It was early morning, the sun just beginning to rise above the city of Santa Barbara, California. Henry Spencer stood at the edge of his fishing boat, leaning on the railing and holding a rod into the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. Next to him stood 9-year-old Shawn, limply holding a fishing rod of his own while his eyes drooped sleepily. As Shawn slumped further onto the railing, his rod began to slip little-by-little from his tired hands. Just in time, Henry scooped up Shawn's rod before it dropped into the ocean to be lost forever.
"Shawn! Pay attention!" Henry shouted, startling Shawn from his near slumber.
"Wha..ah..what, Dad?" said Shawn looking about, as if surprised to find himself standing on a boat instead of resting comfortably in his bed.
"Wake up. We're not here to sleep. We're here to fish," said Henry frustratingly.
"Whhyyy?" Shawn groaned.
"And look at this!" Henry continued, ignoring Shawn's complaint. "You almost lost your rod! This is a top-of-the-line Berkley and a gift from Grandpa Spencer. What would Grandpa say if he found out you dropped your gift into the ocean?"
"We wouldn't have to tell him," mumbled Shawn.
Henry sighed and counted to ten silently before lightening his tone. "Son? Why do you think I asked you to come fishing with me?" asked Henry.
Shawn shrugged. "So…we can stab a helpless earth worm through the gut, dangle him in saltwater and fool a totally innocent fish into thinking he found a free meal, only to rip him out of his home where he will suffocate until we cut him open and eat him?" he suggested.
Henry groaned and shook his head. "No, Shawn. Fishing isn't just that. Fishing is a skill that has been passed from father to son for centuries. It is the circle of life. It is survival. It is a man venturing out into the dark, or the cold, or whatever conditions necessary to provide food for his family…"
Shawn stared at his father, a look of child-like confusion etched on his face. "Couldn't he just go to the Stop N' Shop on a sunny Saturday afternoon?" he asked.
"You're missing the point, Shawn," said Henry, unsuccessfully trying to keep the frustration from showing in his voice as he continued. "Fishing is…getting in touch with nature, learning the nuances of ocean life, AND…" Henry's index finger pushed into his son's chest. "…your life."
"Huh?" said young Shawn, looking more perplexed than before.
"Son, for centuries, fathers and sons have taken out to the open waters to fish. But it's not just about the fishing. You see, fishing requires patience…waiting…and that slow pace is the perfect opportunity for boys and their fathers to speak to each other…talk about whatever is on their minds, philosophize about life…"
"Feelawfulsize?" Shawn questioned, the misunderstanding going unexplained by Henry.
"So Shawn, I'm here. You're here. This is your chance. Tell me what's on your mind. What are you thinking about?"
Shawn paused and thought carefully for a moment before answering. "Umm…I'm thinking about…a fluffy mattress, a warm blanket, and dreams of sugarplums dancing in my head. No wait! I don't even know what sugarplums are. Let's say…Kit Kat Bars…and they aren't dancing, they're uh…sky-diving!"
Henry covered his face with his one free hand and shook his head in defeat. "Whatever, Shawn. Maybe this isn't going to make any sense to you right now, but when you grow up and get married and have your own son, you are going to want to take him fishing and then you will understand."
"Get married?! Like…to a girl?!" Shawn exclaimed. "Why would I want to do that? I don't even like girls."
This time Henry chuckled. "Believe me, in a few more years you will change your mind about that."
"How do you know?" Shawn challenged.
"Because you will," Henry stated before feeling a tug on his fishing line. His attention turned to reeling in the fish on the other end until an empty line yanked free of the water. "Damn. I missed him!" he mumbled before re-baiting and tossing his line back in, and then resuming the conversation with his son. "Shawn, you know that gift that Grandma left for you?"
"You mean the one I'm not supposed to open until I'm a grown-up?" Shawn asked.
"That's the one," said Henry. "Do you want to know what's in there?"
"Are you allowed to tell me?"
"Of course, I can. I think you are old enough to know."
"Then, yes!" Shawn lit up, excitement overtaking his sleepiness.
Henry turned from the ocean to face his son. "It's a ring."
"A ring?" Shawn said disappointedly, hoping to hear that it was a key to mansion or a big wad of cash. "What kind of ring?"
"A diamond ring," Henry answered.
"But…isn't that a girl's ring?"
"Of course it's a girl's ring. The ring isn't for youShawn. It's for your future wife. One day…after you start liking girls…you are going to meet one and fall in love with her. Then you are going to want to give her that ring and marry her, and maybe even you'll want to start a family with her. Then you'll have your own sons or daughters to take fishing, or camping, or whatever, and you'll want to teach them about life. Understand?"
Shawn thought for a moment then adamantly shook his head from side-to-side. "Nope. Nu-uh. That's never gonna happen. Not to me."
"Well, let's just wait and see," said Henry.
Suddenly, Shawn's rod which he still held loosely in his hands began to tug. Henry set aside his own rod and helped Shawn to reel in a good-size bass.
"Ho ho ha!" exclaimed Henry holding up the plump fish. "This will make an excellent dinner tonight!"
Shawn nodded in passive agreement. "Great...Does this mean we can go home now?"
"Yes," said Henry rolling his eyes and shaking his head in frustration. "We can go home now."