The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 16, 2013

Cross column: Soon, I'll be fishing with a grandkid

By John Cross

---- — Today is Father’s Day, that annual faux holiday when we dads are honored with extra attention, cards, perhaps even a gift.

But if we’re really lucky, we get a free pass for the day, an opportunity to grab the golf clubs or fishing tackle unfettered by honey-do lists or other familial duties.

My wife extended the invitation as we lingered at the supper table over glasses of wine the other night.

“So,” she said taking a sip of Chardonnay, “Any plans on Father’s Day?”

It was a rhetorical question, of course.

“Why don’t you go fishing,” she continued.

No need to ask twice.

Once upon a time, with three youngsters in the house, I was sure to have company when I hitched up the boat and headed to the lake.

After all, teaching the kids the finer points of piscatorial pursuits is listed under the Dad job description.

But as any dad can attest, mentoring youngsters in the science and art of angling demands patience and understanding.

My son, the oldest, quickly grasped the introspective nature that is a quality of serious fishing.

After an introduction into the nuts-and-bolts of such things as knot-tying, baiting hooks, casting, etc., he quickly settled into the role of the experienced angler.

There was the small talk and casual conversation, of course. Even a few weighty subjects were topics of discussion on occasion.

But he also was content with the silence that frequently settles into a boat when anglers are focused on the messages telegraphed through a taut line and a twitching rod tip.

But my daughters were of the mind that more than anything, fishing was a social event and any lapse in conversation was something to be avoided at all costs.

Between the incessant chatter, the questions, the baiting, sorting through the tangles, I was busier than a one-armed paper hanger.

And I quickly came to understand why my own dad would admonish his sons that we would scare all of the fish away if we didn’t tone it down a bit.

But it was all about being a dad.

I now realize, somewhat sadly, just how quickly time passes and the blessing of those sunny afternoons spent baiting hooks, sorting through tangled lines and answering questions about why worms don’t have eyes.

My wife and I now wander through a mostly empty, quiet house. Instead of stepping over the kids’ shoes left where they stepped out of them in the hallway, we now step over the sleeping dog.

And though my wife sometimes is inclined to accompany me in the boat, it is more to catch a few rays of sunshine than fish.

Mostly, I fish solo or with other anglers who also are content to settle into the silence that comes with serious fishing.

The kids are scattered now.

The son lives and works in Las Vegas. But even in Sin City, you can’t take the Minnesota out of the kid: He frequently texts me photos of the bass he catches in nearby Lake Mead.

One daughter lives near the edge of the world _ Minot, North Dakota _ while the other hails from Madelia, a more manageable distance.

Sometime in the next two weeks, she’ll make us grandparents for the first time.

And grandpa will be delighted to save a seat in the boat for the new angler.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at