My dad is my hero.
How could he not be? He’s a man of integrity, a hard-working provider. He’s intelligent and thoughtful at the same time. He’s irresistibly charming- a blue-eyed, winking flirt. The ladies love him. Men respect him. This is the man who passed on to me his musical talent and smiling habit. He’s good at demonstrating how to slow down, take it easy, enjoy the moment. He danced on a table with me at my graduation party. He put camping in my veins. He’s why I spontaneously sing throughout the day, why I love jazz, why I love baseball. He tells great stories and brings the good time, wherever he is.
My dad doesn’t always understand me, but he lets me be ME. He makes me feel special. And he doesn’t just love me- he really LIKES me, too. I know because he tells me as much.
And my dad taught me to fish.
Back in 1979, Pops participated in a Toastmasters’ speech contest. He sent it to me last year, and I’d like to share it with you. Read on.
The Best Gift I Ever Received
We rarely buy an item that affects our entire life. Oh, you can think of a few like a new home or an engagement ring. But, they’re few and far between. It’s rarer still when such an item is a gift we’ve bought for someone else. People usually are not that bright. We don’t understand how one item can change the course of someone’s future. We don’t think that far down the road.
Fortunately my father was that kind of person. One of those rare and unique people. My Dad gave me a gift that would set my feet on a path that I still tread to this day. He was also wise enough to understand that he couldn’t just give the gift. He had to give himself along with it for it to really matter…to really make that lasting impression. And he did that. He gave his time, his experience, his patience and his love so I could fully enjoy and appreciate what he had given me. What was that simple little gift? It was an inexpensive fishing pole. That’s right……….a cheap little fishing pole.
But I have to tell you, that fishing pole took my Dad and I out into mother nature’s paradise and introduced me to the joys to be found there. A quiet stream full of hungry trout lazily flowing through a grassy meadow with deer and rabbits set against a wooded hillside. The majestic beauty of snow-covered granite peaks stretching thousands of feet into the bluest of skies. That’s quite an experience for a young boy to share with his Dad. I know it was for me. Oh, we’d camped as a family since I was born, but this was different. This was me and my Dad.
And you know, I learned something else from him: it’s really not important whether you catch fish or not. It’s being there enjoying the peacefulness, sharing the companionship, appreciating what goes on around us. It’s the chance for a boy to share his thoughts with his Dad in a way that’s impossible in the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a time that affirms that you’re important to your Dad.
Luckily my wife had a Dad much like mine. He gave her that same little gift. And along with it he gave her his love, patience and experience. Because of that Pat and I have shared most of our most cherished times together.
Our honeymoon is a good example. The first week we spent at Lake Tahoe. At night we gambled, saw beautiful, exciting shows and we ate at the finest restaurants. During the day you would have found us fishing the Truckee River, hiking in the mountains or playing in the snow that was still there in July. The second week we camped in a little 9’x9′ umbrella tent by a quite stream above Bass Lake. Ahhh, Sweetwater Campground, and was it ever. Believe it or not, we were the only ones there. We took turns with one fishing pole and when it got too hot we’d slip out of our clothes and slide beneath the surface of that cool stream. Pure bliss, that’s what it was. Way better than the first week.
My brother and I still fish together. Usually the wives don’t go. We head back to the Sierras and revisit some of the spots our Dad took us to 30-35 years ago and we enjoy them all over again. And although our Dad died some eight years ago, he’s not far away at times like those.
My daughter, Amber, is four years old. Last Christmas, she got her fishing pole. She’s shared our experiences since she was a baby. I’ll give her the same love and experience my father gave me, plus the knowledge I’ve gained over the years. I’m sure she’ll do the same when she has her little ones, and that’s as it should be. And I know someday she’ll also say the little fishing pole was the best gift she ever received.
When I read this, it dawned on me that I didn’t just become the person I am today- it was partly by design. My dad’s words from 1979 ring true in 2013. I’m rarely happier than when I’m outdoors, soaking in the sunshine, gazing at the mountains. I love spending a day by the lake with my dad, dipping my finger into the bait jar and hoping I can land a trout and make him smile. (Don’t underestimate my mom with a fishing pole. Who is actually the reigning trout champ is constantly under debate.)
More often than not, I don’t catch a fish (grrr)… but I always have fun. It’s about nature and calm. And it’s something my family does together. Those are cherished memories that started almost 4 decades ago, when I was just a tot in a red fur coat, squealing at a flopping little fish at the end of a tiny fishing pole.
I married a man very much like my father. He’s a man of integrity, a hard-working provider. He’s handsome and charming and makes me feel like a queen. We love to explore, be outdoors, and camp together. And he loves to fish.
Is that a coincidence? No way. Somehow, my dad knew that he had a chance to instill things in me when I was young that would last a lifetime. His dad did it for him. He also knew, 34 years ago, that the gift that he received from HIS dad and passed on to me will be inherited by our kids.
They’ll crawl around on the shores of a lake, just like I did. They’ll want to help reel in a fish, just like I did. They’ll adore the scent of a campfire. They’ll learn about the beauty of nature and somehow, that love of outdoors will embed itself into them for a lifetime. They won’t know it’s happening. I sure didn’t.
But my dad knew. He knew all along.
(P.S. He won the speech contest.)
Happy Father’s Day to all the Papas out there!