While young, I wasn’t a fan of fishing. Probably because of the wiggly worms and the hooks that stuck in my foot more times than in the mouth of fish. But I loved Daddy, and he liked to fish.
My father, Edward, insisted I bait my own hook. “Can’t catch a fish if you can’t bait your own hook,” he’d tell me.
After several attempts and words of encouragement from him, I’d finally manage to get a few slips of the hook through the worm. Then, with the pole in hand, I’d head to the water’s edge. A few mishaps taught me early on to check for trees and other fishermen before casting into the water.
Daddy thought cane poles and bobbers were best for me. Better for him too. I could tangle line on a reel faster than someone could hand me the pole.
Never able to relax, I’d stare at the round red and white float tilting from side to side, occasionally hiding from me behind the sun’s glare. After minutes that seemed like hours, the bobber would pull down and pop back up. My tummy always knotted up. I’d freeze, waiting for the bobber to stop teasing and disappear for good. When it did, I’d yank with all my might.
Hooking a fish didn’t happen often, but when I snagged one, Daddy congratulated me. He was always available to remove the hook from the fish’s mouth, which somewhat confused me after him insisting I do everything else. Sometimes the fish was too small and would be thrown back in. That was understandable. But my father had a problem that frustrated me. He had slippery hands. When I caught a good size fish, a lot of times, it slipped out of his grip and flopped back into the water. His Dean Martin eyes would just squint with an apologetic smile as he handed the pole back and point to the tub of worms.
Trips home were depressing because of my slim-to-none contributions to the bucket, but it was always a relief to know that my father wasn’t disappointed in me. The day would end with a good meal. Sometimes it was fish. Other times, it was beans with pork and wilted lettuce or a bologna sandwich with chips and popcorn. Going to bed with a full stomach never depended on the success of the fishing trip.
Years later, I realized Daddy didn’t have slippery hands. Turns out I was the chief carp catcher, and Daddy didn’t care for carp. My dad has passed from this earth, but he will always be connected to me through memories; most of him graciously teaching me that failed attempts don’t define the day.
Today, my husband and I have a pond that is overstocked with bass. I don’t even own a fishing pole. Walking contently by the water’s edge is an affirmation that I can’t and don’t have to do everything well. I’m reminded that my heavenly Father is my true sustainer. Any effort of mine is dismal and burdensome compared to the expert Fisher-of-Men. God, the Father, has claimed me as his own, and my soul is safe with him. I rest on that promise.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’”
Matthew 11: 28-29