It was one of those rare Saturdays after I grew up and moved out that Dad and I found ourselves alone at the ranch. I was already living hours away in Houston and had driven there to unwind the spring of tension that was my life at that time. All I wanted was a nap on the sofa, but Mom was away, and Dad had other ideas.
“Come on son, let’s go catch our dinner,” he said.
My mind said “no, ” but I heard “ok” come out of my mouth and in just a few minutes we were retrieving tackle and cane poles from the barn. Dad and I spent many hours on the tall banks of Caney Creek throughout my childhood, but I could never convince him to use a rod and reel. “Fish just taste better when you hook ’em honest” he argued, so cane pole fishing we went.
Dad had many gifts, and I didn’t comprehend or appreciate many of them during his life. One of the finest was the gift of presence. Dad knew how to sit quietly with me, and his silence quieted my restless heart. I have always been full of words, but on the banks of a creek he would smile and shush me saying “We have to be quiet or the fish won’t bite.”
That afternoon I found the peace I was looking for in my Dad’s company. All of the worry I felt about my job and bills and life in general melted away in the shade of the old oaks and the sounds of the woods. For a few hours I was ten years old, and all I wanted to hear was his sing-song laughter as we pulled another fish from the water. As the day wound down, we packed our gear and headed back to the house. By then I was happy and wanted one thing and that alone — to be with my Dad.
I had a little camera with me, and I said, “Dad, show me that big haul we took in” and he laughed his beautiful laugh and held up those pitiful little fish like they were found treasure.
It was the last time we went fishing before his stroke.
Dad lived a decade longer, but he was severely debilitated. In one of our last conversations, I asked: “Can I get you anything?”. For just a moment the twinkle returned to his eye, and he said “Just an old cane pole.”
Now he’s gone, and I’ve learned how to sit quietly in the company of my Heavenly Father. He also has the gift of presence. I learned how to gain peace in those times from the master teacher.
Someday, I too will exit this life, and by grace, I will join my people in heaven. Scripture tells me there is treasure waiting, and I know just where to find it.
Somewhere there’s an old creek meandering under the shade of tall oak trees.
I’ll find my Dad there, waiting with an old cane pole.