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alsoknownas

alsoknownas
Location
Medium size city, West Coast, USA
Birthday
August 30
Bio
A hundred odd jobs, some more odd than others. 30 years self employed in various building trades, sales etc. Lots of college, lifetime musician etc.

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JUNE 17, 2010 7:01PM

Father's Day Reflection: We Laughed All the Way Home

Rate: 19 Flag

I came home from my Dad's final resting place , laid down and wrote this piece in my head. The next morning I pounded it out on my old Royal typewriter. I kept the now yellowed pages and will share it here today . Through the miracle of modern technology I can also share a couple of old photos. One is Dad holding me at age 1 year and two days. Pass the mashed potatoes please.The next is the summer of '65. You can hear the theme song to the old Andy Griffith Show if you listen carefully to the whistle in your head. The final one was my turn to hold Dad.

      TAS Dad 52

 

         It was a cold mist snaking down past our collars on an early June morning in 1965 that snapped us both awake. We had been out of bed for an hour and a half now, readying for this adventure to take place. But no amount of coffee and scurrying could alert us to our situation as well as those first few icy drops slipping down to mid-spine. The older of the two of us recalled with disdain his brief sojourn aboard ship in 1942 somewhere in the South Pacific, memories replete with ghastly regurgitations and the lingering fearsome knowledge that he had not yet learned to swim. The younger of the two of us drawing courage from the depths of ignorance figured that the older one would calm down if reminded of the flotation devices and the unconfirmed tip that the bite was on. The older man took the bait , and the hook was set. Having pooled our piscatorial wisdom we knew it was time to slip the twelve foot aluminum boat into the waters of Yaquina Bay in pursuit of our first catch of the mighty Chinook salmon. And so we launched the craft, thinking of Melville, but looking more akin to Hieronymous Bosch’s “Ships of Fools”.

     Dad and I figured that we had most of the basics ready for this kind of trip. We had tested the boat in the placid waters of the North Fork Reservoir on the Clackamas River and had even managed to bring home a few stringers of hatchery trout for the family dinners. 

      TAS Dad 65

Of course, the next logical step would be to navigate the waters of the Pacific Ocean and hook up with a fish just slightly smaller than the boat chasing it. Because neither of us knew too terribly much about this new challenge, getting ready was a hit or miss affair. That spring Dad busied himself with the tangibles, creating a roof rack on the car for the boat, and I worked with the mental necessities, reading accounts in the paper and magazines of others who had succeeded at this sort of thing. I knew there wasn’t any way the fish could escape. The rod I used was blessed. It was Sears & Roebuck model endorsed by Ted Williams. My Dad was an incurable baseball fan and Ted Williams has the same birthday as me. It was a perfect combination and, and anyway Dad kidded, the pole was stout enough that if it didn’t work for this we’d turn it around, whittle it down a bit and use it for the sport Mr. Williams knew more about. 

     The comedy began shortly after we pushed away from the dock. Dad insisted on the helm position , sure that my idea of a good joke right then would be to drive the boat as erratically as possible thereby causing him turn a shade of green similar to the flotsam and jetsam splashing against the hull. I was much too busy for that however as the task was already at hand. Using the only knot I knew (the one that keeps your tennis shoes tied all summer without having to undo it) I readied our fishing gear for the plunge into the fathoms below. We trolled slowly for about an hour, each of us having a combination of wires, fluorescent plastics and sharpened barbs attached to our lines in such a manner as to scare away even the least sensible of the nether world. At such we seemed to be extremely successful, having lured not a single creature to so much as even accidentally swim into our trail. 

   Then it happened. My pole began to bounce downward and I knew from my reading and Dad’s near hysteria that this was the moment. I gave the line a strong yank and could tell the big one was on. Dad turned the engine off and let me play the fish, paddling here and there to get a better angle on it as the fish went about the business of trying to loosen me from its grip. The battle progressed to the point that Dad finally said now was the time to get it up to the boat, gaff it and bring it in. I was prepared to go through with it and tried to think of clever quotes to give Field and Stream magazine when they would surely call the next day. Dad screeched something about holding the rod differently, and how it was getting away. I couldn’t hear him though as he was creating such a noise starting the engine. It sputtered, then roared as he turned to yell we must change our angle. In one deft motion Dad spun the boat 120 degrees to port side, the pole which I had only been barely able to hold above water came rocketing backwards, and I catapulted just ahead of it to come to rest six inches off the seat. Dad had figured out how to release the first salmon I ever hooked slicing the line with the propeller.

       He apologized profusely, near weeping all the way back into the dock. He said it was his fault and that he really messed up. I had never seen him act like this before. It seemed to take forever to get back to shore and he just wouldn’t let up with the apologies. When we got out of the boat the apologies continued. Then, as suddenly as the fish had struck, he swore. I was astonished. I had never heard him swear before. He lashed out the fish’s ancestry. I stammered that I couldn’t believe my ears. He wondered out loud if I thought my friends and I had invented the words and in the same breath ridiculed the poor fish’s mating habits and everything that fish had ever done. Then he began to laugh, and laugh some more and then he threw the car keys to me and told me to go get the car. I laughed and told him he was going crazy because he knew I had never driven a car in my life and I was just fourteen and what if I didn’t stop and I ended up in the bay with that fish? He laughed again and said he had seen how I watched him when he drove and he knew I was ready, and anyway, I couldn’t drive any worse than he could steer a boat. I took the keys and walked the quarter mile across the flat area to the car and brought it back to him.

       In the span of about an hour I had hooked my first salmon, first heard my Dad say something was his fault, first heard him cuss and driven my first car. This is how my Dad taught me things. 

      As happens sometimes with fathers and sons, Dad and I didn’t see too much of each other in his last years. But it was a physical separation and not one of the heart. On a crisp Autumn day at noon in October of 1983 I took my Dad’s ashes up to a place where we used to fish, where we watched each other grow up. It’s a good steelhead holding pool with a tail out too shallow for any propellers to glide over. So with a few quiet words I laid him to rest, without a service because he didn’t like funerals. But I think he would have liked this one.

      After I had my solemn thoughts and knew the time had come for me to open his urn and scatter his ashes downstream, I did so.

 

 TAS Dad 83

  

The wind picked up, and handful by handful in a few short tearful moments I had managed to get Dad’s ashes stuck on me everywhere. We laughed all the way home. 

 

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Comments

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Like yours, my father taught me to fish; he loved the outdoors and is the reason I do also.

"In the span of about an hour I had hooked my first salmon, first heard my Dad say something was his fault, first heard him cuss and driven my first car. This is how my Dad taught me things."

I love that, and I love the humor that runs through this, all the way to the final line. Here's to your dad, and mine, and to remembering them with laughter rather than tears.
What a great tribute.. I hope when I die all my ashes get blown all over my sons. They will never forget me..:)
Rated with hugs
@ nanatehay

I'd bet we have a lot in common. It's great to have a writer of your capabilities stop by for a moment. I'll raise a toast to your Dad and you raise one to mine.
Thanks

@ Linda S.

I'm tellin ya, there's more than one reason to stay low and upwind. Thanks for your time here.
This is a wonderful post! I am with you. R
The gifts our fathers give us are the lessons well learned. Like you and the sense I get from this piece, the greatest gift was laughing together, at the silly things fathers and sons do as they are trying to save the world....
@ Dave Rickert

I 've seen you arond a bit and hope you get some views at your post as well. Thanks for stopping in.
@Gary Justis,

He could be a real hard edged sort of guy at times, but we did make each other laugh. I have tried to learn from his ability to not take himself too seriously. Inheriting his other ability to screw up left and right pretty much makes it a necessity.

Thanks for your time.
This was a fishing tale, through and through. I grew up fishing and love it as much as you have so eloquently illustrated here.

The bond which was forged over "the one that got away" was palatable; it is obvious how much happened in so few words and deeds.

I love this piece - it has to be one of my favorites now. Thank you for sharing it with me.
"We laughed all the way home." Loved the use of "we." Also loved the paragraph about him cursing, because you're seeing him as imperfect and loving him all the more for it.

Funny and moving.
I know nothing about fishing, but this had me "hooked" all the way.

I love the part where you say you went to the place "where we watched each other grow up". Sometimes we can forget that our parents were learning a lot of things along the way, just like we were (especially those of us whose parents were very young when they had us).

I'm glad you have such wonderful memories. Those are the things we hold to. And I'm glad you both laughed all the way home! What a great image that is.
Alsoknownas, what a jam packed day that was back when you were fourteen! It sounds like you had a lot of great times together and your father certainly would have loved this Father's Day tribute!
@ Sparking

That's quite the compliment to say this is one of your favorite pieces. People really admire your writing ability so I don't take that lightly. Appreciated.

@ Cranky Cuss,
You sure get the chuckles out of readers here. Glad to return the favor....and of course, appreciate you saw more than that in it.
My father didn't teach me to fish or play ball or paint a fence or drive a car. He couldn't do any of those things. He was orphan who worked on his aunt's farm in Poland until the Nazis came and took him to a concentration camp. When he got to America after the war, he was too busy working to do much of anything else.

But he did teach me one thing, to care for my family, work hard, and love life.
@ Jeanette DeMain,

Dad was a mixed bag sort of character. I chose here to talk of the good times. In the end days he had a great sense of failure and was clear with me that I was not to forget the serious ways he messed up often, and to avoid as much of that as possible.
There were events that called for opposition, difficult years and lack of communication, and so in a light hearted vein these good times are worth remembering as well. Got that Dad?
Thanks for coming by.....
@ designanator,

Thanks for swinging by. It's a good thing I kept this old piece of writing. Life washes over us like a tidal wave at times, and the jam packed days and details seem to bob around like the flotsam and jetsam under the hull of the too small boat I wrote of here.
You made smile. You made me laugh. You made me cry.

"As happens sometimes with fathers and sons, Dad and I didn’t see too much of each other in his last years. But it was a physical separation and not one of the heart. On a crisp Autumn day at noon in October of 1983 I took my Dad’s ashes up to a place where we used to fish, where we watched each other grow up."

You made him proud. And you did right by him. A good father, a good son.
@ john guzlowski,

I appreciated your visit today. When I have more time I'm going to read your Father's Day post on your site again. I always find it fascinating that persons with dissimilar backgrounds find themselves at this stage in life landing very near the same spot.
AKA ... a beautiful, beautiful story, beautifully told. It's what fathers and sons should always be about -- bonding, learning, giving. Thanks for the invite to come visit. I don't get to OS much, and this time I'm glad I did.

Happy Fathers Day
@ Sally Swift

Thanks for the sentiment Sally. I carry his gene for self doubt and distraction, so reading the "good son" comment was special.
@ John Boni,

Coming from a man who made his living writing and making people laugh, I am glad to know I caused you to enjoy one of your brief stops at OS. I know you don't dole out false compliments. Thank you.
At my dad's funeral in '95 there were a lot of laughs mixed in with a lot of tears. An outsider might have thought that the laughs were inappropriate. They weren't. Great post!
@ Roger Fallihee,

True enough. Red Skelton warned us to not take life so seriously because nobody's getting out of here alive.

Thanks for your time.
Great story. Expertly told with such admiration and humour. I think I just learned something about the magic of fishing trips.
@ Scarlett Sumac,

Thanks for the stopping in. I think the real magic happens when you least expect it.
Your dad seems like one of the good ones. He wasn't perfect and that is not the point. He tried hard to do the right thing, even if he ended up feeling like a failure, he succeeded in raising a good son.

My father was the same way. He tried hard. He often made me laugh, too. I remember fishing with him--first as the little girl terrified of baiting hooks--later as the child who loved being up to her elbows in fish guts. I thank my father for that all the time.

Dad also taught me to love music. I someday need to write about him "attempting" to teach me guitar. I ended up learning how to play a keyboard, instead, without his help. Great post! (R)
@ Kat Hudson,

Thanks for coming by.
That day I drove back from spreading his ashes, I decided to play the car radio. Crummy car, crummy radio. The only thing I could get to tune in was an oldies country and western station. Didn't know of the program at all. The same tunes we used to listen to on the way up there and back together.
This is just about perfect, AKA. You set up the tale so completely that I felt I was watching a film of it. And you set up the outcome of the fishing trip so expertly I was smiling before you got to the punch line--"Dad had figured out how to release the first salmon I ever hooked slicing the line with the propeller." Then I laughed out loud--and scared Miss Cleo who was dozing in the chair nearby.

Everything about this post is just right. And your last line? Beyond perfect. It's sublime. Thanks so much for this. I'm glad you got a CC award because I wouldn't have gotten here if you hadn't. But I'll be back (did you just hear a faintly German accent echoing?) Rated. D
Stunning. You have no idea how much this reminds me of my Dad. His favorite hobby -- his only hobby -- was fishing. We used to go to Lake Bridgeport, northwest of Fort Worth, and drift fish for catfish in his little aluminum boat, which had lost all its paint. He died seven years ago. We scattered his ashes in the lake. Amazing. This is a marvelous reflection. The old pictures add to the beauty. Perfect for Father's Day. Surely he is smiling upon you now. Thanks for sharing your story.
@Yarn Over,

I appreciate you stopping in and saying you enjoyed it. I tried to get this published 27 years ago when I wrote it but was rejected each time. I'm grateful for the change the cyber world and OS has made to be able to share the story again.
@ Steve Blevins,

Well, Dr. Blevins, it's great to see you here. I haven't seen you around much lately and am pleased you would take time to amble over this way. It's nice to know this made you recall good times with your Dad as well. Remember the sound of the water, softly slapping against the sides of the aluminum boat as the morning fog melted away and the sun rose higher ?
This is some serious comedy. Death and ashes can be funnier than one would think. I was going to quote the same excerpt as nanatehay - that seemed to encapsulate the piece for me.
Beth Mann,

I appreciate you taking some time to read this and give it the kudos for laughs. I really like that several of the best comedy writers on OS came by and enjoyed this.
Reminds me of my fisher-teacher - my grandpa.

Good story; good photos. Thanks for your memories.
@ ConnieMack,

You've been by here before. Nice of you to stop in again and give this a read. You're welcome to share the memories.
What a great story, and the love shines through. Dad and I weren't all that close, but I learned a great deal from him in spite of himself and myself.
@ Tom Cordle

Thanks for the kudos and for taking your time to swing by this way. I guess I'd say to you the same I've said here before to Gary Justis : "I have tried to learn from his ability to not take himself too seriously. Inheriting his other ability to screw up left and right pretty much makes it a necessity."