You’re reading these words so that means you have one. Some of you have more than one because that’s how your mama rolls. You may have had the good one or you could have been stuck with the bad one. Whichever one you got you’ve been affected. This isn’t a riddle though it is beginning to sound like one. Simply, I’m talking about dads.
I figure now is as good a time as any for a little Blonde on the Prairie therapy session. Go ahead and sit down on my couch. Get comfortable if you’d like to.
Shut your eyes and say the word. Ready?
You only have to say it once to conjure up hundreds if not thousands of feelings. Some of you will be able to recall smells and facial expressions. With your eyes closed look for your dad or the man who raised you. With your eyes still closed recognize your own facial expression as you remember. I’ve tried it myself. Depending on which memory is at the forefront I may find my face in a grin recalling my dad’s Norwegian, careful grin. A Norwegian man never wants to smile out loud for fear it would bring on too much attention. Other memories find my face contorting and stiff with a frown remembering the last time I saw him alive. He wanted to change the channel in the pre-op room but another patient was watching baseball. They came in shortly after to wheel my dad to a routine surgery that went amuck. My face wishes I could have changed the channel so at least he could have died with a scene from “The Bold and the Beautiful” on his mind instead of a baseball game. He hated sports.
I interviewed a man who shall remain nameless about the memories he had of his father. This isn’t a riddle either. The man I interviewed begins with an “H,” ends in a “D,” and has an “usban” in the middle. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.
This man told me the story of how his father just loved to go fishing. The man, then a boy didn’t love to fish but he loved being with his dad and catching frogs and sitting in the boat. This day found just the two of them in a boat with the pet frogs they’d found earlier in the day. This happened during the 1950’s. The dad loved to fish. They were at the Jamestown Reservoir. The boy asked his dad while sitting in the boat, “What’s biting out here dad?”
The dad said, “Son, I’m going to tell you a story. A few years ago I was out fishing here with Uncle Ed. It was a day much like today but none of the fish were biting. The bass weren’t biting; the walleyes weren’t biting, no bullheads, noth’in! However, there were carp everywhere! Hundreds of carp were surrounding the boat. Nobody wanted to catch carp because they weren’t good eating. That day though you could only see carp. They were very playful fish those carp- they were. I took my fishing line and cast out past the carp trying to catch a real fish. As I stood up my wallet fell out of my back pocket. Wouldn’t you know it? It landed on one of the carps. One carp bounced my wallet to the next carp and that carp bounced it over to another carp and that carp threw it in the air to the next carp. Son, that was the first time anyone in the world had seen carp to carp walleting.” (Wall to wall carpeting –get it?) Ba, dump, dump!
Everything was going very Norman Rockwell-ish on this fishing trip between this boy and his dad until the boy asked, “That’s funny dad but how do we catch the real fish?” The dad grabbed for one of the boys pet frogs. The boy, now a man, to this day saves every frog he sees in honor of the one that was offered as a gift to the real fish that perfect day in the 1950’s with his dad.
Close your eyes again. This time look at your dad not as your dad but as a little boy who grew into a man just like you. He was a boy who had to grow up with issues and situations and maybe nobody as a father figure to him, yet he was blessed with you-a child of his own. Visualize him doing the best he could with what he had in his suitcase of knowledge and father wisdom to pull from. Remember that maybe he had none because nobody filled those shoes for him. Forgiveness lives when we dare to take away all the worldly adjectives the word “dad” conjures up. There is such pressure in that word when we use it selfishly-and we do. In our minds our dads are supposed to be as near to omnipotence as God but they are just a man. And if they’re the good kind they love you and take you fishing and tell you jokes just so you’ll enjoy the fishing trip even though they know you don’t like fishing so much. If your dad made you struggle during your life-I’m sorry you had to.
Whichever kind of dad you have this is the perfect weekend to open your eyes and tell him all you saw when I just asked you to close them. I closed my eyes and what did I see? A man named “Dad” who wanted the best for me and only had 24 hours to make a very difficult life work for not just him but a family. I opened my eyes and he is gone but completely forgiven.
If you are a dad it’s never to late to open the gate and welcome in your children. Call them and kids you should call back. It may be uncomfortable at first if it’s not the normal thing for you to do but soon enough it will feel so good. Dare to speak of memories. Focus on the good times and try not to bury the bad if they haunt you. Go fishing. Go to church together. Eat. Laugh. Call each other again before all our eyes close and we don’t get the chance to.
I end in warning that this Father’s Day –if you are a son or daughter who catches frogs with your dad before going fishing – HIDE THEM! And be careful not to let a carp get your wallet. They might take a bullhead on a date and really mess up the aquatic circle of life. Carp to carp walleting is on the rise. Call 911 if you witness it yourself but not before having a very happy, forgiving, memorable Father’s Day ~2012!
Ingstad lives on the prairie near Valley City and writes this column for the Times-Record.