That was always the bet. Quarter for the first fish. I rarely won that bet. Mostly because I hated fishing. Okay, I didn’t really hate it, I just had no patience. My Dad told me that often. “Quit your fidgeting!” We did a lot of fishing when I was a kid. My first time winning the bet was when we fished out by the airport off of Baxter Road I think. I caught a sucker.
I remember running around barefoot all the time in the summer. I remember going camping at Lake Carlton and my Dad showing me how to do the “J” stroke when paddling the canoe. I remember him calling me Basketball Jones because of my prolific tummy, especially after eating. I remember going on motorcycle rides with him and feeling the wind in my face as I held him tight. I remember him taking us all to Cave of the Mounds in the old Chevy station wagon with the back seat that opened up and faced the road behind us. I also remember him buying me my first pocket knife there. I loved that old knife.
I remember my birthday at the campground when I got my first new bike. It was a brown banana-seat bike. I rode that thing everywhere. I also remember when I decided to jump the dirt ramp at The Track for the first time. I pulled up too hard and ended up coming down on my back with the bike on top of me. That was the beginning of my back problems I think.
I remember the trip we made to Missouri one summer when we thought we were going to move. What seemed like endless hours of Are we there yet?s and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast lunch and dinner. I remember on the way back resting my head against the car door and watching the trucks go by in the night. I remember my Dad, the “Steelman”, talking back and forth with the other truckers to pass the time at night.
I remember how my Dad played the pedal-steel guitar and how I would always ask him to “make the siren sound”. He’d oblige me everytime. I got such a kick out of that. He tried to teach me to play guitar on numerous occasions, but I still had no patience. I still am glad he tried though.
In looking back on my life so far, a lot of the things I do now and a lot of who I am is a reflection of the things I loved about my Dad when I was growing up. He used to ride motorcycles. Now I do. He still plays just about every kind of guitar you can think of. I still like to pluck the old 6 string from time to time.
I just wish sometimes I could get a do-over and spend more time learning from my Dad. I hurt him quite a bit as a kid, not physically (except one time), and I regret it now. I never seemed to take the time to say “Hi, Dad! Whatcha doing? Working on the car again? Can I help?” No, I always had more important things to do. Things like riding my bike to The Track on the street behind our house or to The Oval down behind Uncle Bert’s house by the railroad tracks. I miss those days, but not for the fun I had with my friends, but for the fun I could have had with my Dad if I would have just given him some of my time. But with all the heartbreak I caused him with my stubbornness, I’ll never forget the look on his face when I got home after graduation from Marine Corps boot camp. At that moment, I knew I had made my Dad proud of me.
So, thank you Dad, for being the best Dad you could be. You didn’t always get it right, but you tried. The good memories far outweigh the bad. Happy Father’s Day, Me Papa.