Looking at the picture above I can hardly believe there was a day prior to wanting to be a dad that I didn't want to be a dad. But there was. Back in the days of fishing quietly alone on the pier, a cooler filled with snacks and drinks, many days not catching a single fish but still walking away feeling like life was absolutely complete. I do believe the evil side of life works hard to convince us of just that - that we have it all well before we ever do.
Elliott and Ian talked for weeks about standing on this pier with their lines in the water. To be able to deliver them to the moment they anticipated and see the smiles that took over them when we got there made it my best pier fishing trip ever. This before any fish even considered sampling the shrimp we brought them.
To be honest, by the time I felt the weight and hooks and bait from the first line I cast settle on the ocean floor, I had become a bit nervous about what might be coming to drag them away. The young lady at the checkout counter where we paid our fee to fish had handed Elliott a chart with illustrations of the many fish trolling in the waters beneath us and beyond. By the time we found a spot to fish, he had it memorized. He was reciting the different sharks we might hook up to about the time my rig splashed beneath the surface. I no longer had time to concoct a story horrifying enough to convince them to go home before finding out what might now be attached to the other end.
Fortunately, nothing was on the other end for quite some time. The boys got to learn that by its very definition fishing involves more searching than finding. And I had a chance to forget that we might be finding Jaws.
When we did finally hook something, I could tell pretty quickly when it didn't drag me over the rail of the pier that it was probably something smaller than Elliott had picked out on the chart as a dream catch. But when the something much smaller than a shark cleared the surface of the water and the boys could see that we had indeed caught something, the chart was as forgotten as morning chores.
I used to think it was a pretty cool thing to catch a fish. I can't blame me for that. It was before I had witnessed surprise run all the way from my own child's eyes down a slightly bent pole and tightened line to the pan fish he caught all on his own. It was before I saw surprise explode into a joy - I'm still not sure if it was the joy of catching a fish or not catching a fish (Shark!!) - that makes me forget there was ever a day I didn't want to be a dad before I did want to be a dad.
What a great day, I thought, as we walked off the pier celebrating our catches. I'm too wise now to let my celebration lead me to wondering if I might have it all. I know better. But I also know I've now been on enough pier fishing trips with our boys to know I have more than I could have ever dreamed of. And that was probably the biggest catch of the day.