Philosophy Stories

Boys and Dads

on
November 15, 2017

I opened my eyes to full daylight. And the first sound I heard was rain in the gutter behind the bedroom window. I’ve learned to gauge the amount of rainfall by the dripping sounds of water inside an aluminum tube. Without pulling the window blind, I understood that the storm was steady, and I could somehow feel that it would continue all day.

Down the hall and on my way to the coffee pot, my nine year old son caught up to me, and with his characteristic excitement for everything in life, he asked, “Dad, can we fish today?”

I have a self-imposed rule for parenting. There are three things I always say yes to: baseball, music and fishing. When either of my boys wants to throw a ball, strum a guitar or sling a fly rod, I do everything I can to make that happen.

“You okay with the rain?” I asked Joey.

“Sure,” he replied, wide eyed and hopeful.

“Alright then, gear up.” I told him. And I poured the steaming coffee into a travel mug.

We haven’t fished much this year, and honestly, I’ve worried that we were away from it for too long. Let me explain something . . .

Our family went all-in with baseball this year. After Joey was selected for a majors team, we played ball from February to October. And I say “we” because I helped coach every team, going from the regular season to summer All-Star season, into Fall Ball. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Our local Little League organization is exactly the kind of thing a parent wants their kids involved in. I played baseball as a kid, but it was nothing like this.

Joey has learned to really drive a baseball, and he’s fought through the fear of fielding a leather covered rock — he’s become a better athlete, more aware and in control of his own body. But more than all that, Joey’s become part of a community, and these are exactly the kind of people that I want my son around. So we kept playing ball this year, because it’s all Joey wanted to do.

Fall Ball

As a father, I worry when I’m not as close to my sons as I want to be, and I despise any rift between us. But I also have high expectations for their behavior. It’s how I was raised: here are the rules, follow the rules, here are the consequences for not following the rules. And Joey, for all his big-hearted happiness, breaks a lot of rules. Spending all these months together on a baseball team helped with that. Joey learned a different kind of self-control, and I’ve come to better understand my nine-year-old son. It helped me to see him with his peers in the dugout, to watch and understand who these little people really are.

Photo by Joey Swentosky

So we fished in the rain. And this time, as I knelt in the water behind my son, when I reached to the rod to help him learn the cast, he had no objections. I placed my hand on his own to teach him to feel the rod flex and then stop hard on the forward cast, and he trusted me more than he ever has. I thought of all the times I watched Joey’s coaches patiently teach him how to stand in the batter’s box, how to swing the barrel of the bat to the center of the baseball, or how to follow through on his delivery of a fastball from the pitcher’s mound. And I thought about one extra-long infield session that went until dusk, when after all the other kids left, Joey thanked me for working with him, for teaching him.

It rained while we fished, and since Joey has outgrown his own raincoat, he wore mine. That reminded me of wearing my own father’s clothes, how I took some pride in that when I was Joey’s age, and how walking side by side with my Dad, on any path, still feels safe.

It’s a whole new world out there.

Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

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6 Comments
  1. Reply

    Mike M

    November 15, 2017

    Of all the posts you’ve written this one strikes a chord, and the pictures are wonderful. Nicely done.

  2. Reply

    Rick A

    November 16, 2017

    I just had a 20 year flashback… Fishing, baseball, rules, life lessons,and a nine year old son.
    Fast forward to present and an invitation from him to spend a few days at Steelhead Camp next week.
    They remember Dom, and it’s worth it.
    Enjoy the ride.

  3. Reply

    WILLIAM NEEL

    November 16, 2017

    I ENJOY ALL YOUR FISHING COLUMNS AND HAVE LEARNED A LOT FROM THEM. BUT THIS COLUMN WAS ESPECIALLY TOUCHING AND TENDER. YOU ARE A GREAT FISHING WRITER BUT AN EVEN BETTER FATHER.

  4. Reply

    Sam

    November 16, 2017

    As others have said above, this post really hit me. I am almost 62 now and my elderly Dad is struggling now, but I remember vividly the times spent with him playing ball, him throwing me BP, taking Mom and us boys fishing. Back in those days a mess of crappies for a fish fry was the mission, and Mom sure knew how to fry them up, breaded in corn meal. To this day he is the best man I’ve ever known, he always made the time to spend time with my brothers and my Mom. I am sure your son will think back on you the same way some day.

    Best Regards, Sam

  5. Reply

    FeatherChucker

    November 17, 2017

    Great post. Your son will really appreciate these times when he’s older.

    • Reply

      charlie ruff

      November 17, 2017

      Never forget, kids spell love: T I M E

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Domenick Swentosky
BELLEFONTE, PA

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, writer, musician and fisherman. I fly fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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