Dad loved to fish.
He also loved to tell a great story.
Fishing was Dad’s method of getting away and decompressing. Having learned as a boy on a small farm in Texas, he’d find time and a place when needed.
We’d accompany him on occasion. None of us were ever true fisherman, but watching him was a chance to be with him, knowing his awareness of us, basking in his enjoyment.
His kids and fishing. Dad’s favorites.
We were on vacation in Canada, and Dad was on the dock at dusk, fishing. The four of us kids sat behind him, talking quietly, with the occasional look from Dad when the volume escalated.
He hooked a big one.
A quiet “wow” was all we heard. His rod bent in half as the fish on the line fought for freedom. Dad reeled in and relaxed. It was a dance of opponents, neither of whom wanted to give up. When he finally brought it up to the dock, it was monstrous.
A northern pike. It had teeth that looked like small razors as it snapped and flopped. It upended on its tail, close enough to my brother to cause him to leap and run screaming back to the cabin.
We talked about that trip forever.
When Dad told the story, his description of my brother’s race to safety was way more dramatic. And fun.
Dad’s stories always had an element of fun. He’d tell us of the escapades on the farm, which for us suburban kids was an adventure book waiting to be written. The time he was pushed from his perch in a tree by an older brother and broke his arm. The permanent tooth mark in the wood floor where he risked balancing on the too-high bannister and fell.
How did he live through childhood?
Going to college as a football player, we heard stories of how the team got a cow to the top of their dormitory building–and then couldn’t get her down. Or how they threw bags of water on professors walking beneath their windows.
The stories made him real and fun. More approachable. We knew Dad was someone who not only got into trouble but had to pay consequences for what he’d done. Like cleaning all the cow pies from the top floor. He got it when we pushed the envelope and got into trouble. We’d be disciplined, but always with a hug and a grin.
I know I’m fortunate. I’ve got friends who didn’t see their dads after a divorce or a huge family fight. Kids whose memories of their dads aren’t fun but frightening. Horrible men who knew how to hurt instead of hold gently.
Men who just didn’t care.
My Dad loved Jesus, and because of his compassion toward us, it wasn’t hard for me to understand a loving heavenly Father who cared for me no matter what I did. No matter how much I blew it. If God is God, He’d have to be perfect, a Dad who not only understood and allowed consequences, but also comforted and cared for me perfectly. Always there. Never abandoning. Never accusing.
That’s as real as it gets.
No fish story there.