Casting for clarity

My dad said something to me once, years ago which has stuck with me ever since.

“You’re lucky if you get to grow up.” He said.

I think about these words whenever I feel my gratitude for this life flee for the frustration of the moment; when I want to curse the gods for whatever circumstance I may feel has befallen me unfairly or when I am tempted squander the day out of boredom. I think of my friends who have been denied the chance to grow up any more days and I think of how our days are not promised. I think of these things and I think to myself that life is a lot like fishing.

I take my kids fishing every summer, though not nearly often enough. Yet in all our years fishing together we have not caught a single fish.

It is the scarlet letter upon my title as dad.

The shameful truth is that I am quite possibly the world’s worst fisherman. I’ve caught fish before, just never with my kids. I think they think I made the whole concept of fishing up and I am just making them stir up lake water for my own twisted enjoyment. As they have no evidence to the contrary, I wouldn’t blame them.

But while I intend to take them fishing more and I intend to actually catch some fish, the catching of the fish is not really the point. If you think it is, your doing it wrong. Life is a lot like fishing.

Maybe it’s the tranquility of the water or the way it mirrors the sky overhead but there’s something about fishing that resets my mental space to a place of greater gratitude. Being up on a lake with my kids, endlessly untangling lines and helping them cast is really just a little slice of paradise.

It’s not an excuse to get away but an opportunity to get to. Honestly, at this point I think if we caught a fish it might ruin the fun. My kids are in it for the mud and the worms.

“You’re lucky if you get to grow up.”

I used to think these words just meant that death was an unfortunate part of life and sometimes it comes too soon. This is true of course, our days, just like the fish, are not promised. I realize now though that there is greater wisdom in these words and it’s entirely contained in the part about being lucky.

Lucky is just a state of mind. Sometimes for me it takes being on a bank or a boat or a dock to get there but the lesson can’t be learned thoroughly enough. Fish or no fish, I’m the luckiest guy in the world.