Recently my dad got an iPhone (he’s old school) and MUCH to my surprise, he’s been texting and taking pictures like a man possessed. A few weeks ago, he shot this picture over to me during an early morning trip to our local lake, wearing a pair of Fisherman Eyewear Grander sunglasses that I’d procured for us.
As I followed my dog around Maryland suburbia with a scented pick-up bag and fantasizing about freshwater lunkers, I realized that the whole summer had almost disappeared on me. Between moving my family into a new house and birthday parties, I hadn’t even managed to get out on the boat with my old man.
This picture spelled it out. I could almost taste the quiet, early morning air competing against the throaty roar of the outboard motor chugging to our favorite spot.
Twenty-five years ago, if you would’ve asked me what I found appealing about fishing, I probably would’ve told you that it sucked (as much as watching golf) and that I’d rather sit in my room, sort baseball cards and think about the first time I’d unhook a bra with my teeth.
Life is different now.
I’m almost 38, with two toddlers and a baby on the way. I don’t have a ton of time to do fun, recreational things for myself (like unhook bras with my teeth), but maybe there was a way I could merge my personal (SAHD) and professional (SAHD) lives together.
It didn’t take long for me to remember that late August/September always brings my family together for our annual ‘Corn Pie and Clam Party’.
I understand that this title may enhance the red on the back of my neck and some of you are probably wondering if I sleep in the barn on haystacks, but rest assured, paired with a beer, these all go together like nothing you’ve ever tasted.
My Uncle Dean and Aunt Beth have taken over hosting duties the last couple of years and we have the best time, with all of the kids (and adults) swimming, playing wiffle ball, tossing bean bags and hanging out in the garage, milling over the dirt bikes covered in mud. The late summer garden tomatoes are to die for, sitting pretty next to a big ole’ slice of corn pie with a few tabs of butter on the flaky crust and a touch of milk.
This country boy always thinks he’s died and gone to heaven.
We’d drive up on Friday night and get two mornings on the lake. On the first morning, my wife and mom could sneak off to the salon while my dad and I took the kids for a boat ride. The next morning, would be for us to do some serious fishing.
This picture shows Pop-Pop backing up to the launch with the trusty Crestliner, sinking into a foggy morning on Lake Nockamixon.
If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, you’d better check your pulse, you might be dead.
As the fog lifted and the sun broke from the clouds, we were underway. My dad had picked up a couple of life jackets for the minions at Cabela’s and we were off.
These are the moments that you need to ‘go out of your way for’ and I’m glad we made the trip.
As I look at this picture while writing, I know that I’m fortunate and blessed to have my dad in our lives. I know how much he cherished the relationship he had with his father (my grandfather) and I feel the same way about my relationship with my dad.
My dad let them take turns as captain of the vessel. Ava would steer and Pop-Pop would have Charlie focus on the ‘bananas’ that represented the fish on the sonar and then they’d switch, which usually involved us pulling the emergency shut-off on the motor, with Ava hanging onto the wheel for dear life mid-tantrum while I tried to pry her hands from it, as Charlie screamed over and over, ‘MY TURN!’
We made our way across the lake, enjoying the scenery and eating some snacks along the way. Ava powered us towards the dam at the far end of the lake and we enjoyed the breeze and warm sunshine on our cheeks.
Minutes later, it was interrupted by screams.
As I looked off into the distance, we saw the bottom of a what I thought was a kayak or canoe peeking up on top of the water.
My dad grabbed the stick and eased up on the throttle (with Ava still at the helm) and stood up to see if we could manage an assessment of what was happening.
There were two men in canoes in the area and another fishing boat nearby. I said to my dad, ‘Maybe it’s just some kayakers, doing maneuvers, you know…rolling under the water and practicing getting out’.
My dad looked at me and said ‘Dude, those aren’t maneuvers, they’re in trouble’.
As I watched a large cooler pop up and emerge from the depths of the lake, I knew that these guys had rolled their canoe in 60 feet of water. I pulled Ava and Charlie onto my lap, my dad grabbed the wheel and we sped over to them.
As we cut the engine and drifted in, we realized that a father and son had flipped over in their canoe and were struggling to hang on, fully clothed, dumped into the lake.
We pulled up and my dad grabbed a hold of the canoe before it completely submerged with all of their gear. I let the kids go free in the boat because it was all happening so fast. My dad and I tried to pick up the water-filled canoe together and empty it, but with the gear, a trolling motor and 50-pound battery… our balance was being thrown off and it was too risky.
As we took a second to collect ourselves in the moment, we noticed that the man’s teenaged son was struggling to stay afloat in fully-soaked fleece jacket, pants and shoes, his life jacket partially on.
He was shivering and looked like a deer in headlights.
The boy’s dad held onto the canoe as my old man brought his son aboard, to shed some clothes and get warm.
The dad pleaded with us to get him to shore and he was clearly exhausted from treading water and hanging onto his canoe for twenty minutes. I continued holding onto it with one hand, at the same time making sure Charlie didn’t go overboard as my dad jumped to the front of the boat and fired up the trolling motor to ease us into shore.
They explained to us that a large boat had gone by at full bore and that the wake had caught them off-guard while they were fishing.
This boat never slowed down and the father and son went into the chilly, autumn water. Their battery (that was unsecured) had been lost, along with a few fishing rods.
We were able to grab their cooler and tackle, as it floated by during the rescue.
What had begun as a relaxing Saturday morning on the lake for everyone, turned into a life-threatening ordeal.
During the chaos of rescuing them from the water, Ava looked at me and said, ‘What are we doing, why are we helping them?’
She clearly didn’t understand the severity of the situation. I took a second, looked at her and said, ‘Because these guys are in trouble, and if you can, you ALWAYS help someone in trouble.’
She looked at me and then the dad in the water… and right then I knew we had all shared a significant moment.
We did the right thing and my kids (Ava, at least) learned an important lesson.
I always want my kids to help someone that might be in need. Forget about your plan or your agenda for the day. Forget about the complicated situation you have with two toddlers on board.
This could’ve been anyone in the water. Hell, it could’ve been me and my dad.
We taught my kids an important lesson that morning.
We shared a moment. We did the right thing and I know that the men were grateful.
The next morning, Nana and Jenny watched the kids as me and my dad got a chance to test out those Fisherman Eyewear sunglasses.
We got a few early morning hours to ourselves, trolling up and down the drop-offs of the lake, seeking out the hybrid striped bass. Unlike the day before, it was uneventful, but in the end, we had a great time, together.
Life sometimes moves at light speed and if you don’t stop and take a moment to enjoy those small, important moments, they’ll be gone forever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adrian Kulp is a blogger, author, TV producer and full-time stay-at-home dad. His first book for Penguin Publishing, a comedic parenting memoir, debuted in May of 2013. He currently writes Dad or Alive, as well as for The Huffington Post. He’s a member of Target’s Inner Circle and a contributor to Kids in the House. He most recently produced ‘Modern Dads’ for A&E.