The roast is cooking in the pressure cooker for Father’s Day dinner with my youngest son. His older brothers are having their own Father’s Day as dads in their home cities, and they seem to enjoy being dads. A lot. As we prepare for the evening of food and championship basketball game on television, I write and he prepares for tomorrow’s fishing trip. Which reminds me…
Almost 20 years ago, I wrote the musings below. Parenting is catch and release (a fishing term). It adds to the fun and the lifelong connection. I included the piece in the series of writings included at the end of my book, Daddin’: The Verb of Being a Dad.
Happy Father’s Day to dads and father figures. And thank you, J. Russell McInnis, for being my dad.
Cutting the Monofilament
© by Dion McInnis
Yeah, sure, there is a process called “cutting the apron strings.” Just as surely, there is one called “cutting the monofilament” or whatever string metaphor there is for what a father and son share. Either way, the process is not for the weak.
In a three-week period, my not-yet 16-year old son, my namesake, had experienced the death of his second, and last, grandmother. He had packed suitcases for a one-week missionary trip to Mexico. He had interviewed for a position among 300 students to spend his junior year in Germany, and he received acknowledgement of his acceptance as part of that group. That interview took place while his last grandmother rested in ICU awaiting to be unplugged from the machines that kept her falsely alive. He served as a pallbearer and reader in her funeral. And sure, he’s caught a few fish, caught a few young women’s eyes, sank a few baskets (a lot of them, he would say), lifted some weights and shaved a few fledgling whiskers. With each occurrence, he is another step away. Another nick in the monofilament.
In the next three-month period, he was to add driver’s education, testing for his license, and quite possibly his first job. Flashbacks from my mid-teens are creeping in at the most inopportune times. Old letters, old songs, and old images short-circuit neurons and the arc lights the memories. Our training drives at the ranch in Texas and in the subdivision (he and I having similar experiences to my dad and I), his good ideas, and the young man’s accomplishments as he makes his way, nick the line near the knot that connects us.
In his next year, I expect to see time at a job, time with those interested in stealing his heart, time with those who enjoy his company and humor, and time exploring the world by foot and wheel. I can expect to see less of my son.
I have to wonder if there is such a thing as a parental leader, a leader similar to those used in fishing: An extra-strong piece of line or wire that connects the bait, or lure, and the reel’s line. No matter how far the fish runs, there is always a connection. As we move closer to the day that he runs off to college, I wonder if my terminal tackle is ready for the task as hand.
A leader should be tougher, nick resistant, and capable of handling the playing of the fish. It is the best chance of keeping the fish for the duration of time that the fisherman and the fish are joined. The leader must be flexible, not brittle; tough, but not injurious: perhaps our parental leader is a braided line of love, patience, understanding and communication.
Fisherman go to great lengths constructing appropriate leaders: short, long, monofilament, braided steel, supple or stiff. No matter the size of the fish, there is likely a leader for it. And so it is with our children. No matter the age or personality, we construct leaders of various styles. Yet, they all nick.
Interesting materials make for desirable leaders.
Pool cues are excellent. Spontaneous games of nine-ball provide quick connections while late night marathons of eight-ball and rotation provide long, supple leaders that allow for substantial playing time with little resistance on the drag. Despite the rigidity of the stick, this connector flexes well over time.
Six-inch, flat, silver leaders can be deceiving, especially when they are music CDs. Fishing leaders are usually measured in inches; CDs as leaders can span decades. Lounging and listening to tunes uses notes and rhyme to compare stories across the generations. Each generation’s balladeers sing of love, hate, fun and injustice; the lingo is different.
Fishing line and fishing time, now there’s a natural connector. Time on the water can join the feisty child to dad for years and years of play, give-and-take, and the struggles of coming of age.
And so I watch that young man of mine and consider that the leader does nick, that the fun is in the playing on both ends of the line, and that, if dad has done his job well, the sport of fatherhood is about catch and release. The leader keeps us together; mutual respect requires that he be released into his world, and, hopefully, we’ll come together often in years to come.