On my way to the shop this morning, I turned on the radio just as a Trace Adkins song called “Just Fishin'” was starting to play. In a nutshell, the lyrics were of a dad recounting the memories of special moments with his daughter while on fishing trips throughout her childhood. I’m sure I’ve heard this song before, but this morning I was apparently undistracted enough that I actually paid attention to the words …. and remembered.
I remembered sitting alongside the bank of the Willamette River in what now is Alton Baker Park, fishing with my dad and talking his ear off. I remembered tagging along on another trip, with my newest Nancy Drew book in tow. He fished, I read. There was little conversation, just compionable silence. I remembered catching catfish in the ponds near Fern Ridge, then stopping off at the little Fern Ridge Market for a sack of black jelly beans to share on the drive home. I remembered a day alongside a river, when the fish weren’t biting, and my dad whittled me a whistle and a little wooden knife. I still have the knife, tucked away in my hope chest.
My dad loved to fish, and he fished a lot. Sometimes he even caught something, but mostly he loved the peace and quiet and the time alone with nature to sit and reflect. I didn’t always tag along, but I was always welcome. And here’s what I remember most … my dad shared his time with me. Generously. There was always room in the truck for me if I wanted to join him. And when he was with me, he was present. He paid attention to me when I talked. And talked. He logged in a lot of hours with me, listening to me talk about school, friends, general stuff and big ideas. Sometimes he had a thought or two to share himself, but as I recall most of the chatter on those little excursions came from me.
I know that my dad treasured those times with me. I know it because he often told me so. Those trips along the bank of the river stand out as some of my best childhood memories. Better than the trip to Sea World. Better than getting my first horse. Better than my first kiss with Matt Smith. Just fishin’ with the coolest guy on the planet, my dad.