You'll find out soon enough why the above picture does not exactly match the story. It would match if the two boys were playing Space Invaders instead of fishing.
When I was a little kid in Parker Arizona, "quality time" with Dad always began with the same sentence, "C'mon boys, put your fishin' poles in the truck." My brother Mike and I would exchange glances because we knew we were either in for a super fun day or one that could be equated to torture. Let me explain.
If my Dad, did indeed intend on taking us fishing, it meant a day one could compare to torture. Here's why. First we'd stop at PDQ (the corner mini-mart) and he'd say, "Get yourself something to drink." Which meant we'd each get a Coke or something and he'd get a 12 pack of Coors Light. I know, it's hardly fair. Then we'd grab some bait and head down to a cove on the river somewhere. A day fishing with Dad meant tow things, hours in the hot sun and not being able to say a word. Because it would scare the fish. Okay Dad, if you say so. Last I read fish don't have ears. Those days seemed to go on forever. I swear I could feel myself age while sitting there by the river as my skin burned off my body. Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little bit, but it was B-O-R-I-N-G. I give the man credit for trying, but quality time should actually involve interaction and conversation. Which was tough for my dad who was a man of few words. He never believed in talking for the sake of talking. You talked when you had something to say. Coming home from one of our fishing excursions was like heaven. We rarely caught any fish and when we did, Dad would clean them, cook them and eat them. We never partook in the meal part of the day. But coming home we'd walk into the air conditioned house just exhausted from the heat. Mom surely knew how grueling it was for us to sit in complete silence in the desert sun for a few hours with my Dad because she always told us we could go next door to the A&W and get dinnger. Man, I still dream about that food. So this is the one result of my Dad saying, "Boys put your fishin' polls in the truck." You'd think we'd just say we didn't want to go and let him off the hook, so to speak--pun intended--but the second result of his saying that had a much better result and it was what we always hoped for.
We would get in the truck and then dad would back out onto the four lane highway we lived on. And we get to the one stop light in town. When the light turned green, he would make a left. If he didn't make an immediate right into the PDQ Market we were in luck. He'd continue past heading down to the river portion of town. We'd climb that huge hill and then crest the top and at the very bottom of the hill was a very odd place. I can't remember the name of it, but in the fictional book I'm writing about a kid growing up in Parker Arizona in the 70's and 80's, I call it "3 B's." When you walk in the door, the first thing you see is a counter and a sign with the different kinds of bait listed on it. The first B. When you look to your left, you see a small room at the end with a barber chair in it. The second B. But if you went to your right through the doorway next to the counter, you went into a bar. The third B. Upon arriving at the bar, the bartender would greet the hree of us by name, then my dad would give us a roll of quarters, 2 Roy Rogers and send us on our way. We'd play Space Invaders, Tempest, pool, pinball and about a thousand songs on the jukebox. By the end of the day and five Roy Rogers later, we'd head home. We were always so happy having just had such a good time. Even though we didn't spend any time with Dad at the bar, we just liked him so much those days and had so much fun being his sons. He'd call us over to him every now and then and have us say hi to his friends or introduce us to new friends. We were always the only two kids in there and we had a great time.
On one particular trip, while driving home, it occurred to me that my mother may very well ask about our "fishing trip." I turned to my Dad very anxiously and said, "Dad, what do we tell Mom?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, "Tell your Mom what?"
"If she asks if we caught any fish. What do we tell her?"
"Well...." he said, "did you catch any fish today?"
"Well, there ya go," he said. "There's your answer."
"What do you mean Dad?"
"You don't have to go fishing to not catch any fish."
I think that is one of the most brilliant things that he ever said. It has the ring of an old proverb, but it means nothing more that what it says. Simple yet brilliant. I really want to have a silk-screed shirt made out of this saying.
Years later, I remember that day as if it was yesterday. The truth is, I always thought my dad was old, but he was propably 6-8 years younger than I am now when he said this. I'm amazed at what my dad achieved in his life by the time he was 40. He had four good kids, he owned his own house and business, had a wife, two cars and a ski boat. He took good care of us all, made sure he had some fun in life, but remained focused on being good people, getting good grades and being positive members in our community. It's probably why so many people liked him. He was and still is one of my favorite people on the planet. I can't wait to see him this Thanksgiving.