Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dreams of My Children, Part 5

My idea of a vacation is spending some time away from the telephone, television, crowds, and anything remotely connected with news. So when we went to Florida, we did nothing at all - at my insistence.
Some friends were in Florida at the same time, and they took their kids to Disney World. They took their kids to the Seaquarium and museums. Not us. We took our kid's to Grandpa's house, period.
"Are we going to Disney World, too?" one of them asked. "Not on your life," I replied. I pointed to a little toy basketball hoop floating in the swimming pool. We're staying at Grandpa's World. What more could you kids want?"

The kids and their mother protested, and after a few days I began to cave. Maybe I should be making some kind of effort to broaden their educational experience. So I planned an extensive undertaking: One morning, I took my son to the fishing pier, two miles away.

There's more to be learned in a morning on the pier than a week at an amusement park, I reasoned. The first things one learns about are patience, frustration and disappointment. A few people catch a lot of fish, and a lot of people catch a few. And I catch nothing at all. So there we sat, bobbers floating unbobbingly in the green water, bait shrimp dancing on our hooks to empty underwater halls.
Old salts strolled up and down the pier, exchanging comments like, "Can't believe the fishing could be worse than yesterday," and "Why, just last week we were catching snapper and blue runner on bare hooks!"

I watched as a pelican swooped down and perched on the railing three feet from my son's elbow. He looked the boy up, down and sideways, and after a few minutes, realizing no handouts of baitfish were forthcoming, it tipped its huge brown wings and rose slowly above us, then veered off into a grand swoop inches above the waves, its long bill poised to snatch quick, silvery prey.

Below us, a sea turtle surfaced and ducked back into the water. A barracuda, window shopping just below the surface, considered our ridiculous red-and-white bobbers and darted off toward open sea.

The constant breeze off the ocean makes the voices of fishermen seem distant and dreamlike - like the conversations one hears just before falling asleep, or while lying on a blanket at the beach.

I stared at a cargo ship making its way across the horizon of the shining sea from Port Everglades toward points unknown. Time passed. Our unflinching fishing poles performed well as sundials.

"Dad, can we go back to Grandpa's now?" my son asked. I smiled to myself. Too much education, too much enrichment for one day.
"Sure," I said. "Sorry we didn't catch anything."
"That's no surprise," he said.
"It doesn't really matter if you catch anything; it's just being out here," I offered.
"I'm learning that," he answered with only the faintest trace of disappointment.

That's my boy.

- June 1986

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