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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Fishing (06/07/04)

TITLE: "GON FIZN"
By Patricia Sheets
06/13/04

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With Father’s Day on the horizon, I find myself thinking more and more about my dad. He has been dead for some time now, yet lingering memories continue to invade my thoughts. As the child of an alcoholic father and depressed mother, these memories are bittersweet. Nonetheless, they are the remnants of my early life so I try to reflect on the good times and banish the bad.

My father was a man of extremes. On one end of the spectrum he was a religious fanatic preaching gloom and doom. On the other end, he was an excessive drinker who could not control his actions. Gauging his mood was often difficult.

One of my worst childhood experiences came when my family moved from a small town in the mountains of Virginia to the Eastern Seaboard. I did not adapt well to the change and had a difficult year in school. I became depressed and withdrawn, but in a household of eight people, nobody noticed. Things were so bad that I contemplated running away, but finally the school year ended rendering some relief.

With school out and lots of time on our hands, we took full advantage of the “big river”, also known as the Atlantic Ocean, that was less than a block from our house. Every day when Dad came home from work, we would grab a towel, climb over a sand dune, and play in the waves while Dad fished. The days were carefree, Dad was not drinking, and my parents seemed happier than I had ever remembered.

One scorching summer afternoon, Mom announced that we would not be able to go to the beach. She said Uncle Ray had called and would be stopping by for a visit, so we would have to forego our trip that evening. We were all disappointed, including Dad. “What, no fishing?” he said. “But the flounder are running . . . “ Dad thought for a minute then said to my sister, “Get me a piece of paper and my fishing rod!” She ran from the room and returned with the requested items. Dad then instructed, “Write a message on the paper to let Uncle Ray know we’ve gone fishing.” As dad fiddled with the fishing rod, my sister who was only seven years old scrolled the words, “GON FIZN” across the top of the paper. Beneath the misspelled message, she drew a picture of a large, blue fish. She handed it to my dad and asked, “How’s this, Daddy?” Dad scratched his head and tossed it back to her. “No. This just won’t do. Go get the crayons! Everybody else, go sit at the kitchen table.”

As we sat at the table, I tried to read Dad’s mood. I wondered if we were in trouble, or if he was angry, but when the crayons arrived he smiled. Passing the colorful box around, he and told us to pick our favorite color. He then had each of us draw a picture of a fish on the “GON FIZN” sign. My brother was just a baby at the time, so Dad guided his hand on the sheet to draw a tiny red fish. When completed, the masterpiece revealed a large “Daddy” fish being followed by a smaller “Mom” fish, being followed by six “Children” fish. Dad proudly hung the piece of art on the front door before we headed for the ocean.

For the rest of the summer, we left the sign hanging on the front door to apprise unexpected visitors of our whereabouts. It was one of the best summers of my life.

As an adult, I have come to realize that many factors influence a person’s behavior. I suspect my dad suffered from an undiagnosed and therefore untreated mental condition. That, factored with his own childhood issues, left him vulnerable to excessive behaviors over which he had little control. Dad was not Father of the Year, but I truly believe he loved us and, for the most part, did the best he could.

As Father’s Day approaches and I remember my dad, I thank my Heavenly Father for the pleasant memories I hold fast in my heart. I’ve often wondered if perhaps God spoke to Dad on that hot summer afternoon and said, “Take a break from it all. Just put a sign on the front door that says, “GON FIZN”.


Member Comments
Member Date
Corinne Smelker06/14/04
Pat,
This one left me with a smile on my lips, and a tear in my eye.

I love this story - so simple and yet so compelling.

Well written and it is definitely vying for my vote!
Karen Treharne06/14/04
Timly and touching story Patricia, and one that I related to in many ways. My father also was an alcoholic, loved to fish, and suffered from unpredictable moods. And I, too, thank God for the happy memories and the ability to forgive my father for his mistakes and love him for his efforts. Thank you for bringing this memory home to me at this special time of year.
Deborah Porter 06/15/04
Patricia, I loved this. It touched my heart and kept my attention and interest from start to finish. The thought of that sign gave me a smile and the fact that even though so much of your childhood was quite hard, understandably, you have this special, happy memory tucked away as well.

From a technical point of view, it was pretty well just right, apart from the paragraph with a lot of speech in it. It's a good idea to break that sort of thing up, so that you start a new sentence at the end of each person's speech. For example, "Dad thought for a minute then said to my sister, “Get me a piece of paper and my fishing rod!” I'd start a new sentence then for "She ran ...", then another for "Dad then instructed..." and another for "As dad fiddled..." then a last one for "Dad scratched his head...".

Other than that, it was a really special piece to read. With love, Deb
L.M. Lee06/15/04
what a precious treasure seen through the eyes of healing. I would love to live a block from the ocean! Whoa!!!! too cool!
Carol Winebarger06/15/04
Great story--very touching. I love it.
Lynne Gaunt06/15/04
This is really very good. What a wonderful recollection to hold onto. I am always amazed at how God is faithful to give us good times even in the midst of the bad. Thanks for sharing this. Its wonderful.
Marie B. Corso06/15/04
I couldn't help but think, Pat, that instead of remembering your Dad with dark thoughts, you took the high road, Christ's way, and gave him so much grace as he bore his heavy burdens. You remembered a lovely story and made a sweet memory out of it.
The paragraph that Deb talked about is cumbersome, and the rule is to start a new paragraph every time a different person speaks. But the story doesn't suffer from that at all.
Beautifully told.
Marie
Mary Elder-Criss06/16/04
Very touching piece. I'm so glad you had this happy memory to carry with you. Thanks for sharing it with us.
B Price06/17/04
precious, it left me with a smile and a tear,
and I love the sign “GON FIZN”.and you picked the right title for the story too.
thanks for sharing this story with us,
By any chance did you all save that paper for memories?
Karen O'Leary06/18/04
A very touching story. Thank you for sharing it.