Joy

Day before yesterday
my sister Patty and I
were with our father
at the family homestead
on Chapman Lake.
While Dad now lives
at an assisted care facility ten miles away,
he sometimes spends daytime hours at the lake
when one of us children is available.
This place has been his heaven on earth for sixty years.
An unrepentant bluegill fisherman,
Dad has not been able to fish for over a year.
His walker, unsteady balance, and general weakness
make getting in and out of the fishing boat
a difficult, if not perilous, proposition.
But Dad loves his fishing,
especially on hot August days
when the fish have moved to deep water.
So Saturday Patty and I looked at one another
and said, “Let’s go for it.”
With plenty of extra assistance,
Dad made it safely into the old aluminum boat
and we headed to that favorite spot
where he has fished for half a century.
Seeing the bobber was not easy.
He hated to ask for help baiting his hook.
The noisy speedboats created large, rocking waves.
But all that mattered hardly a bit,
for Dad was in his element—he was fishing again.
We ribbed one another as we sat there,
just like we always had.
We told the family fishing stories we all knew by heart,
but that day we needed to tell them again.
We jerked our poles in the late afternoon sun
and it was all wonderful.
We couldn’t exactly see the joy on Dad’s face,
but we could sense it run throughout his body
as he held that worn pole in his weathered hands.
He caught two keepers, one more than I.
As we rowed back to shore,
it was hard to tell who was the happier:
Dad for having gone fishing
after he wondered if he ever would again,
or Patty and I for having been there with him,
witnessing and loving each moment.

Sometimes giving care simply means giving joy.
When that happens, the joy ricochets all around,
striking everything and everyone within its range.
It is then that caregiving is truly gift,
blessing giver and receiver in equal portions.

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