Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The One That Didn't Get Away

My little brother and I -- he doesn't like that term now -- were fishing on the dock on Hayden Lake in Idaho when I was eleven and he was six. My dad was still married to John's mother back then, but these were the twilight years of that era. My brother John, the official junior of my father, was in many ways just like him. At six years old he was the scrappiest kid on the block, and was unafraid to take on kids several pounds and several years his elder. He once took on a whole little league baseball team, saved only by his superior speed that kept him ahead of the pursuing mob.

John cast his line into the water and scrutinized his bobber. I grew bored of fishing quickly, and had developed an empathy for the fish. I walked down the length of the dock, and much to my surprise, there, just under the surface, was a little crappie, staring at me in what I could only regard as wonder. I got down on my belly and stared back. His little fins worked against the mild current to keep him steady.

"John, look at this fish, he's just staring at me."

John rushed over to see. "Hold on, I'll get the net!"

When I was my brothers age, fishing with my dad was all I could think about. Our time together by the lakeside or wading in creeks was like being in heaven. He taught me how to bait the hook and clean the fish, and how to find a fishing spot that was just right.

While dad was at work one day, I told me step-mother a lie. I don't remember what it was about, probably that I had cleaned my room but really hadn't, but whatever the lie, it became a big issue.

Dad and I were going on a fishing trip that weekend, and I had built it up to be bigger than Christmas and my birthday combined. I was outside playing when I saw my dad approach from the direction of our apartment.

"Hey dad," I yelled, running up and giving him a hug.

His manner was cold as he held me at arms length. "You're mother told me that you lied to her."

I looked down. "Yeah."

"Well, I'm sorry, but you are staying home this weekend."

"No dad! I won't lie any more, I promise."

"I know you won't."

And I did stay home, but he went with friends. Even then I felt like it was an excuse to go without me, but now I am sure. Something died within me that day, in that moment. Fishing was never the same, and maybe that is why I always throw them back.

I managed to net the little crappie, and I felt bad for betraying the trust between us.

"I want to throw him back, John."

"Are you crazy, NO!"

"C'mon, we have a whole pile, why is it so important to have this one?"

But he wouldn't relent, so I let him keep it.

For years those eyes haunted me, to remember caused me a contraction in my chest. I've learned to live with some of my mistakes, to forgive myself perhaps for not listening to my heart. But if I could take anything back that I have done in this life, well, this wouldn't be it. But it says something that it's on the list.


mr. schprock said...

Hey Scott, I enjoyed the story. It got me to thinking about what I would want to take back if I had the chance, and the first thing I thought of was something really crummy I said to my sister when we were little kids. Why that in particular, I don't know.

jenbeauty said...

It is amazing what remember and how we react to it as adults.

I try to think of those things that affected me while I am with my children. Or while I am thinking leave me alone I want to do this or that.

Your story makes me want to take the rest of the day off and play with my kids. We always need a little reminder to be kinder.

Beth said...

This is what I like so much about your posts ... it really gets a person thinking about his/her behavior. I wonder about my own punishment with my children and if they'll be blogging about it years from now. I hope I'm doing a good job over here. Nice writing, Scott ... from someone who likes to fish and put them back as well.

Mrs.T said...

Good story..

I don't like to fish but I can watch!

Scott said...

Schprock - I can think of a few crummy things I have said too. It sucks being human sometimes.

Jen - Me too, I think about all the mistakes that formed me and I find myself wondering if I just made one sometimes.

Knitter - Thanks, it's nice to know that someone likes to throw them back too!

T - The best part of fishing for me is watching and reading a book.

Braleigh said...

Wow, that's a good story. Some of the lessons I learned from my parents were not actually because they thought it was important I learned the lesson, but that it was convenient at that time that I was punished, thus freeing them up for some other activity. Like you, I suspected as much, but they recently confessed to it.