Voices from the River: Short days

By Randy Scholfield

My Dad is slowing down. He is 85, and fighting Parkinson’s, so he has every right to slow down. That doesn’t make it any easier to see him struggle.

He needs help buttoning his shirt now and has problems walking.

I was back in Kansas recently and he wanted to go fishing—he always wants to go fishing. That’s how we connect and it’s what we’ve always done together.

He taught my brother and me how to fish on Kansas bass ponds. Taught us how to tie fishing knots and rig a plastic worm and run a boat. Bought me my first fly rod, too, and showed me how to use it on trips to Colorado.

I owe him a lot.

Now I sometimes have to help him tie on a plug or rig a plastic worm.

The afternoon was getting away from us. My brother and I drove him out to a favorite bass pond tucked in the rolling prairie on a ranch acreage that’s been in the family since we were kids. We pulled the truck up close to the dock. He got out and we positioned his walker and he swung his legs over, grimacing, and grabbed hold and shuffled toward the boat.

We held his arms on each side as he stepped across the threshold and backed into his seat, sitting down hard on the cushion. We put a fishing rod in his hands. Then the three of us set off out around the lake, casting as we went.

We caught a few bass as we drifted along the shore around a rocky point. He was full of playful taunts as usual, ribbing my brother about the size of his fish. My brother and I took turns pointing to tricky pockets and announcing our casts – “See between those logs? Watch this, there’s a big one right there.” Trying to impress him.

Just like old times.

We went in after an hour or so – Dad was getting tired and the fishing had gone quiet – and he sat on the front porch of the cabin and watched the pond as we grilled steaks. Later, at dusk, my brother and I went back out for another try but Dad said he’d watch from the porch.

It was great to fish with him again. And to see him light up when we all got out on the water.

He can’t do everything he once could, and he has bad days, but he’s still plugging away and finding joy in fishing and the outdoors. He knows he’s in the waning years of his life, and maybe because of that, he still gets up and gets out and keeps active.

He’s still teaching me.

“Do everything you can while you can,” he told me the other day. “You won’t always be able to do it.”

As we enter autumn, and the beautiful, brisk days of short light, it’s important to take advantage of the good days we have with the ones we love.

Get out there and seize the day.

Randy Scholfield is TU’s communications director for the Southwest.


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