If I’m going to tell a funny Simon story, then it seems only fitting that I tell one about Finnegan as well.
Despite carrying the nickname “Fisher” around this earth for about 70 years, my father was not much of a fisherman. That meant that I was never much of a fisherman.
Then, 15 or so years ago, my dear friend, the late and great Rene Stewart, was diagnosed with cancer and decided to fish himself to recovery. I’d been out with Rene a couple of times by then, I think, but I really began to fish with him in earnest, and I was amazed to see that he wasn’t only determined to prolong his life with his interest in fishing, but that it was actually working.
After a brutal few months, the doctors told Rene the chemo hadn’t helped, that the prognosis was nothing but death, and the only way they could expect any longer than four months for him, six at the outside, was if he took more chemo. No fool, Rene, he’d just lived through like six crappy months on the chemo, and he’d be damned if he was going to take more of that when they told him it didn’t work in the first place.
So, determined to show the doctors how wrong they were, he took to the Kanawha River with a fishing rod and the drive to far outlive their expectations of him. He did just that.
We buried Rene more than four years later, and if any of the doctors had been there I think they would have heard him laughing.
I had moved to PA by then, and I became determined to be a good enough fisherman to teach Finn (no Simon in the picture yet) at least the basics of fishing. I don’t think I cared if he became a fisherman; rather, I just wanted him to have the basic skills, in case he ever needed them.
So, I worked at being a trout fisherman, and I got to the point where I was no longer “like a monkey trying to screw a football,” which was one assessment of my fledgling attempts.
Some of Becky’s regulars got wind of it, so, when they were getting rid of her father’s things–years after he’d passed of course–they came across some fishing tackle and rods, and they brought it all in for us.
Now, this man had been a bass and muskie fisherman, bigger fish, lake fish, so his gear included a number of big lures. Finn, of course, was just crazy about these. He just liked to get them out and line them up and do things like kids do when they have a lot of something.
Then, he had a birthday–I’m guessing it was his fifth–and our friends Randy and Angie gave him a gift card to Dick’s. Well, we went, and of course he wanted more big lures. He got this one really special one with glowing 3D red eyes, and it easily became his favorite.
One day not long after that Finn announced that he wanted to go fishing. Codorus is the nearest lake to us if you’re going for larger fish, like bass and muskie, and we didn’t have time to factor the two-plus hour round trip into our fishing day, so we went down to this hole on Bullfrog Road that I’m fond of.
On the way there I told him that it would be fine for him to use his bigger lures, but not to be disappointed if he didn’t catch anything, as we probably wouldn’t cross paths with fish big enough to hit on those bigger lures. He assured me he’d be cool with that.
So we get going, and we set his line up with his new prized, veritably loved, 3D glowing and red-eyed lure, and he promptly casts it into the branches of a tree that hangs out over the water. Man, he was frantic, and he worked with it a bit, declining my help until he was absolutely certain he wasn’t going to be able to free it by himself.
So, I took over and started working with it, and, man, that thing was in there good. I was determined that I could free it though, and I continued to work with it.
It turned out that I was right; I could free it. I gave it that last big tug, hard and quick. Not only did it come loose, but it also fell straight into the big and quickly flowing water of the pool and was gone forever.
I turned to Finn and said whatever I said, and he was doing pretty well with it. His eyes were bright and sparkly with the tears he was holding at bay, and he had that look like he’d just been kicked in the gut. Still, he was maintaining. That is, he was maintaining until I had to open my foolish mouth.
You know us fathers with our sons, always hoping to be ready for that teachable moment. Well, that’s where I was, and I somehow thought my reasoning and rationale were going to be enough to help this heartbroken boy deal with a loss so fresh.
I thought he was just going to say, “You’re right, Dad” and suck it up when I said, “You know, Finn, if you’re going to be a fisherman, you’re going to have to get losing lures here and there.”
Fancy my surprise when I didn’t get the response I expected. Instead, the dam broke. You know that moment when your kid is maintaining it one second and then not the next and there’s about a million miles between the two states? That’s where I was right then, when it all exploded out of him, his face opened up and turned red, his eyes not only let loose the tears they’d been squeezing in, but seemingly flung them out with unfathomable force, and in a voice that was choked and hitching, he screamed, “I don’t want to be a fisherman!”
So it turned out that Finn was the one who found the teachable moment, and he wasn’t even looking for it. He didn’t want to be a fisherman; he just wanted to line his lures up and look at them and compare them and decide which one today was his favorite. And I just wanted to be a better father. Going forward, both of us got what we wished for.
Much love, friends. Happy Thursday.