Today after a brunch with a mentor, I took the kids to my parent's new house on the Arkansas River. We haven't hung out much since the holidays - my mom spent a week in Montana and a fall on the ice induced a back injury. They've been convalescing all week, and she just turned the corner today.
She and Sicily stayed inside to play Uno, and my dad and I walked out with John to their new dock on the river. We took a fishing pole, tackle, and bait. I wordlessly watched Dad help John bait the hook and cast it into the water. Dad was stooped over to help him, in jeans and a fishing hat, silver hair peeking out underneath. I imagined him as a boy, John's age.
I was surprised how deep it was, so close to the shore. Dad was naming the parts of the pole, and John was so engrossed in the tasks that he failed to notice the skeet-shooting going on at the house next door.
My father and I watched the neighbors shoot skeet as John held the pole with purpose and concentration. I stared across the river. It was a beautiful day, like spring, the sun and warmth a sharp contrast to the bare trees and dead grass.
John asked, "Will we catch a fish?"
I wondered aloud, "Is this a good place to catch fish?"
Dad laughed. "I'll bet there are 50 to 60 pound catfish, at the bottom."
I thought they had probably been alive a lot longer than me.
After 20 minutes or so, John knelt down with the pole, shivering on the dock. We were in the shade, and the breeze from the river was cold.
I said, "Why don't we pack up the gear, put it back in the garage, and take a walk over to the pond, in the sun?"
We walked silently up the gravel road to the large pond in the front of the house.
Dad said, "The pond is shallow, now. The pump broke. I forgot to do maintenance, before the first freeze. We'll have to get another. Maybe we'll see some fish."
We didn't see any fish, but the pond-water was low, and I wondered at the hash-marks in the mud surrounding the water. There was a moderate stench of manure.
I asked Dad, "Is that from horses in a neighboring farm?"
"No, probably geese. Sometimes there are hundreds on this pond. See all their track marks, in the mud?"
I pointed them out to John, and we began to identify their feces in the dead grass around our feet.
As we headed back to the house, Dad pointed out the ruts in the gravel road, caused by work men's trucks, and talked about what would be required to repair them. I listened quietly, holding John's hand. Suddenly, John took off in run, across the long yard to the front door. He glanced back once and graced us with his devilish grin. We watched him, admiring his speed and abandon.
Dad said, "He's getting so tall. I'll bet he'll be taller than Mike, one day." I agreed silently, and we walked back into the house so I could collect the kids.
Someone at the Mothers in Medicine blog said in a post comment that behind every successful woman is a supportive and encouraging father. I guess that the parts of me that can be considered successful are largely a result of him.