saved by a stick
I wrote this many many years ago and the post b y riverview brought it back to mind. So here it is ........ long as ususal but i hope it strikes a note with a few of you..... it is amazing to reread it now knowing how part of the story turns out.
I awoke with a start at the bump and screech of the wheels as the plane touched down. Disoriented from sleep I idly wondered what city I was in. Here lately there had been way too many cities in too few days. The “project of a lifetime” was consuming my every waking hour and minute. If I could just pull off this project my career would be made, or had I said that about the last critical business project, they all seemed to run together. I sat and tried to piece together the various cities and trips over the last couple of years and finally gave up. Leaving me with a vague guilty feeling floating around my stomach and brain, as I realized that I hadn’t been home to see my family in almost two weeks and hadn’t really spent any solid time at home in almost a year. I really did miss my family but I felt that I was on the verge of that career breakthrough that would leave them financially secure and "set for life" and after all wasn’t that the most important thing?
I realized that this was Dallas and remembered my promise to drive the hour and a half to go visit my Mother and Dad for a birthday dinner. I truly loved my Mom and Dad but somehow I just wasn’t in the mood to break my “business game face” and go be a normal person for a while. Turned out dinner at Mom and Dad’s was painless. Mom asked all of the usual questions about the status of my wife and two young children and as I was answering I realized that I was probably the wrong person to be answering, as I didn’t really know anymore. I told her everything was fine and part of me believed that .....but part of me was enough of a realist to realize that the stress and strain of this wild corporate climb was taking a pretty heavy toll on my relationship with my wife and kids. She just didn’t understand how important this was to my career and for that matter to me. Fortunately my Dad soon jumped in with a few questions about my work project and I felt myself happily launch into a spirited description of everything that was happening from a work perspective. It felt safer to be talking about business, it seems that these days that was where my comfort level was. It seems the whole family relationship thing just made my head hurt and left me confused and searching for the “right” answer. After all, problems always have a right answer don’t they.... that is what i do i solve problems byu finding he "right" answer.
After dinner Mom and Dad brought out my birthday present. My Dad was carrying a new aluminum rod tube so I quickly assumed it was a fly rod. I was immediately excited. I considered myself a "fly fisherman" because growing up I had spent a couple of weeks each summer fly fishing on the headwaters of the Rio Grande and during my high school and college years I had spent some time casting popping bugs for bream and yearling bass. But the last couple of years I hadn’t touched a fly rod, business and “life” had just kept me too busy. However I still considered myself to be a fly fisherman despite my lack of stream time and even thoughts of lfy fishing for that matter but we stick to our self-prescribed labels even if they are inaccurate at best. I quickly unscrewed the cap and shook the rod sack out of the tube. The faint musty odor of age reached my nose and I noticed how old and faded the once forest green rod sock was. I slid the rod out and felt a momentary jump as I saw the glazed warm golden brown tones of a bamboo rod slide into view. But my enthusiasm dipped a little as I realized that this wasn’t one of those well dressed presentation bamboo rods that grace the ad pages of all the fly fishing magazines. The heavy bamboo rod looked old and tired, the wrappings a faded green and yellow, the reel seat cold unfinished metal with a worn green spacer. The cork grips darkened gray from age and use. I carefully fitted it together and lifted it for the traditional waggle we all use to test a rod or should I say, “act like we know what we are doing”. As I grasped the aged cork grips I felt an odd sensation deep in the pit of my stomach as my hands instinctively slid into the worn indentions traced in the grips. It was uncanny how naturally and almost identically my grip aligned with those indentions worn through heavy use of another man somewhere over the course of this rod’s obviously long life. I looked at my father in a silent question; he said simply “it was Dad’s rod”. That threw me for a second but then it hit me in an instant that he meant his father Dick Davis , my grandfather, the man I am named after. A man that I had never met as he had died before I was born but I still felt I knew him from the loving stories my father told. He quietly continued, “This was his fly rod, in fact it was the one he taught me to fly fish with. Now it is yours from Grandfather to Grandson.” Suddenly the mystery of the matched grip became clear. The worn spots in the grip were the imprints of my Grandfather’s hands, created through many hours of fishing using an odd grip that he had taught my father who had in turn taught me. My fingers felt the contact with the rod like it was a bridge through time .... a bridge spanning 40 years ....... a bridge spanning grandfather to grandson. My hands and fingers resting in the exact spots his had. It was an eerie but somehow comfortable connection of long passed time and at least one lifetime … mine.
I said my thanks, truly impressed with the gift. Packed the aged old rod back into it’s ancient rod sack and shiny new aluminum tube and said my goodbyes. But as soon as the rental car was back on the road my thoughts instantly switched back to the corporate world, the project and my career. The rod lost in the mental shuffle. That night in my hotel room I had a strange dream. I was vacationing on the headwaters of the Rio Grande River with my family, a place I loved with all of my heart. A place where I had vacationed nearly every year of my life until I was in college, but a place I hadn’t been in at least 8 years. Yet here I was in my dreams, vacationing with my wife and two young sons in one of my favorite places in the world. Yet, instead of feeling a sense of happiness or contentment, as I should have, I felt rage at the desire to fly fish and not having enough time. Throughout the dream, things kept coming up and I spent the entire dream trip without ever fishing. I remembered the frustration clearly even after I woke up. It haunted me as a vague uneasiness even into the morning shower and out the door. I passed it off as a reaction to the rod and to the normal troubled sleep of yet another strange hotel room. When I got home from that trip I carefully stored the rod in its shinny new tube in the corner of the garage. Somehow the rod faded out of my memory, but I couldn’t shake the dreams, they kept coming back to me time and time again. Soon I began to see an old man in my dream, he never said anything but he was always holding a fly rod, offering it to me. I never really made the connection consciously until one evening when I was getting ready for bed and happened to glance down at the picture of my father and grandfather that was on my nightstand and realized that the man in my dream was my grandfather.... my name sake. I realized that the rod being offered was the rod languishing in obscurity in the corner of my garage. I decided then and there that I would begin to get back into fly fishing.
I felt the antique rod was to old to fish with so I tore through the years and years of accumulated junk in the basement only to find that all of my old fly rods were broken and mangled. A result I am sure of my over imaginative boys and some sword fighting duel that they had seen on TV somewhere. My anger burst from me like an erupting sewer pipe leaving both boys in a bewildered tears as they wondered what they did to make their daddy so mad, and my wife furious at me for being so hard on the boys.... and left even myself furious at me for being such a jerk. It seems that whatever I did these days it didn’t make anyone happy, not the kids and certainly not my wife but most importantly not even myself. Once again there just didn’t seem to be any “right” answers, **** there didn’t seem to be any answers at all. I stormed out of the house wondering how things could get this messed up. I quickly strung the old bamboo rod and stalked off into the yard to try and “cast” off some of my anger. I hadn’t picked up a fly rod in almost ten years but somehow it came back to me fairly quickly. The old rod responded better than I ever imagined it could. It felt heavy in my hand but as I began to recognize the feel of when it was flexed and properly loaded before I started my forecast, I began to actually move some line. Before too long a rhythm finally fell into place and my casting returned. The clean graceful arc of the line was pleasing and somehow calming, further strengthening my resolve to get back into the sport. I felt my anger weaken with each casting stroke and soon found myself remembering and reliving my days as a kid standing in the front yard with a newspaper tucked under my arm practice casting to the imaginary rising “trout” under the azalea bush or that huge bass surfacing by the water sprinkler. My imagination numbed by age was still lively enough to mentally transport me from my yard to a beautiful mountain trout stream allowing all of my anger and frustration to momentarily float off on the white-capped riffles of my imaginary river. I knew that peace of mind wouldn’t last long but even a brief bit of escape helps.