Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. ~ William James
Last week I was lucky enough to spend quality time with my Dad; he had just arrived home after a week of fly fishing on the Dean River and was just getting settled back into a normal routine at home.
I was relieved to know that when he got home, his phone, wallet, and the keys to the house were with him, not long-forgotten in a bin at the security checkpoint in Calgary. I was grateful I didn’t have to deal with that again after last month’s fly-fishing trip to B.C.
Anyone who knows my Dad knows his passion is fly-fishing followed by a generous pour of Crown Royal on the rocks with a twist after a day on the river. When my husband first met my Dad 30+ years ago, he was instantly reminded of Tom Skerritt in the role of Drum, the father in Steel Magnolias: they shared the same handsome features, same temperament, and the same zest for life. Later, when A River Runs Through It came out, I could see that my husband was correct with his assessment.
On Thursday I rode my bike down to his house; we had made plans to walk to a local restaurant for lunch. When I arrived, the garage door was wide open, my Dad waiting for me to zip around the corner. I coasted up the driveway and into the garage, put the kickstand down, and removed my bike helmet. My Dad broke into his famous smile, the smile I had inherited, and welcomed me with a big hug.
As we walked to the restaurant, my Dad talked about his latest fly-fishing trip to the Dean River; the Dean River flows into the Dean Channel on the central British Columbian coast just north of Bella Coola, British Columbia and this recent trip marked his 30th year of fishing on the Dean. It is safe to say that my Dad’s second “career” was fly-fishing.
“Karen, did you know the Dean River offers the finest Steelhead dry fly water in the world,” he told me as we walked.
“No, I didn’t. Are you still flown in by helicopter?” I asked. I knew he’d answer in the affirmative. I’ve heard stories about his trips to the Dean River for years and I’ve seen the photos of the Steelhead he’d caught; to my Dad, the Dean River was nirvana.
“How was the fishing?” I asked.
“It was good, not the best, but it was good” he replied.
My Dad told me they met a group of young fly-fishermen who had been watching them.
“Is that a #5 9-ft rod you’re using?” one of them had asked my Dad.
“It sure is, custom made” my Dad had replied.
They shared stories about previous trips, tips and suggestions were exchanged and then everyone went back to casting.
My Dad continued and told me that a few minutes later, he caught a 36-1/2” Steelhead, the biggest the guide had seen pulled out on a dry-fly.
I looked over to my Dad, he was smiling and remembering the feeling of excitement of bringing that fish in, measuring it, and then releasing it back into the river. I could feel his energy and the emotion emanating from him. I was happy for him and even more so, was glad he was still enjoying fishing at his age.
After lunch, I told him I would try and check in with him on Friday, but the next day, I got caught up in my writing. My Dad called and asked me where I was; he sounded hurt as if he had been forgotten. He had; I forgot to call him.
“I’m on my way down,” I told him.
I don’t mind popping over to check in on him. There are times when I get a bit frustrated – when he leaves the garage door open all night long or loses something and calls me to find it – but as each day passes, I am more patient and more forgiving of myself and of him.
I call to remind him of his appointments, I take walks with him, stopping to chat with neighbors, and I check in to make sure he’s closed and locked the doors. He never gets short on patience with me, instead, he brags to his friends about how I’ve stepped in and handled everything so efficiently; he makes it a point to tell me that as well.
When I bring the kids over to visit, my younger son makes popcorn on the stove with him or sits on the sofa, leaving through old photos with my Dad and me. I point at pictures and create stories – “See! There’s Uncle Shaun teasing me again!” or “Look how dorky Uncle Shaun looks in that Halloween costume!”. The three of us laugh.
There are always stories for my Dad to tell, some are of the past, some we’d like to forget, and some that are fishing stories. While the stories never get old, I know each of us: my Dad, my kids, and I are growing older. The stories we share are the hook that brings us together, a gentle reminder to slow down and savor each moment.