Tag Archives: Fishing

The Old Man and the Sea

IMG_0070I came across a copy of The Old Man and the Sea while cleaning a bookshelf.  A required read in high school, I recalled very little of it.  I was anxious to give it another look.

It’s a short story about a Cuban fisherman down on his luck.  He’s an impoverished old man who maintains a relationship with a boy.

The boy was once taught to fish by the old man.  He repays the elder by finding ways to  attend to his sustenance.  The two used to fish together before the old man’s string of bad luck caused the boy’s parents to insist their son fish with someone else.

A quote from the book:

“Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her? I would take some though in any form and pay what they asked.”

Hemingway successfully walks a tightrope, offering vivid descriptions while maintaining the flow of the story.  He also captures the double-edged sword of angst, which faces the serious fisherman; the plague of drought (not being able to catch any fish) verses hooking the catch of a lifetime (and being able to successfully land it).  Finally, there’s the struggle pitting man against beast.  The old man possesses seasoned and hardened skill while the fish possesses great strength and power.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Fish, part 5 (revised)

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I found myself in a proverbial small boat on a large, familiar body of water. Off in the distance threatening clouds approached. From experience, I knew I needed to break from my everyday routine and head for the safety of shore. Just as I arrived there the storm hit.

The unexpected storm in the fifth decade of my life could not be avoided. Bill Sr., my friend and father, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It proved to be the aggressive sort. After a two-year battle, doctors conceded his cancer was not responding to treatment. As a result my courageous father opted for palliative treatment and hospice care. Prayer, originally our first option, was now our only option.

How do you stand and fight when bad news rains down on you with the force a hurricane, trapping you in the wind and rain and denying you shelter from its fury? Raw human emotion like the tidal wave of a storm surge washed over our family, ravaging our souls and leaving us utterly defenseless. The force of these elements drove downward with such intensity that strongholds, including the place where the essence of hope itself dwells, was in danger of being lost.

An overwhelming and relentless attack bore down on our world. It was beyond our human strength to resist it. The teaming and pooling of water created rivers of destruction; flooding the very paths we once trod in safety and comfort. It changed our familiar landscapes forever. Was there a rock mighty enough to withstand such an onslaught, a refuge impervious to anything and everything in its path? Where does hope exist at such a time?

Our family knows first hand of such a rock because Dad guided us to it.   He helped us navigate through the maze of life’s distractions that might keep us from clinging to this rock of hope. Eventually we all found it and embraced it. We saw the value and the necessity of doing so because of Dad’s living example. I am of course speaking of Jesus Christ being our Hope, our Savior and a Rock without equal.  From the book, Junior’s Hope.

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Dad’s cancer affected his mind as his final days unfolded. The salmon hanging on the wall across from his bed became a single point of clarity for him. No matter how bad the confusion, if he could train his eyes on the fish, he could figure out who and where he was.

We all mourned when Dad went to be with his Savior in 2005. Following his death, I came to realize two things. First, I was deeply committed to the existence of the unseen and my ability to interact with it. God alone is able to receive into his presence those who have a genuine relationship with Him.  Because I have such a relationship with God I know I will see my father again. Second, the relationships I still have need to be cherished.

I saw you fishing the other day as I was cleaning up the yard and stopped to sit beside you. You shared your fishing pole with me and we took turns baiting a hook with worms and dropping the line in the water. You caught a sunfish, I caught one too.

As we sat together near the water’s edge watching a school of minnows congregate on the surface of the water, my mind drifted back to my senior year in college.  I had almost given up hope of finding that one person who could bring me joy, not just for a season, but perpetually. This person needed to be special, a girl who could captivate my heart so completely that I would be compelled to love her…always…forever. That person needed to believe in God and love Him like I do.

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It was your beauty that first caught my eye but I resisted its appeal. Beauty, they say, is only skin deep. Then, your eyes connected with mine and opened a window of kindness that my heart wanted to gaze into. A quiet smile complemented your eyes. I caught glimpse of the love you possessed in the well of your soul and I stood before you breathless, trying to hide my feeling of awe. I was not prepared to encounter real beauty, which existed previously only in my dreams.

We strode together into the movie theatre on our first date. I beamed with pride because I had the privilege of sitting alone with you for the next several hours. I wanted desperately to say something that would make a meaningful connection. A pang of fear pierced my thoughts, what if I was not the type of guy you are looking for.

Time passed too quickly as we watched the double feature.  Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase found love in the first film; Warren Beatty and Julie Christie found it in the second. I wondered if Patty would remember me tomorrow, and the day after that?  Bravely, I reached out and touched your hand and you cradled it in yours.  My heart beat faster. I did not want our time together to end. When it came time to say goodnight, I brushed my lips across yours. In that moment, with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, I tried to convey my willingness to be a part of your life, your dreams and your future…

The song “Downstream” was popular when we dated.  I still think of Patty every time I hear it.

“Downstream” by Supertramp © 1977

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Took a boat Sunday, down by the sea

It just felt so nice, you and me
We didn’t have a problem or a care on us
And all around was silence, everywhere

You are the reason I was born
Be with you through all seasons
I’ll always hear you
When you call

We’ll keep the love light shining
Through each night and day
A lonely life behind me
Oh, what a change you’ve made

So down here on the ocean
We will stay, we will stay, we will stay
Went through a lot of changes
Turned a lot of pages
When I took a boat on Sunday

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I count each day I spend with Patty a blessing. Sometimes when we sit together in our Adirondack chairs overlooking the pond behind our house, fishing of all things, enters my mind.  What began as a childhood experience (interacting with the unseen) has turned into a lifelong commitment.

Today I see fish as a symbol of hope.  One day all things will be revealed and on that day things we cannot see will become visible.  My prayer is that I will be remembered as someone who fished with patience and faithfulness.

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT

 

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Fish, part 4 (revised)

The fourth decade of my life could easily summarize in one word, successIMG_0361 My career at the plastics factory sprouted wings soared.  From my humble beginnings as a plastic materials handler, I graduated to operating injection-molding machines, and  changing the heavy steel molds that shaped melted plastic pellets into parts.  This was just the beginning. Within a few years I found myself supervising workers on a packaging line.

Within a couple of years, our company was awarded a contract to assemble disposable, one-time use cameras.  When the economics of reusing these cameras became favorable, our company was asked to start recycling them also.  Our involvement in this business grew to tens of millions of cameras each year. Our company’s success meant more supervisors were needed and managers to oversee the supervisors. Up the corporate ladder I rose.

Too busy to have anything to do with fish now, all my energy was being poured into my career, and finding ways to take it to new heights. Success fueled my competitive fire and I found new avenues of my life to express it.  Competitive sports such as softball, golf, volleyball, and bowling offered just that.  Academics also proved to fuel the fire. I pursued of a Master of Science in Leadership from my alma mater RWC.  The resulting crowning achievement was an appearance in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.  God was with me then but His voice was becoming increasingly harder to hear.  Success trumpeted loudly in my ears, blasting a beautiful melody.  I began to believe that what I had accomplished had less to do with God’s blessings on my life and more to do with my own abilities.

What free time I did have I spent trying to stay abreast of our sons’ ever-changing interests. As teenagers, they were more interested in how fast a boat could travel than experiencing the patience of fishing. Their interests included manning a space shuttle and traveling to other worlds on the starship, Enterprise.  So when we went for a cottage retreat on a lake, fishing was the lowest priority.  Instead, they experienced the thrill of being pulled in a tube behind a speeding boat and chasing after the model rockets launched into the sky’s great expanse. Computers and video gaming were becoming the rage and they fell in love with this sort of technology hook, line and sinker. 

My father never gave up on fishing, however, he continued to fish. His patience and steadfastness were richly rewarded whenever he reeled in a trophy-sized fish.

“Perhaps the most unusual object added to the room was a 40-pound stuffed and mounted Salmon caught by Dad while fishing on Lake Ontario years earlier. It was hung on the wall…and was the first thing he saw when he woke up every morning. It was a trophy that represented the patience, persistence and faithfulness that epitomized my father.” Bill Roushey from the book Junior’s Hope


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I distinctly remember two things of spiritual significance happening during this decade of my life. First, a sick feeling that rose up within me when I realized that unbridled success apart from a close relationship with God rang hollow. In the midst of all my success I can remember at one point wondering, “Is this all life has to offer?” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-14).  As a result, I began a period of connecting deeper with God, exploring a call to ministry and listening quietly for periods of time while I prayed. These periods of listening to hear from God led to the second event.

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The sick feeling that I carried around in my being was replaced by an unexplained hunger, a.k.a. the second event.  For some reason I felt I needed to reconnect with my father and deepen my relationship with him.  The feeling grew in intensity and became so strong it compelled me to act on it.  Weeks went by and the feeling never left me.

Dad’s upbringing was grounded in genuine faith in God but due to the rules placed on its members by his (our) denomination of faith it was expressed outwardly as a list of do’s and dont’s, or legalism.  In grade school I was looked at like a child from another planet when I handed my physical education teacher a note from my parents explaining that dancing was against our religious convictions.  I , too, loved God but I rejected that religious legalism as a college student, punctuating my rejection with a fun rebellion.  Somehow rejecting legalism had led to rejecting my father.   I never felt close to him after that.  When the hunger inside me didn’t subside, I prayed for God to show me some vehicle I could use to reconnect with my father.  That vehicle turned out to be researching our family genealogy (see my post Beginning’s).

I rarely fished with my father or father-in-law during this time.  I was too busy wandering in the wasteland of my presumption.  The great fish caught in this decade of my life were not mine. These fish belonged to the faithful who fished with patience and steadfastness, and they were richly rewarded.  In my mind these fish stood as a reminder of how God honored the faithfulness of those who drew near to Him and did not take their faith for granted. (Proverbs 3:1-7)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Dad’s 40-pound trophy salmon stands as a tribute to his efforts.  For the rest of my days, whenever I gaze upon at that fish I will associate it with my father, a faithful man of God. The end of this decade brought me closer to my father than I ever had  been.

But a huge dark cloud appeared on the tranquil horizon.  One that struck fear in my heart…

Fish, part 3 (revised)

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The third decade of my life was the most unpredictable, wondrous and insanely gratifying period of my life. It began my senior year at Roberts Wesleyan College.  The cast of characters in my life remained essentially the same except for the appearance of her.

I was determined to play out my senior year like the grand finale punctuating a fireworks display. Out of the starting gate, I competed on the cross-country team.  We were an unusually close-knit team and often participated in social activities as a group.  Wouldn’t you know it, she happened to be at some of these socials.

I continued to immerse myself in campus life, voted by my peers to escort the homecoming queen and serving as a lead character in the all college play, Cheaper By The Dozen.  My academic pursuits kept me unusually busy,  but somehow I kept running into her.

As the fall semester began winding down, I caught myself taking an interest in her.  She seemed to take her sweet time acknowledging my interest.  Worried that the semester would end before I had my chance to ask her out, I decided to get creative by distinguishing myself.  She committed to going on a date with me if I could run a personal best time in what amounted to our last home cross-country meet. (This meant running a sub 30-minute race over a distance of 5 miles, and faster than any previous attempt).  What had I gotten myself into?

The race itself was a journey to hell and back, as the course punished my body.  The effort helped our team win the meet and secure a winning record for our cross-country team.  The time, 29:46, qualified me for a date with her.

IMG_0409…Maybe it was the anticipation of having to wait a month to go out with her but after that first date magic was in the air. There was no question I was like a deer caught in the headlights, enchanted by the inner and outer beauty of this woman.            

Patty and I corresponded over the weeks separating first and second semester. Our letters deepened our mutual affection, and each of us hinted of a future together. A flame was now lit within my heart and it danced wildly like a flame on the bare wick of a candle fighting to stay ablaze as it burns itself down to the renewing and sustaining body of the candle wax below.

Bill Roushey, from the book Junior’s Hope

I became engaged to Patty in the spring, during my final semester of college life.  Immediately, she was welcomed into my family but I had yet to meet hers. When Patty called home to notify her parents of the news, I can only imagine what thoughts were going through their minds.

“Mom, I’m getting married!”

“To who?” Her mother asked, not expecting any news of this sort.

“Bill Roushey asked me to marry him and I said yes!”

“When are we going to meet this boy?” Her dad inquired, quickly picking up the phone extension.

“We’re coming home on spring break.”

I hadn’t thought about inheriting another set of parents until that moment.  I was in the process of separating myself from my own parents and now I was inheriting another set. Never in my life had I been this nervous about anything, but then again I had never been more in love either.

Sweat pooled under my armpits as I sat in an empty living room waiting for her father to meet me. The sound of  the shower running indicated it wouldn’t be anytime soon. Patty and her mom were off in another room having a mother/daughter reunion.  When her father came out and laid eyes on me for the first time, our conversation went something like this.

“Hello, sir.” I said warmly trying to hide my nervousness.

“You must be Bill,” he responded trying to assess the character of the man about to steal away his daughter.

“I’d like to marry your daughter.”

“Do you have a job? How do you plan on supporting her?”

“Yes. I have one lined up after graduation.”

“We want our daughter to graduate from college. Are you planning to let her continue on with her schooling?”

“Yes sir, that’s important to both of us.”

IMG_0377“Well then, okay,” he said as I felt the tension in the room evaporate.  Then, he added, “… and we’d like to pay for her tuition.”

I realized at that moment what kind and generous parents she had.

Several years later Patty and I had the means to build our own home.  It was during that time we entered into what I call the “Noah’s ark” phase of our lives, acquiring fresh and saltwater aquariums, birds, cats and a dog.

The Lord soon blessed us with two boys, which we taught to fish among other things. They experienced first hand the thrill of having unseen objects tug on their fishing line as they dangled a worm into the watery abyss.  Eyes went wide when they reeled in their prize.

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My freshwater aquarium experience of the previous decade paled in comparison to the unfathomable splendor of gazing into a salt-water aquarium.  The personal cost to acquire and retain such beauty is far greater, the care more delicate and tedious, the hardships more severe, but the final result is breathtaking.  Such is my comparison to my love and my life with her.

My spiritual journey this decade was one of continuance, generation to generation, father to son.IMG_0364  The closer I walk with God the greater my appreciation for His continuance, an eternal God whose love has no limit or end. (Psalm 36:5-7)

For all practical purposes this is a storybook ending, but as it turns out this is not the end.

To be continued…

Fish, part 2 (revised)

IMG_0392St. Andrews Lake was not huge, but you couldn’t see the far end of it even from our elevated vantage point. The lake was kidney-shaped and its clear water darkened to blue as it deepened…Most importantly, lurking in the water like buried treasure, were largemouth bass, northern pike, pan fish and perch. All of them hidden from view…  

Bill Roushey, from the book Junior’s Hope

The August sun beat down on Dad and me as we waited for the fish to surrender or make another run for it. Impatience bubbled up inside me. Holding on to my fishing pole kept my hands occupied but the rest of my body squirmed, longing to do anything but remain pinned against the sun baked boat seat. The life vest hanging around my neck made me hot and sweaty. The vest’s past history became evident as it wicked up the moisture from my body and produced a rotten smell.  My standoff with the fish showed no sign of ending. The huge northern pike had done something to prevent me from reeling it in. My head hurt and I was ready to give up.

“Dad, the fish isn’t tugging on the line anymore,” I complained.

“That doesn’t mean its not there. Don’t give up,” Dad said trying to encourage me.

My father wasn’t ready to give up. An engineer by profession, part of his job involved coming up with solutions to problems. He took an oar out of the oarlock and pushed it into the water following the fishing line down, hoping to gain some understanding of why I couldn’t bring up the fish. Unfortunately, the depth of the water exceeded the length of the oar. Dad also rowed the boat in a wide arc around the spot where the line plunged into the water. He stopped four or five times during the trek to give me a chance to pull on the line from different angles. Nothing he tried worked.  We both knew there was only one thing left to do.

“Billy, pull steadily on the line so you don’t break the pole,” Dad said, voicing his solidarity.

“Like this,” I replied as I stood up and leaned back against the line.

The tension broke before I had a chance to brace myself.  I was pitched backwards by the sudden release of the line and landed in a heap between the seats.  I didn’t cry as I reeled in the empty line. Instead, I felt more like one of Dad’s fishing buddies and less like a kid who got to sneak off early that morning to fish with his father.

Fish or fishing in my earliest years validated the idea that just because something couldn’t be seen that didn’t mean it didn’t exist.  Fish, though unseen, were real and could be interacted with. To this day one of the most exhilarating things about fishing is the feeling of an unseen object tugging on your line. Being a person of faith, the picture of unseen fish models the existence of God who is present though not seen.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:18

My fish story does not end here, however.

The next decade of my life was one of drastic changes. Our family vacations to Canada continued. Fishing became truly a family affair. As our skill improved, so did the number of fish we caught. For me, fishing with Dad became an important way of relating to him.

Those carefree years came to an abrupt end, however, when I graduated from high school. I no longer had time for family vacations. Holding down a job and going to college were my priorities now. The remaining years of my second decade afforded me little or no time for fishing.

In my second year in college I happened to meet a freshmen who turned out to be a very funny guy. I don’t make it a habit of hanging around comedians but for some reason we hit it off and become good friends. He made me laugh more than anyone I knew.  Our definition of fun, however, sometimes clashed with the college rules.   In an effort to protect his identity, I’ll call him Boris.

Boris and I made plans to room together our senior year. Oops, I just gave away his identity. Anyway, we arrived early on campus in the fall and immediately began decorating our “bachelor pad.”  Because we arrived early, we were able to pillage the best room furnishings out of nearby dorm rooms. Conversations between us went something like this.

“Boris, our room is missing something.” I said

“All my stuff is here,” he countered.

“I’m not missing anything either. The room is missing something!”

“You mean besides the stereo, speakers, sofa and television?” Boris said.

This was 1979, before the widespread use of cell phones, personal computers, flat screen TVs and all of the game consoles we can’t seem to live with out.

“I need something for my desk.”

“How about a lamp?” He said, chuckling as only Boris could.

“I’m being serious.”

“How serious can getting something for your desk be.”

His cackle was contagious and soon he had me laughing.

“Let’s go down and take a look at brother Jim’s room.” Boris said pressing his palms together as if to portray himself as a wise sage.  Boris was studying to be a minister and often got carried away with the whole brother/sister thing.

“What does Jim have that we don’t?” I said, suddenly curious.

“You’ll see.”

We went down the hall to Jim’s room but he was not there. His door, however, was slightly ajar.  I had just recently met Jim but already I had him pegged as a bit of an eccentric.  Living in a dorm, it had been my practice to give eccentrics a wide birth until I understood them better.  Boris knocked hard on the heavy oak door, hard enough to make it open completely.

“Brother Bill, shall we enter?” Boris stated like he was rolling out a welcome mat.

“Can’t we get in trouble for doing this?” I said more afraid of being misunderstood by Jim than anything else.

“I’m an RA.”

I should explain that each floor in our dorm had a resident advisor, or RA, who was the liaison between the students and the dorm’s resident director, or RD. Boris was permitted to enter rooms on our floor as part of his responsibilities.  Tentatively, I entered Jim’s room and Boris followed.

“What do you think?” Boris said, gesturing towards the aquarium in the back corner of the room.

“Yeah, that would do the trick.” I said growing excited about the possibility,  “I wonder why it looks like he’s trying to hide it behind the door.”

“Are you working for the FBI now?” Boris said sarcastically.

“You’re the RA, you should be investigating stuff like this.”

“What kind of fish do you suppose those are?” he inquired, taking a closer look at them.

“Okay Sherlock, lets go get the fish tank.”

IMG_0374I can’t remember exactly how we acquired a fish tank, but I’m sure we did it legally. Putting fish in an aquarium drew me closer to them, close enough where I could fully appreciate their beauty. I felt a part of their world as they swam by me at eye level.  It’s a much different perspective than viewing fish from afar or looking down at them from above.

I would characterize this decade of life as the discovery of genuine relationships. These were more personal and fulfilling than the juvenile ones of my earliest years.  I fully immersed myself in these relationships and learned the joy of putting effort into them rather than just taking what I could out of them and moving on.

Spiritually, I was going through a major transition as well. As a child I believed in God because my parents did. It was their faith I held on to. In my second decade of life I discovered the beauty of a God who didn’t look down on me from above, rather his habitation was with me. He became my God.

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16

As wonderful as this realization was, I was unprepared for what was about to happen.

To be continued…

Fish, part 1 (revised)

IMG_0360As I stumbled around my bedroom getting ready for work, I had no clue that inspiration was about to strike. I placed my wife’s coffee on her nightstand as a beeping alarm clock roused her from sleep. Being thoughtful, I shuffled across the floor to her aquarium thinking its light would be easier on sleepy eyes. The instant the tank flooded with light the epiphany came. I felt the need to write about fish. What? I questioned the thought immediately.  What does writing about fish swimming in an aquarium have to do with anything other than lowering someone’s blood pressure?

Immediately, I concluded two things. The thought had nothing to do with work since I am not a commercial fisherman, nor was it about food, because I don’t normally think of fried fish immediately after breakfast. I left the house confused.

I arrived at work and began making my way through the building. Robotically, I turned on a light to illuminate a corridor I had walked down a thousand times. On my left I noticed an expanse of blue paper hanging on the wall. Pasted on the paper was an assortment of hand-colored fish of the sort you would find in a coloring book.

I wonder how long it had been there?

Another light revealed more fish. Hmmm.

I made my way to my desk. Certainly a cup of coffee would help me think more clearly. I retrieved my thermos and a coffee mug I stored in a drawer. Placing both items on my desk, I flicked on the overhead light and sank into my chair, already anticipating the positive effect pouring hot black liquid down my throat would have. As I reached for my cup, I noticed a card lying beside it. Believe it or not, it was a subscription card to the “In-Fisherman” magazine. My immediate thought, you’ve have got to be kidding me. I seemed to have just experienced a three-fold affirmation to write about fish. Since I subscribe to the belief that there is a Divine Being who works in all areas of my life, I resolved to give the subject matter a bit of serious thought.

I reflected on what I had to work with. All three instances involved fish-related subject matter already present in the darkness and appeared visibly when I turned on a light. I spent the rest of the morning physically working on maintenance projects while my mind tried to determine what direction to take on this project.

Just ask the animals, and they will teach you. Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you. Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you. Let the fish in the sea speak to you. Job 12: 7-8

I began by tapping into my earliest memories of fish or fishing. Several hours later I had a shirt pocket stuffed full of notes written on paper scraps spanning six decades. I’ll begin with my earliest recollection.

During the first ten years or so of my life, going fishing with my dad would definitely make my highlight reel. Our family began taking vacations to Ontario, Canada about that time. Somehow my parents managed to get in touch with a farmer who rented out a pair of cottages on a private lake. My most special memory while staying in one of those cabins involved Dad taking me out fishing early in the morning while my brothers and sister slept. This I imagined equated to having a position of privilege.

The expedition began before dawn. We were in the boat as a pre-dawn mist rose up from the tranquil waters.  Dad rowed into the mist.  The oars creaked as he drew them through the water. This felt to me like an adventure.  Once my father reached the intended spot we cast our lines in the water.

My excitement quickly waned, and the hours began to drag slowly by. No fish were biting.  By late morning my stomach was growling.  I’d already consumed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich earlier.

I remember boredom biting me as I sat in the front bench seat in the nose of the boat. Sometimes the best games grow out of boredom.  I decided make a game out of leaning over the side of the boat and trying to get my face as close to the water as possible. My father was oblivious to this folly as he occupied the middle seat and had his back to me.

It was hard leaning over the side with a faded orange life-jacket on but somehow I managed it. I decided to add some interest to the game by grabbing the middle of my fishing pole and dangling a lure into the water close to my face. The green rubber frog appeared lifelike as I manipulated it like a marionette.

IMG_0369I stared into the dark void as I played.  Suddenly, a pair of ghostly eyes emerged from the black depths.  A large gaping mouth full of teeth opened, inhaling the frog bobbing on the water.   My face was so close to the water that I fell backwards into the boat trying to distance myself from the creature. A mammoth northern pike sunk back into the depths without the slightest splash, my lure still in its mouth.

Had I imagined the whole thing? No way. The fishing pole I still held was pinching my hand against the side of the boat. A grating sound emanated from the reel as line peeled off it. Filled with excitement, I felt the need to stand up. The boat rocked wildly as I rose to my full height. I almost fell overboard as I grabbed the pole with both hands and yanked upwards, attempting to set the hook. From behind me I could hear my father yelling, “Sit down!”

His words did nothing to quell my excitement, as I watched the tip of my pole bend down below the water line. The fish swam away from the boat taking fishing line with it and I could do nothing to stop it. Dad got excited once he saw what was happening. He spun around quickly to face me.

“It’s a monster, Dad, I saw it,” I screamed, trembling all over.

“Don’t pull to hard, you might snap the line,” he advised.

The fish suddenly stopped. My line, now taunt as a guitar string, felt as if it had the anchor tied to it.

“Dad, it won’t budge,” I said quickly growing frustrated.

My father never attempted to take the fishing pole from me; he instead concentrated on offering me encouragement. He rowed the boat towards the fish to take some of the pressure off the line. We left a cove overrun with lily pads and edged closer to a rocky bank that tumbled into the lake.

“Reel in some line Billy and take up the slack. Keep tension on the line.”

He stopped rowing when the angle of the fishing line running into the water appeared straight up and down. An occasional heavy tug was the only evidence something was still on my line. The fish and I had reached a stand off.

“Billy, the fish may have wrapped himself around something on the bottom,” Dad offered.

“Dear God, please don’t let this line break,” I prayed out loud as only a child could.

To be continued…

Fish, part 5

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I found myself in a proverbial small boat out on a large, familiar body of water when clouds began to turn threatening off in the distance. From experience, I knew I needed to break from my everyday routine and head for the safety of shore. The clouds turned angry as the storm brewed but my heart made it safely home.

The storm in the fifth decade of my life was unexpected and could not be avoided. Bill Sr., my friend and father, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It proved to be the aggressive sort. After a two-year battle the doctors conceded the cancer was not responding to treatment. All the while the evil disease continued to ravage his body. Dad’s doctor now recommended palliative treatment and hospice care. Prayer, originally our first option, was now our only option.

How do you stand and fight when bad news rains down on you with the force a hurricane, trapping you in the wind and rain and denying you shelter from its fury? Raw human emotion like the tidal wave of a storm surge washed over our family, ravaging our souls and leaving us utterly defenseless. The force of these elements drove downward with such intensity that strongholds, including the place where the essence of hope itself dwells, was in danger of being lost.

An overwhelming and relentless attack bore down on our world. It was beyond our human strength to resist it. The teaming and pooling of water created rivers of destruction; flooding the very paths we once trod in safety and comfort. It changed our familiar landscapes forever. Was there a rock mighty enough to withstand such an onslaught, a refuge impervious to anything and everything in its path? Where does hope exist at such a time?

Our family knows first hand of such a rock because Dad guided us to it.   He helped us navigate through the maze of life’s distractions that might keep us from clinging to this rock of hope. Eventually we all found it and embraced it. We saw the value and the necessity of doing so because of Dad’s living example. I am of course speaking of Jesus Christ being our Hope, our Savior and a Rock without equal.  From the book, Junior’s Hope.

In his latter days the cancer began effecting Dad’s mind. The salmon hanging on the wall across cropped-img_0997.jpgfrom his bed became a single point of clarity. No matter how bad the confusion, if he
could train his eyes on the fish, he could figure out who and where he was. We all mourned when Dad went to be with his Savior in 2005.

Following his death, I came to realize two things. First, I was deeply committed to the existence of the unseen and my ability to interact with it. God alone is able to receive and keep those like my father who have a genuine relationship with Him.  Because I hold the same belief in God I will see my father again. Secondly, I needed to cherish the relationships I have now.

…I saw you fishing the other day as I was cleaning up the yard and stopped to sit beside you. You shared your fishing pole with me and we took turns baiting a hook with skinny little worms and dropping the line in the water. You caught a sunfish and I caught one too.

As we sat together near the water’s edge watching a school of minnows congregate on the surface of the water, my mind drifted back to my senior year in college.  I had almost given up hope of finding that one person who could bring me joy, not just for a season, but perpetually. This person needed to be special, a girl who could captivate my heart so completely that I would be compelled to love her…always…forever. That person needed to believe in God and love Him like I do.

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It was your beauty that first caught my eye but I resisted its appeal. Beauty, they say, is only skin deep. Then your eyes connected with mine and opened a window of kindness that my heart wanted to gaze into. A quiet smile complemented your eyes. I caught glimpse of the love you possessed in the well of your soul and I stood before you breathless, trying to hide my feeling of awe. I was not prepared to encounter real beauty that existed previously in my dreams.

We strode together into the movie theatre on that famed first date. I beamed with pride because I had the privilege of sitting alone with you for the next several hours. I wanted desperately to do or say something that would make a meaningful connection with you. A pang of fear pierced my thoughts, what if I was not your type of guy.

Time passed too quickly as we watched the double feature.  Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase found love in the first film; Warren Beatty and Julie Christie found it in the second. I wondered if Patty would remember me tomorrow, and the day after that?  Bravely, I reached out and touched your hand and you cradled it in yours.  My heart beat faster. I did not want our time together to end. When it came time to say goodnight, I brushed my lips across yours. In that moment, with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, I tried to gently convey my willingness to enter your life, your dreams and your future and offer you access to mine.

Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder.  We would experience that first hand. Christmas break immediately followed our first date and 150 miles of separation kindled our romance…

“Downstream” by Supertramp © 1977

(click on the album cover)

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Took a boat Sunday, down by the sea

It just felt so nice, you and me
We didn’t have a problem or a care on us
And all around was silence, everywhere

You are the reason I was born
Be with you through all seasons
I’ll always hear you
When you call

We’ll keep the love light shining
Through each night and day
A lonely life behind me
Oh, what a change you’ve made

So down here on the ocean
We will stay, we will stay, we will stay
Went through a lot of changes
Turned a lot of pages
When I took a boat on Sunday

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I count each day I spend with Patty a blessing. As we sit together in our Adirondack chairs overlooking the pond behind our house, fishing of all things, enters my mind.  What once began as a childhood experience (interacting with the unseen) has turned into a lifelong commitment.(Luke 5:1-11)   I look at fish today and see them as a symbol of hope.  One day all things will be revealed and on that day the unseen will be seen.  My prayer is that I will be remembered as someone who fished with patience and faithfulness. (Hebrews 11:6)
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