I had the privilege recently, of taking a friend of mine, Allen Foster, and his 12-year-old son, Justyn, fishing with Captain Carlos Garcia.
A 60 pound stingray—the largest I’ve seen in some time—took both Allen and Justyn’s baits and was hooked up to both rods. Those two jumped around Captain Garcia’s boat while that big beast ran up and down the Intercoastal Waterway and turned them every which way but loose.
The writer in me thought about the symblism of the remarkable father-son moment I was witnessing. The father in me felt a pang of nostalgia as I remembered some the father-son moments my boy and I shared when he was that young.
I miss my son.
He really hasn’t gone anywhere. After he graduated high school he received a sweetheart financial aid offer from the local university He, his mother and I decided his best, most economical option was to stay home and attend the local school. So, his room became his dormatory, the kitchen his cafeteria, and the bathroom his, well, bathroom.
Still, we hardly see him unless it’s coming or going. He may still live at home, but like every young man or woman who matriculates from high school into college, my son has developed his own life, activiities related to his studies and comtemporaries.
There are long nights in the campus libraries, labs, study and social sessions with his friend. He dated a person who was a “furry” for a little while. For the uninformed like me, that’s a person who is most comfortable dressing up like a critter.
The relationship didn’t last; she mirgrated or went into hibernation or something. There is no time to go fishing with the old man.
The end result is that I’m suffering from a horrible case of empty nest syndrome. I miss fishing with my boy. I don’t fault him. I’m sure his college friends are more tony than his folks. It’s just that I miss making the memories that we forged when he was growing up.
Such as the time when he was four, and he caught a 20-inch trout under the lights on a Cheet-O. He thought the orange worms I was fishing with looked just like the snacks he was munching on, so he convinced me to put one of those cheesy munchies on his hook. He dropped it in the water, and the darn thing floated—until the trout came up and slurped it down. I was amazed.
Then there was another trip later that year when he was using his brand new Snoopy pole Santa had left under the tree for him. He loved the Snoopy bobber so much that he got upset when it disappeared under the surface by the dock we were fishing. The only way to retreive it was to reel it in, along with the largest sheepshead I have ever seen. When we finally weighed the big convict fish, he pulled the De-Liar all the way down to 13 pounds.
So, by the time my son was 5, he had caught a fish bigger than anything I ever caught until I was in my 20s.
At one point during the early part of the fishing trip, Justyn asked me what to do if he fell overboard. I winked at him, and told him he sould stand up and climb back in the boat because the Lower Laguna Madre is only three feet deep on the average.
It hearkened back to when my boy was eight, and we were fishing with Captain Jimmy Martinez. Calito stepped off the casting platform and fell into the water. He lay there flailing and hollering in abject fear, his vest preventing him from sinking.
“Stand up!” I shouted.
He stood up, and discovered the water was only waist deep to him. He had tno fear of the water after that.
When he was 12, I took Calito fishing with Captain Jimmy Martinez. He was excited because it was our first “He Man” trip. It was just the two of us and Captain Jimmy Martinez.
We happened upon a big pod of redfish (I think the late Rudy Grigar would’ve called it a “Strawberry Patch”). Both Jimmy and I hooked up right away.
My son was watching us and just steaming, when suddenly his rod was nearly yanked out his hands (no, it wasn’t a Snoopy rod, but rather a really nice Castaway/Shimano combo that Santa’s successor had left under the tree the previous Christmas).
Fifteen intense minutes later, and my boy brought a 33-inch redfish to the net. While he was filling out the tag and pinning it on the fish, I thought my heart would explode out of my chest because I was so proud.
Not as proud as I was when he was 15. He and my wife fished the Dargel Owner’s Tournament. There he was, in the throes of ptomaine poisoning from eating sour-cream colored nachos that he had left on the hotel room table overnight. A raging squall that should’ve had a name attached to it was pounding the Laguna Madre, and he managed to catch a redfish that won his age division. He was still very wobbly duiring the awards ceremony, but he showed up and walked up for his trophy. That boy had some real iron in his spine.
You tend to take those moments for granted. We get so wrapped up in the moment we don’t notice a fork in the road a bit farther up. Inevitably, we parents take one branch of the fork, and our children, if we raise ‘em right, take the other.
It isn’t bad, because that’s the way of good parentiing. It is bittersweet, though, because you know it will be some time before the two roads converge again. Sometimes the adult you meet is different from the kid you had.
Not bad, just different.
I like the young man he’s grown into, and I’m very proud of him. I miss the boy, though. It’s that empty nest thing.
Email Cal Gonzales at
Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]