For as long as I can remember, I have been fishing with my grandparents over the summer. It started a long time ago, when I would get out of school just before the long Memorial Day weekend. First, my parents would take me to my great-grandpa Charlie’s for a week; after that, I would go to my grandpa Wade’s for a week, and then I’d finish with my grandpa Bob for a week. If it was one of those extra-special summers, I would turn around and do the rotation again!
What’s funny is that I thought I had the coolest parents for letting me do this; now that I am a parent, I can only imagine how pleased they were that I wanted to do this!
So my earliest memories of summer are of being with my great-grandpa Charlie, where we would fish just about anywhere we could wet a line—even if it was just the little creek in front of his house.
Some years after he passed away, a new tradition started—and lasted more than a decade—with my grandpa Bob. We fished on Memorial Day, catching enough fish for a big fish fry that night.
Now that I am a father myself, I plan to spend every Father’s Day fishing with my kiddos, and hopefully one day with their kids, for as long as they will fish with me. Because, you see, that is how these traditions work.
In reality, though, this is not only about tradition; this is about the fact that they taught me how to catch the really big ones in life, and although the lessons happened with a fishing pole in their hands, many times they had nothing to do with catching fish.
Life Lessons Learned from a Master Fisherman
Recently I was sharing with my wife and daughter about how my great-grandpa Charlie would take me fishing every chance he got. I suddenly got really choked up as I realized I had not shared with them why he would take me fishing.
In all those years I spent fishing with my great-grandpa Charlie, it turns out we were fishing for two completely different things. I was fishing for big fish, but he was fishing for my soul.
It was only after many years of fishing with him that I finally started to realize that he did not put any bait on his hook!
It’s funny that it took me so long to realize; I think I just assumed I was a much better fisherman than he was! But on the last few times I went with him, I was an older teenager, and paid attention.
That’s when I noticed that he did not have bait on his hook. And I noticed he would always make sure I had the best spot to drop my bait.
While we were fishing, he would talk to me and share with me the wisdom of his life.
He taught me about hard work—that hard work was never really hard; it was healthy. He taught me to care about others first before I could share with others. We talked about equality of all people. He told me stories of his childhood and what he had learned. And, of course, his favorite subject was his bride of 60-plus years.
By the time he passed, this man—whose formal education stopped at the 8th grade, but who never stopped learning—taught me about love, laughter, respect, responsibility and faith.
Thankfully, at some point I started to write some of his wisdom down, and I have notes and a few stories to pull from to this day. With each year, as I get older, his wisdom becomes more powerful.
The reason I get choked up when I think about him and our times fishing is that now I fully realize that fishing was just the excuse he needed to catch me!
All the many miles we walked, and those countless hours we talked, he knew exactly what he was fishing for, and he did not need any worms or minnows on his hook. He was fishing for an eternal catch. He was fishing for me, my future wife, and my future kids. Even more, he was fishing for the future of my soul.
Well, Grandpa Charlie, as you smile down from heaven, I want you to know that on this Memorial Day I took my kiddos fishing, and in your honor, I did not use any bait.
Question: What life lessons have you learned from family members who invested the time to teach you? How are you using your time to invest in your own children and grandchildren? You can share your thoughts by clicking here.