I am eight years old.
My father is at the kitchen table fussing with fishing flies in his tackle box. The pull-out compartments are full of colorful baits and lures, hooks, bobbers, sinkers, extra fishing line and a jackknife. He’s agreed to take me fishing on Lake Keesus today. “Get your galoshes on,” he orders me. “We’re heading on out.” I scurry to find them in the junk closet.
The day is overcast—perfect for fishing, my dad says. When the sun comes out, the fish won’t bite. “It’s chilly on the lake,” my mother says. “You’d better take a jacket.” She goes to the closet and pulls out a red and black lumberjack shirt. “Here, put this on. And here are some sandwiches in case you and your father get hungry.” Oh, good. That makes a true expedition.
Down at the pier, our rowboat bobs in the water. There are cushions to sit on, fishing nets, a can for bailing out the boat if it leaks, my dad’s casting rod, a knife, pail strung over the side of the boat for fish, and other odds and ends.
“You’re going to row” my Dad says. I feel important, elated. I’ve never been asked to do this before. I jump down into the boat onto the bench between the oar locks. My dad sits in the front of the boat, his casting rod in hand. His tackle box is open at his feet so he can change lures whenever he wants.
“All right. See that point out there? Head slowly for that point. Don’t make any noise. Don’t splash the oars in the water.” He stands at the helm, ready to cast. I concentrate on setting dead straight ahead, dipping the oars in the water gently. Soon he begins casting.
For 30 minutes or so, this is an excellent pastime. Then my mind starts to wander. I watch the oars plop in and out of the water, forgetting any noise I’m making. I don’t realize it, but as my mind wanders, so does the boat. I’m no longer headed straight for the point.
Suddenly I’m jerked back to reality. “Didn’t I tell you to head straight for the point? What in the hell are you doing? And the oars are making too much noise.”
In the next hour or so, my focus degenerates. I can’t seem to row in a straight line. Or I’m going too slow or too fast, or the oars are making too much noise. My father doesn’t appreciate the game I’m playing with the oars, trying to rile up some seaweed. After all, I figure I deserve some fun, too.
Rowing has become stale. It’s no fun anymore. The thing is, my dad doesn’t have anyone else to row for him. Grandpa will never do it. He won’t even ask my mother.
Before long my father is spending more time telling me how to row than he is casting his line.
Finally he barks, “All right, dammit. That’s it! I’ve had it. Head for home.”
The sun peeks out as the sky starts to clear. I probably won’t be asked to do this again.