After a failed attempt at going to church in which our arrival would have been twenty five minutes late, I decided to stop off at a nearby lake to press the reset button, and invite peace into an otherwise chaotic morning. As I walked with gentle steps alongside the calm, cold December water, I thought silently to myself, “Is God’s house really behind closed doors? No, it is here.”
Then I took in a breath of the clean air and released.
Shortly thereafter, my deep insight still residing in me, a new calm found, I watched my daughter, who wore my winter jacket I had given her to wear because she said she was cold, with a makeshift fishing rod in her hand, a wooden stick, crouching, placing the stick in the water, amazed at the ripples it created.
My son, just a few feet away, stood near the bank of the water underneath the limbs of a tree growing from within its depths.
“How do you wonder a tree can grow in water?” I asked my wife Allison.
My son was silent, still turned away from us, at the bank.
“Is he taking a leak?” I asked Allison.
“Henry, are you peeing?” I asked my son.
I asked again.
“Henry, are you going to the bathroom?”
I could tell he was twiddling his hands in front of him in some fashion or another.
“Son, what are you doing?”
A moment later, he turned around.
“How did this get here?” he asked.
It was a fishing lure with treble hooks and multiple three pronged barbs attached to the crotch of his pants. Entangled, too, was his blue polo shirt he was to wear to church before our redirection.
As I struggled to free the fish hook from his crotch without causing bodily damage to him (or me), I pricked my finger on one of the barbs.
“Damn it,” I said in God’s house.
A moment later, I successfully detached the hook from the crotch of his pants, only to tie it up even further at the bottom of his blue polo.
“These aren’t meant to come out,” I told my son. “That’s the whole point. You have to cut fish hooks out. It’s so the fish don’t get away.”
“Don’t rip my shirt, Daddy.”
“Son, I’m not sure that’s going to be possible. You’re going to have to take your shirt off.”
“But it’s cold.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. You have a fish hook stuck to you, and this is a fancy one too. You’re going to cut your stomach badly or get this attached to your groin area again if you don’t take off your shirt. You have to take it off.”
In doing so, my son failed to unbutton one of the top buttons from his shirt, and as I tugged it off his head while keeping the fish hook at bay, his nose started bleeding profusely.
So there we were in God’s house, down by the calm of the water, in December, my son with no shirt on, blood pouring from his nose, and me standing there with his shirt in my hand, a fish hook dangling at the end.
After we got home, I took my knife out and removed the treble hooks from my son’s shirt, tearing a silver dollar sized hole in the front. Sitting at the kitchen table, my wife said, “Why don’t you tell Henry about your other experience with a fish hook?”
“Funny story,” I began telling my son and daughter. “You know how you all ask me questions about fishing occasionally when we take walks by the lake? The reason I don’t know much about fishing is because the last time I went fishing I was a kid, probably eleven years old, and as I drew my reel back to cast my rod, the lure caught my dad in the eyebrow. We were on a little boat in my Papa Pillow’s pond in Old Well. It was the last time I went fishing.”
“Why?” my kids asked. “Was Papa Wayne mad?”
“You could say that. He said a few choice words out of pain — because fish hooks aren’t meant to come out. You have to cut them out.”
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Written by Jeffrey Pillow, author of the coming-of-age memoir in progress When the Lights Go Out at 10:16, which you can read on this blog as it’s being written. When the Lights Go Out at 10:16 is a story of growing up in small town America in the 1980’s in a teeny tiny town known as Phenix, in Charlotte County, Virginia. It is a story of life and friendship in the face of terminal cancer. Want to read more blog posts? Visit the blog archive. You can also subscribe to this blog to receive updates of new posts by email.