In our family, my father has always been known as “the Counselor.” Technically, he is actually an attorney – having received his law degree from NYU on a Fulbright scholarship – but the title refers more to the infinite wisdom bestowed on my sister, brother and I over the course of our lives. At every turn of the journey, “Joe” as I renamed him years ago for no particular reason (his real name is Lee), has always had an answer to the difficult questions of life. He is my hero – along with my mother – because everything I have become is a direct result of what they instilled in me – love, patience, confidence and contentment.
As a father today, I am constantly marveled by the challenges of being a parent. I think if I could have just one wish come true in my lifetime, it’d be to become the father that my dad is to me.
Dad should have had a sign on his desk that read: The Buck Stops Here. It would have been next to the Mont blanc dual mounted pen set that I used as a WWI Ace fighter plane chasing the Red Baron in my childhood fantasies. Despite knowing that it was wrong, I could never resist the temptation to twist and turn those pens time after time, and yet my father always found a way to forgive me somehow for forever ruining a gift given to him personally by the world’s foremost elegant pen maker. That was the true love of a father and it guides me in my relationship with my own daughters.
This Father’s day, I’ll be remembering a simple Sunday tradition many years ago at place called Herb Parson’s Lake.
Sometimes after church, my dad and I would change clothes and head out to the lake with our Evinrude 7.5 outboard motor in the trunk. Once we got there, we rented one of the green aluminum Johnboats, connected our outboard motor and off we went. A state law required the driver of the boats be of legal driving age (which I certainly wasn’t), but once we rounded the bend and were out of sight, dad always let me take the helm.
I can still remember the magic of driving those boats – the calm of the lake, the sound and smell of that little engine running and the tiny wake it left behind. I also recall the gentle rocking of the boat when I let off the throttle before we switched seats again so he could drive back to the boat launch when the day was done.
The fishing was always good and I am warmed by the memories of learning to cast, learning to jig the lure slowly but steadily and most of all learning to handle your catch without getting stuck by the fins and removing the fish from the hook.
Some years later, my father made several shark fishing forays in the Gulf of Mexico that were the result of a hell-bent teenager fascinated with the movie “Jaws.” Yet ever the fisherman father that he is, we always went out when I asked and now an 8 foot mounted Tiger shark hangs in my parents’ guesthouse as tribute to those great adventures. (It’s also painted in neon colors and zebra stripes – but that story is for another day!)
This past weekend, I was in Florida visiting my parents and my nephew who just recently received his Captain’s License to take people charter fishing was buttering my dad up to become his first customer. And knowing Joe, he’ll oblige and be the finest customer my nephew will ever have.
But what my nephew may not realize for years to come is that there’ll be more important things to catch than fish when you go out on the water with the World’s Greatest Fisherman.
And if I ever write a book about fatherhood, the title is going to be: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in a Johnboat on Herb Parson’s Lake.
Happy Father’s Day!
I can be reached for questions, comments and father’s day stories at Griffsnotes@foxnew.com.