My Father’s Only Son (chorus) Carrie Newcomer You never talk much in a fishin’ boat
‘Cause it just scares the fish away
You give it time and watch your line.
I am lucky. I grew up in a family with Grandparents that loved me very much. My maternal grandparents have a camp that they built in Canada. My grandfather and 2 of his brother’s and their wives all bought land in Canada and starting out small, they each built camps on their land.
Each summer, my grandparents would bring me, my cousin Shari and my sister Tammy up to camp for a week. My Aunt’s and Uncle’s would try and bring their grandchildren as well so that there were enough kids to keep us all occupied. Many memories were made during those weeks, but fishing with my grandfather was always a highlight for me. Each grandchild got to go fishing with Grandpa alone. If we were there for a week, then you got to go several times. For each camp, going out at about 4pm to fish meant the race was on. Who would catch the biggest fish that night.But the deeper meaning for me was the time that I got to spend alone with my grandfather on that beautiful lake.
Now, those of you who know me, know I am not the easiest person in the world to get alone with. In my later adult years, I have been able to temper that with self-control, but as a child and especially a pre-teen, I didn’t yet have that capacity. One thing that anyone who knows me well is that I love to talk. Not to just hear myself, but to just have that connection with whoever I am with. I can spend hours talking about one subject. Running the words through my mouth, turning them over in my head and then listening to what the other person has to say. Really listen. That was not a skill that I had as a child, but it was a skill that I was able to develop especially as I moved into my professional life as a Clinical Social Worker. As a child, I asked questions. A lot of them. So, what better to have a captive audience in a boat, out on the middle of lake Kashawackamack. Yes, that is the real name of the lake. Go on, google it, i’ll wait.
I have many fond memories of fishing with Grandpa. I was taught so many things about life out in that boat with him. I remember very early on talking with him and him telling me that we needed to be quiet because we would scare the fish away. Me, be the questioner of all things, said “if we just reeled out 70, then that is a long way down Grandpa. I don’t think that the fish can hear us”. Long sigh from him. Then I asked him if fish had ears? He told me that they did and that we had to be quiet so that they would bite and we could catch them. As you might imagine a lot was talked about in the boat. But not all the time. During the periods of time when I was quiet, I spent time looking around at the majestic nature that I was surrounded by. How quiet it was, but with the sound of the water, other boats on the lake and the sound of birds or other animals on the various islands that we would troll around. I was never a patient child, teen or adult, but sitting in the small boat with Grandpa felt like I had all the time in the world. I think I spent more time hoping I wouldn’t catch a fish because I didn’t want it to die even though between my Grandmother and Aunt Lottie, they made the best darn fish fry I have ever tasted.
No, it really was about the life lessons that I learned. Being with my grandfather and having conversations at first about kid things that eventually morphed into other more worldly things such as what my life’s passions were and politics. But, the reality is that we never did too much talking anyway. Not talking really made me listen. Not to just what my ears could hear, but what my head and heart could hear. Being silent and musing were the real life lessons that were learned. The most important lesson that my dear grandfather gave to me.
I do want to end by saying that one early evening when it was my night to go fishing, I came walking down the steps to the dock with my life preserver on over one of my grandfather’s fishing shirts, a big hat tied under my chin and various snacks and a drink to have when I got hungry because you never can be too sure when you would catch a BIG one and need sustenance after you hauled it in. I also had a book. I got down to the boat and grandpa was making sure that we had everything we needed and was checking the boat over. I got into the boat and set my stuff down on the seat next to me. My grandpa looked at my book and asked me, “what is that”? “It’s my book”, I told him. He took my book and put it on a chair on the dock, got back into the boat and we left. Apparently reading is not something one does when they go fishing.
I do realize that all these years later that my grandpa was trying to give me one of the best gifts that a kid could have. The silence with which to be with my thoughts and not be scared of them. Thank you Grandpa. Your message was not lost. These days I find myself seeking solitude more than I ever have. Walking along a beach with the sound of the waves, or in a forest with the quiet of the tree’s all around. Listening to what has always been there. Knowing that the further I go inward, the happier I will be.
Grandpa, you were the best. I’ve never said goodbye because I know that I will see you again someday. Thank you for the life lessons.