like Dad did. I loved it when they were biting. Nothing beats the feel of throwing that line out there and letting it sit…and then when that stopper on the top of the pond starts to bob. The blood pressure goes up a little, your heart beats faster and you start to hold your breath. Then when it disappears all the way under, BOOM…you snatch that line back and hook ‘em good! I was a slow learner at first. I had a hard time waiting until that stopper went all the way under. I wanted to snatch it up and pull just as soon as the stopper started moving. I have missed many a “bait stealing” little bream by being impatient. Dad taught me to be patient when it came to fishing.
I remember going to a little pond somewhere down in Gore about 1960 to fish. Can’t remember who owned it, just a little ways out the road to the left after making a left hand turn there at Ballenger’s. I was fishing with worms trying to catch some Bream and Daddy was Bass fishing with a “shyster” lure. I had caught one and wanted to show him, so I ran up behind him with my fish on the line just as he was about to make a cast. The “shyster” caught me in the left earlobe on Dad’s follow through and one of the barbed hooks went right through my earlobe. The look on Dad’s face was one of surprise and shock and horror all at once. Needless to say, our fishing trip for that day was over with. I think we went back to old Doc Clemens up at the old hospital, and he actually used a pair of wire cutters to just cut the barbed end off and pull the other end through my earlobe. It really wasn’t as painful as it looked. I never walked behind my Dad again when he was casting! I know he felt bad about it, even though it was my fault he kept telling me he was sorry.
But there were lot’s of other times that the results were better. Many days of catching Crappie down at Lake Weiss with leadheads. We would put two leadheads on at a time when they were biting hard and sometimes we would hook two at the same time! Daddy would whoop and holler and you could hear him all the way to Centre. I have photo’s of him with stringers full of those fish, and boy were they tasty! It was a yearly ritual every spring as to when the Crappie would start biting! Ahh yes those were the days. We didn’t own a boat, so we would put on a pair of waders and wade out chest deep in that cold water so we could cast out as far into the lake as possible. I know I about drowned a couple of times when I would fall or trip and the lake water would fill those dang waders up. Daddy would just laugh at me.
One fishing highlight was in 1966. It was the first time I EVER went to Florida. We went with the Browns and I think my cousin Judy came along. We went DEEP SEA FISHING! It was in August and I was getting close to 16, but looked a little older. I was more interested in girls at that time than in fishing but couldn’t resist the lure of going out on the Ocean and trying to catch a “big ‘un” We went out on a chartered boat…Captain “somebody” or another. Before we left, everyone kicked in a couple bucks for the lucky person who caught the biggest fish. Dad kicked in a couple for him and me. The ride out there was great for me, as I wasn’t prone to motion sickness. I met a little old girl and Mikey got seasick. Everything was cool, and I was wanting to spend more time with the girl than fish but Daddy set me straight: “I paid for you to fish, so get your ass out here and fish!” Well I did, and the first bait I sent down got me a bite. It was an electric reel which we had rented, so I pushed the button and pulled. I thought I had snagged somebody else’s line…the dang thing wouldn’t come. I kept pulling and pulling and finally this giant fish head hit the surface. Jeez, I though I had a whale! Turned out it was a 33 lb Red Grouper, which ended up netting me 44 dollars for the biggest fish of the trip! I was rich! It was a good and a bad trip….Mom and Dad fought…and there were roaches in the motel. But, it was memorable.
I have said all this to get to this point. Dad probably went fishing for the last time about 2007. I think he and Uncle Frankie went over to Billy Locklear’s lake and caught a few bream. Dad’s health started getting bad about then and he couldn’t got by himself anymore. Too many car wrecks had happened and there was a danger of dizziness and black outs. Dad kept asking me about going fishing, but I was on the night shift working 12 hour swing shifts and rarely if ever felt like doing anything but sleeping. Dad and Mom got to where they couldn’t take care of themselves and we decided that Assisted Living was the only choice for their care. Dad kept after me though: “When you gonna take me fishing?” he would ask “When it warms up good Dad” says I.
In April of 2010, Dad was feeling pretty good. I was on the 2nd shift then and still not feeling good, and not sleeping good. Dad asked me again “When we going fishing, son?” I promised him we would in a couple of weeks. “We’ll go down at Sloppy Floyd’s” I said. “You can sit up there on the walkway in the wheelchair if you have to and fish from there” I remember those exact words. I meant it. But April moved on into May..and we didn’t go.
On May 21st, they called me at work from the “Cozy Manor” and told me Dad was sick. He had been bleeding and having lots of stomach problems. I called the 3rd shift supervisor and asked if he would come in a little early so I could go check on my Dad. He came in an hour early…wow a lot of help. I went to LaFayette and Dad was sleeping. I asked him how he felt and he said “ok, but I would like a drink of cold water” I brought him one and asked him if he wanted me to stay. It was 1:30 or so in the morning. “You go on home and rest, and come back in the morning” he said. He woke me up at about 7 am the next morning and said he was hurting in the chest…and then he said “Can’t breath good” and it sounded like he dropped the phone. By the time I got there, my Dad was dead.
Guilt comes in a lot of sizes. Small, medium and Extra Large. My guilt for not staying that night goes beyond extra large. It’s hard to describe still. It’s like swallowing a rock and having it sit down there in the pit of your stomach all the time. You forget it’s there sometimes, but at other times it just eats you from the inside out.
I was going to wait until May to reminisce about fishing and my Dad. But, I picked this “special” day which happens only once every four years. It’s an extra day on our calendar and it represents that extra day which I wish I would have had with Dad. I wish that extra day would have been the one day that I had taken him fishing. That day which I had promised him. That promise which I didn’t keep…. I pray that if there is a pond or a lake between Earth and Heaven that when I die that God will let me go with Dad out on that little body of water and try and catch a couple of bass. I owe it to him.