I love to fish.
In fact, despite genes which have cursed me with pale skin and never-ending sunburn, I love most anything I can do outdoors. I love to hunt. I love to tinker with and ride old Harleys. I love hiking wilderness areas, the wilder the better. And I do love to fish.
I've fished for as long as I can remember, and many of my favorite memories, when I look back on days long gone, have me with fishing pole in hand on a dock, pier, beach, boat, riverbank, or lake shore. Whether alone, with friends, or with family, fishing has always been a bright spot in my life. Doesn't matter if I catch a fish or get skunked--although catching fish is better--there are few things as relaxing or uncomplicated as the pleasant monotony of fishing.
So the other day I traded two small boats my boys helped me outgrow for another, slightly larger but less water-worthy craft. It seemed a logical trade, at the time, despite the roughness of my acquisition, but over the last couple of days, as I examined my new vessel, I found more flaws, more items I would need to paint, repair, modify, etc., before the boat would be ready to launch in pursuit of finned quarry.
A little while ago, as I circled the ugly beast in a cold drizzle of Ohio rain, I came to full realization of just how rough this old hag of a boat was, and how much work I would have to invest to get it ready. I needed to paint it. I needed to seal it. I needed to modify, weld, sand, and paint the trailer. I needed to rewire the dang thing. I needed to install all the unnecessary crap and gadgetry I'd stripped out of the other boats.
Damn, this ancient Sears monstrosity was positively hammered! What was wrong with me? I mean, yeah, the other boats were small, but they were ship-shape, fish-chasing masterpieces!
And as the cold rain slid down the back of my shirt and the mud leaked through my tattered old yard-sneakers, I realized something else: I was happy. Wet, cold, muddy, and happy. Smiling, even.
What the hell was wrong with me? Surely I'd been hoodwinked. Ripped. Robbed. Tricked. Bamboozled. That crazy old man I'd traded with had pulled one over on me! I should have been furious, or at the very least irritated by my gullibility.
But I wasn't. Why?
Because, of a sudden, I saw the truth: that the hours of work, tinkering, preparation, paint, and unspecific tire-kicking were something I would enjoy as much as the fishing, and like the fishing, it was something I would do with my last two children still sharing the nest.
Yeah, fishing is great, and I love it, but as I consider Dylan and Griffin, and as I contemplate how quickly my time with Ben, Megan, and David slid into life's rear-view, I remind myself that there are some things even better than fishing, and without the sunburns.