While he was gone, my mom would assemble an assortment of picnic items: chips and dip, sandwiches, fruit salad, cans of soda, a cooler full of ice; and then she would pack everything (including my sister, my brother, and sometimes even the dog) into our van and drive us to the lake to meet my dad.
Dad would meet us at the picnic area, parking his boat along the dock. We'd eat, and then when we were done everyone would pile into the boat, securely fastened into life jackets, and Dad would drive the boat across the lake through the wake area, where we'd have to dodge water skiers and tubers until we reached a quiet channel.
I was never afraid of piercing the little worms with the fishing hook and would volunteer to bait my sister's hook as well (she wasn't as interested in fishing). Then we'd cast our lines in and wait...as patiently as kids can wait...for our bobber to be pulled under and to feel a little tug on our line. Dad would help us reel the line in, sometimes revealing that our worm had been stolen and sometimes we would have a silver, slippery fish. Dad showed us how to hold the fish's fins back while we slipped the hook out of its lip, and then we'd take some pictures of our catch before we tossed it back.
I heard a song on the radio today called Just Fishin' by Trace Adkins. If you've never heard it, the lyrics are about a man who takes his daughter fishing. It seems this narrator doesn't know how to relate to his daughter's world of girly things, but he loves to spend time with her. As I listened to it, it brought a few tears to my eyes, because it made me think of my dad.
He's a lot of things to a lot of people. He's a husband. He's a teacher. He's a high school basketball coach. (These pictures were taken at a recent game. My dad is the man in the middle of the huddle.) But to me--he's just my dad. He used to take me fishing.
Happy (belated) birthday to you, Dad.