Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Fishing (06/07/04)
TITLE: "GON FIZN"
By Patricia Sheets
LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE
SEND A PRIVATE COMMENT
SEND ARTICLE TO A FRIEND
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 I became depressed and withdrawn, but in a household of eight people, nobody noticed.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”.