Whispers from the Past
This weekend, my youngest son and I attempted another fishing trip, launching from Texas City Dike and then trying the bay before heading to the jetties. We didn't have much luck, but we did some things that Dad and I always talked about but never accomplished. For example, I have fished along the jetties by walking them, but never by boat; my father and I had planned such a trip several times but it never materialized. I am the age now when Dad and I started fishing from his new boat. Things are different, but there are the whispers from the past that connect then to now.
The story below comes from my book, Listen to Life: Wisdom in Life's stories. It was published several years ago, and is now available on Kindle, as is my newest book, Daddin'.
No Returns (April 2004)
My dad died almost a quarter century ago-it'll be 22 years this summer. His gravestone reminds us all that "he left for us a most noble pattern." He left. He can't return.
For a variety of reasons I was unable to come to grips with my father's passing like I was with my mom's. Her death was expected, I was able to write and deliver the eulogy that provided comforting closure, and I was 13 years older at the time. This past week would have been dad's 91st birthday. He remains close to me, but I'll never have him back. As it should be in this cycle of life.
It took a moment of closure to remind me of that truth, however. The "moment" happened just over a year ago at April Fool Marina in San Leon, Texas where my dad and I used to put our boat out for a weekend day's fishing. The fishing ritual began in April 1968 when dad was able to buy a 16-foot, golden Hollywood boat with a 65hp Evinrude motor. It was dad's lifelong dream to own a boat. It is with that collection of memories that I returned to April Fool Marina to try to provide closure about losing dad-who died when my first-born was one, after which two more amazing young boys were born.
I should have known that things would be different than I expected for this father-son moment when I pulled up to the marina to find that it was no longer a recreational boat marina, but now the home of a shrimper fleet. It didn't matter; I had purchased a saltwater fishing popper-bobber, not unlike the ones dad and I used on numerous fishing trips, and had intended to throw it into the bay at the end of the marina as a tribute to my still-missed and always loved father. I had bought the bobber less than an hour before and marked it at the checkout stand with "J. Russell McInnis-in memory-father, fisherman, friend."
I walked to the edge of the marina and felt the stiff breeze in my face. Memories hit me like the wind-blown bay chop that persisted against the wood retainer wall at the edge of the marina property. Fishing trips with a cooler of fish, the laughter and conversation, the type of father-son stories that I hoped my sons would be able to share with their children someday. Into the wind I tossed the bottom-weighted, fluorescent colored bobber. The wind caught it, pushing it into the water sooner than I had hoped. Almost immediately, the bobber began to ride the little whitecaps back to the spot where I stood. "How dad-like," I thought. "There for his son." Dad was not the modern version of an ever-present father who does everything from change diapers to be room mother for kindergarten. Dad was not that present, but he is omni-present in my memories of growing up as a boy, young man and man. But dad is dead; he cannot return, except in spirit and memory.
As I stood on the edge of the bay that we fished scores of times, the bobber headed back to shore. But the waves that hit the wood only reflected back to the water, providing a counter-force to the bobber's return. It came within 20 feet of me, close enough that I could see it plainly and almost make out my writing. It never came any closer. It couldn't. It shouldn't. And so it was for dad; he cannot and should not be able to return. He has passed to something larger, greater, more expansive than me in this mortal life. But he is close, close enough for me to remember, sense his love and support, and see in my memory's vision of my life. So it is for much in our life.
We cannot have everything or everyone forever, but we can, and must, appreciate all we have in our abundant lives while we have it. Whether it is people, memories, experiences, love or relationships, there is no assurance that we will have them long. We must move freely, like the bobber in the bay, to the forces and experiences of our lives. We cannot have or experience everything forever, but we can grow with what we have when we have it.
Listen to Life is a free newsletter about learning and getting more from life by paying attention to our own stories and the stories of others, based on the presentations, writings, photography and workshops by Dion McInnis (www.dionmcinnis.com). Copyright 2011 Dion McInnis. All rights reserved