It’s been a tough week in my life. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, I got the call that everyone dreads and learned that my father had passed on. It’s been hectic since that call and I haven’t had a minute to myself to really grieve and come to grips with him being gone.
So when I woke up today, the morning of his funeral, I decided to get some time to myself and think about how to say goodbye to him. The best way I could think of to do that was to head out to the lake. After all, he taught me to fish which in turn defined the person I was to become. We shared many a sunrise on the lake or in the woods and I can’t think of a better way to feel close to him and to say goodbye to the best man I’ve ever known.
Almost every important memory I have of him revolves around two places, Buck Track Hunting Club and Ross Barnett Reservoir. That an interesting revelation to me since I spent 28 years of my life working in the office with him. But the lake and woods were the time that counted most. Those were moments lived whereas time is the office is just what you do to be able to afford what really matters.
I’ve put the boat in thousands of times by myself but this morning just seemed to take longer. In truth, I wasn’t even sure I could go out. There are so many memories there, but afterwards I realized that it did me good.
There are so many stories from the water that told the kind of person he was. Visiting an area in Cane Creek, I remember a day from when I was about 10 and Dad hooked a monster bass on a frog. This fish had to weigh at least 10 pounds and was definitely the largest he’d ever caught or I’d ever seen at the time. Naturally, he didn’t have a net in the boat, so when he got the fish close, he asked me to grab it. Looking down at that fish, which today seems like it might have been as large as me, I was scared to stick my hand in it’s mouth, so I grabbed the line. Even at 10, I knew as soon as I did it that it was a mistake. The fish jumped one more time, got slack in the line and was gone. I know he was upset but the only thing he said was next time you should grab the fish. That moment to me describes how we were raised, hardly ever any recrimination or blame, just gentle admonition of how to do it right the next time.
Other areas of the lake reminded me of tournaments we’d won together, fish we’d caught and lost, weekend spent on the houseboat at sandbars, water skiing trips and all of the memories that go along with them. There had been good trips and bad trips. There was bloodshed to fish hooks, to knives and even to a houseboat deck lid, but that lake is as much of a home as any house has ever been. It was home because we were together.
The word Father really doesn’t carry the weight needed to describe what he was to me. There are so many other words that describe him. Mentor, teacher, role model, fishing partner, employer and friend are just as apt of a description but even those don’t really tell the whole story. I guess the best way I can describe him is to say that he set the example for the type of person I’ve strived to be my entire life. In many ways, I’ve fallen short of the ideals that he set but he set the bar pretty high. He may be gone but he will live on in those memories, in those stories and most importantly in my heart. It will be hard without him but that knowledge somehow makes it easier. As a friend told me in an email, he’s gone ahead to pre-fish for us. We’ll fish together again but in the meantime there are fish to catch and deer to hunt with my own children.
Thanks to the sponsors who make this all possible: Scoutlookweather.com, Lowrance Electronics, Phoenix Bass Boats, Mercury Motors, Motorguide Trolling Motors, Costa del Mar Sunglasses, Bass Angler Magazine and Mississippi Van Lines. Without all of you, none of this would be possible.