Friday, March 24, 2006

My Big Fish Story

My clever pal over at Jessie's Girl came up with another great theme for the week on Trusting Your Instincts. While I'm sure I could conjure up some tales of almost certain doom or danger that I avoided, this memory instantly came to mind for me. I hope you enjoy reading it.

No news on my sister yet, I will post something when they have more answers.
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It was a summer she'd remember always, and one of the few vacations they took as a family away from their rural Texas surroundings. Her mother always resented this trip to see her father's family in Florida, because it was forced upon them by guilt-ridden letters and phone calls that the only son wasn't visiting his mother enough. They would take this trip every few years instead of going somewhere else new as a family, because there was only enough money go one place. But, while the mother was never enthusiastic, she (the eldest daughter), her younger sister and the Dad grew happier with each mile they put behind them.

At that age, she did not recognize why her mother hated going back to her father's home. She did not understand fully how putting someone who has a problem back into the life that gave them that problem can trigger it all over again. She did not know the lifestyle that they would walk back into that summer was one that caused problems for her parents marriage afterwards, even though it seemed to make her father so happy.

Once there, hugs were given and stories were shared, always ones she'd heard many times before, and always over the unending supply of wine and beer. There always seemed to be a party when they came here and she loved it. But what she loved even more was waking up in the early morning hours to the sound of the water splashing against the tiny strip of beach that met the dense pine forest surrounding her Grandmother's house. She loved the two-story boat dock, remembering how her young and rebellious aunt would dive from atop the railing on the second floor and into the water below. Sometimes she'd sneak out of bed on these early mornings and go wade around in the still and cool water. Once, she'd even almost stepped on a sting ray, who was perfectly camouflaged against the sandy floor beneath her feet.

Years before, she learned to swim here. She loved the way the air smelled, the cousins she never got to see, and the fact that she was just someplace different and new. She imagined herself living here when she grew up. She said silent and selfish prayers that they could come back more often and that her mother would get over whatever her silly problems were with this place.

This was the summer they'd finally go to Disney World. While she was already on the cusp of her teen years, she had as much fun there as her preschool-aged sister. And, then there was the fishing trip--a trip that almost wasn't.

Her father was a bit of a mystery to her, even though she always knew he loved her. He had his problems that she'd yet to fully understand but would in her adult years. In addition, he was a work-aholic and spent long hours six days a week at his job managing a car dealership. She knew small things about him. He loved to be outdoors, loved mowing the grass and hunting, but he also loved animals. He'd worked as a rancher briefly when they'd first moved to Texas, for her grandfather. He and several buddies attempted to wrestle a steer on a bet at the local rodeo, which had sent several of them to the hospital. He loved fishing and took several trips a year with his buddies, which resulted in lots of "big fish stories" later on. She knew he'd been a Marine in Vietnam, but never anything else about it. She had learned enough from old war movies and her history class at school to know not to ask him about this. It would be years before he'd even open up the smallest bit to tell her a few stories about these horrific experiences in this part of his past.

And, so, when he'd invited she, her younger cousin and aunt to go on a deep sea fishing trip for the day, she'd jumped at the opportunity. Time to spend alone with him and to fish, something she had already grown to love through many trips with her grandparents to their favorite fishing hole on their ranch.

But, as the morning arrived, so did the storm clouds. Her cousin and aunt, both water-lovers expressed concern about going. Both suffered from sea-sickness and neither wanted to be trapped out on a boat in the rain. She had never gotten to do anything like this before and she really wanted the skies to clear so they could go. But, the skies grew darker and the winds picked up as they sat at the boat docks waiting to board the boat. Her aunt and cousin bowed out and convinced her the weather was not safe for her to go either. Her Dad remained silent except to say that the decision was up to her. Sadly, she said no, and watched as her father jumped on board, with his fishing rods at hand.

She will never forget the look in his eyes as he looked back at them. Most of this trip, they'd twinkled at the happiness of seeing his family and breathing in that old life that he'd left behind so many years ago. But, now, she could recognize an emotion in them that she did not see often--one of certain sadness and regret. She could feel a lump in her throat forming and tears coming to her eyes. This had been a special chance for the two of them to try and spend time together--time that they rarely got. It had been a chance for her to try and get to know this man, who she'd later realize had more of an impact on who she would become than she ever knew. And, because of the weather it was all going to be ruined. It wasn't fair!

As the boat workers started to removed the burly ropes that attached the boat to the dock, readying to take off and get the fishing day started, she jumped to her feet. She had only one thought in her head in that moment. Rain or shine, she could not let the boat leave without her that day!

Trusting her instincts, she shouted to her Dad as the last rope was pulled away and the boat began to slowly move away from the dock. "DAD! I want to come! I want to come!" She screamed. Her aunt mumbled something about it being too late, but she had already moved into action. She WAS going to make it on that boat!

And, so she ran and she jumped as far out as she could to reach the boat that was already moving several feet away from the dock, and taking her father with it. Her father rushed to the back of the boat, and held out his long arm to grab her as her front foot came down on the boat's floor. She made it! Her aunt and cousin cheered for her with perplexed looks on their faces, happy she had made it but not certain why she had made the sudden and dramatic dive.

Looking back, she had trusted her gut and made the right choice that day. Oh, the trip itself was awful most of the day. The wind and rain had rocked the boat violently and it had scared her a lot. Several of the other passengers took turns getting sick over the sides of boat. She had grabbed on tight, burying her rain-soaked head into her Dad's side. He held on to her and made her feel safe. But, after a few hours, the rains had stopped and the sun came out. The weather was cool and actually quite perfect for fishing. She'd ended up catching more fish than most of the adults on the boat, a fact that her Dad enjoyed bragging about to the family that evening at dinner as she blushed sheepishly.

The two of them had not had a lot of deep and meaningful bonding discussions that day on the boat. She knew enough to know a good fisherman does not talk much, so as not to scare the fish or break concentration. She focused on her task at hand. Her Dad did periodically give her tips and advice as she learned about deep sea fishing though. She guessed this was his way of relating to her and sharing in this time. But, for her it was the trip itself, the spending of that day with her father, that had made her feel closer to him in some way.

Years later, there is but one small and grainy snapshot to show for their catch that day. But, in her mind, she can play back a movie reel of fishing memories with her Dad that day as she remembers it fondly. The day she chose to go against her logic and with her heart to show her Dad she loved him too. To her, that's a big fish story she doesn't mind telling over and over again...

12 Comments:

Anonymous cheynne said...

I was a daddy's girl too. I miss my dad!

9:42 AM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Look how cute you are! What a great memory.

11:41 AM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger Tamara said...

Aww! What a brave little girl!

2:05 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger Dipu said...

That's a lot of fish! And ... don't take this the wrong way, but you kinda look like a slightly older Dakota Fanning in this photo! (though I do see your son's face there some as well)

3:35 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

Isn't it funny the things that stick with us out of the years and years of our childhoods? It always makes me wonder what will be the things my kids remember from their childhoods.

5:35 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger FRIDAY'S CHILD said...

It sure is a great story. Everyone should read this kind of story especially girls of her age. They should learn some lessons here.

6:19 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger Viamarie said...

A beautiful story indeed. Thanks for sharing it.

7:15 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Thanks, Debbie! And, Dipu, I don't take that as an insult...I think Dakota is cute! But, honestly, I don't really love this picture--I had been in a rainstorm most of the day and my hair shows it...but oh well, I still love the memory.

10:36 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

Trust your gut - always.
LadyBug

7:34 AM, March 25, 2006  
Blogger Vanessa said...

A very happy memory for you and a great story for us. Thanks for sharing!

7:52 AM, March 25, 2006  
Blogger Babs said...

I meant to post this comment yesterday, but I love how strangely familiar you look in this picture. I think Dipu really nailed it with the Dakota Fanning comparison! Very cute. :-)

btw, since you mentioned you don't really like the picture of yourself, maybe a good blog theme would be to post a fave picture from your youth?

12:43 PM, March 25, 2006  
Blogger Shelli said...

This was a lovely story. You did a really good job telling it. You have an awesome talent.

I think that you look like Jodi Foster when she was younger.

10:15 PM, March 25, 2006  

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