"Maannn..." my husband said aloud, with more than a hint of envy slipping out. He didn't have to say any more. After 25 years of marriage, I knew exactly what he was thinking: How was it possible that an entire family could labor so cheerfully together after (what he knew to be) an extremely hard day of fishing, in a tournament no less? Moreover, how was it possible they were still fishing together at all?
It was the voice of someone who has recently faced the disappointment of his (mostly) grown sons no longer having time to go fishing. "I'm really sorry Dad, but I've got too much to do this weekend... uuhh... I've got a party... a... a... paper to write... homework... a hot date, etc." Or his personal favorite: "Ummm... gee, I'm sorry I can't join you, but I need to give the cat an enema."
As a not-so-passive partner and a woman who shares his passion for fishing, I found myself in conflict: Part of me was empathetic; I recently endured my own parental heart-ache when, upon his arrival from a 5-week vacation, our youngest son ran right past his ol' ma and into the arms of his girlfriend. Owwwuch!
And then there's my all-knowing self-righteous side that's just itching to say "I told you so!" After all, what did the man expect? Both boys had been dragged offshore from the time they were in diapers and asked to entertain themselves for hours on end while their parents feverishly chased any number of fish from one end of the state to another.
No Saturday soccer games for these kids. Their lives revolved around the phases of the moon, weekend weather predictions, and of course, the seasonal migration of various species: kingfish, redfish, tarpon, Spanish mackerel, red snapper, trout and yes, even the winter sheepshead run. (You'd think he could take a rest for at least a month!)
Instead of honing their fishing skills on bluegill or catfish, Ian and Joseph started off with red snapper, bull redfish and an occasional jack crevalle.
Ahhh, the memories:
"Hungry son? Here you go, have a mustard sardine... or maybe a few crackers... Tired of fishing? Here's another tarpon scale to play with. Ain't it purdy?
"A nap, you say? Just lay down there on that wet life jacket and have a little rest. We'll be ready to head home in, oh, about eight hours." And then there was the time he decided to tag and release 1,000 fish in one year (which he did). Lord knows my enthusiasm--and marriage vows--were seriously tested that year.
So what comforting words could I offer my dear captain at such a time?
Of course, my first reaction was to blame myself for not protecting the boys from our affliction. But then later, a different answer began to percolate to the surface.
While they're not currently demanding to head offshore, they have developed many of the traits I admire so much in their father--one of the most tenacious and intuitive fishermen I've ever seen. It's just manifested differently.
Could it be possible that Ian developed his infinite patience from those untold hours spent playing on the beach, while we stalked trout nearby? Could all of that unstructured time spent looking out across the waves, waiting for a fish to bite--far away from a frantic TV culture--have contributed to his amazing ability to analyze an issue or problem from multiple perspectives?
If so, then it might also explain Joseph's enthusiasm for a good challenge and his extraordinary lust for life. It seems to come with the territory: spend enough time fighting huge fish under a boundless blue sky and something happens inside. To this day, he craves the freedom of open spaces and salt spray on his face. He's also the first to plunge into the surf every spring (clothing optional), no matter the temperature.
So, maybe we haven't done so badly, after all. And who knows, maybe with a little patience, a little time, in the not-so-distant future, one or both of our lovely lads will say, "Hey ol' man, let's go fishing!"
I just hope I'm within earshot when it happens.