February 22, 2013
Vivid in memory is the particular fishing scene described by eldest daughter, Victoria, at my 80th birthday celebration. Early in the mid-sixties my two eldest children, Victoria and Frederick, were my companions fishing at nearby Fish Lake.
Remarks on the Occasion of Dad’s 80th Birthday
When asked to talk about things my father taught me, I scan countless possibilities, but hone in one memory that captures it all.
The setting is on a sweet Minnesota lake on a sunny Sunday afternoon. You had taken your two oldest children fishing. Fred and I both have new Zebco Jr. fishing rods purchased from “Monkey Wards”, with money we had earned a unique Bartling way. Under your tutelage, Fred and I had an annual summer enterprise, “Prof Kid’s Shoeshine”, and our targets were nice Lutheran pastors gathering on the Concordia campus for the SE Missouri Synodical convention. hounding the pastors going to and coming from sessions with the refrain”prof kid’s shoeshine”, we polished shoes (and socks) for 25 cents.
Back to the lake…..Zebcos on board we motor across the lake to a perfect location just outside a cluster og lily pads. The ritual begins–you prepare my line, threading my hook with a worm, adjust the weights, setting the bobber and then a little instruction on casting (“it’s all in the wrist”). Fred has taken to this like a fish in water–it’s clear this is his passion. I’m a bit squeamish about touching the bait and fish, but try to act like a real fisherman in good company.
Through the afternoon the bobbers sink innumerable times, and we bring in sunnies, bluegills, perch, and an occasional dreaded bullhead. You manage the catch, letting the little ones go with an encouraging word, regretting the fish that swallowed the hook, stringing the keepers. Once in a while, when a newly hooked fish is lifted out of the water, you exclaim, “oh look! It’s a huge Isaac Walton piscatorial.” I wonder, what is that?–an Izaac Walton piscatorial–is my Dad naming a new species of fish, is a piscatorial some kind of Dad’s attempt at bathroom humor?
It’s beyond explanation at that time what this type of fish might be, but later, when my intellect catches up with Dad phrases in my head, I discover that Dad the teacher; the man in love with language and references, had injected a bit of history in the afternoon of fishing. Izaac Walton’s book, The Complete Angler, written im the sixteenth century, is the third most published book after the Bible, and Shakespeare’s works. In it Walton writes, in his piscatorial, which is a meandering about fishing, “when fishing we possess ourselves in as much quietness as the silver streams which we now see glide so quietly by us.”
In that idyllic afternoon, with your patient instruction, sharing of your passion, love for your children, the creative use of language and symbol, you have taught me how to live an interesting life. Thank you.
Some decades later after this fishing expedition, Eldest child Victoria, now well into middle age, sent me a Father’s Day gift: a 6 by 7 inches artistically enhanced picture frame presenting a BLUEGILL SUNFISH. The frame itself has notes taken from Walton’s The Complete Angler. Example: “What Angler of any considerable experience has not encountered that circumstance, always exciting, frequently disappointing, which he expresses in the words: “I caught it! But what is it?”
Inscribed on the back: To Dad, Happy Father’s Day! Here’s to great memories of catching the huge Isaac Walton piscatorial! Now, not the fish, but precious times together. Thanks. love (signed)) Victoria.
“Precious times together”, indeed, I am a father singularly blessed with her love as well as that of all of my six children.