My dad was a different man when he was fishing. If we dinged the car or hit a ball through a window, he would growl and shake his head as if to say, “How did I get such dumb kids?”
But on the Mississippi River things were different. We anchored in some backwater and casted for hours, waiting for the big catfish to find our night crawlers and swallow our hooks. Backwaters are quiet places with low-hanging trees. Many of my casts got caught in their leafy branches.
I expected Dad to be impatient with my lack of casting skill. But he wasn’t. Every time I snagged a tree, he motioned for me to haul up the anchor. Then he rowed over, patiently untangled the line, and retrieved my tackle and bait. He would be whistling, not growling. I loved those times together and was always amazed that he wanted us kids to go along.
Maybe the Mississippi was a sacrament of reconciliation for my dad. Maybe the quiet and the slow, gentle rituals of fishing let his heart ring with his love for us and gave him small but important ways to show that love.
I never drive the winding road down to where Dad kept his boat without grinning to myself because I can see him grinning at me, the girl who caught more trees than fish. I can see us fishing with all the time in the world to untangle our lines and our lives.
In Sunday’s gospel Peter goes fishing and the risen Jesus waits for him at the lakeshore. Why should I be surprised that this place is where they reconcile?