By Richard A. DiLiberto Jr., Esq.
The shimmering, colorful fishing lures were neatly arranged in the old man’s tackle box. Fake frogs, minnows and grasshoppers seemed to come alive, and speak to the boy. “Choose me,” he thought the rubber frog croaked. “No, me—a big bass would take me,” the plastic grasshopper seemingly chirped. Red and white bobbers, and flashy silver spinners reflected in the sun, making the choice of bait even harder. How ironic, the boy thought, that each of these things wanted to be devoured by a big old nasty largemouth bass.
The old man convinced his son to go with “old reliable,” a big, fat live night crawler worm impaled on a barbed hook, and two split-shot sinkers about a foot above the hook. Just toss the line out into the lake, let it settle on the bottom, let the worm wiggle, and wait for the action. “A fisherman has to be patient,” the old man said, knowing the boy (or any 12-year-old) was anything but patient. He looked at the boy, winked with his honest brown eyes and smiled.
He had the boy rather late in life, and wasn’t able to do a lot of things the younger dads could do with their kids. “Let’s face it,” he rationalized, at his age, it would be downright dangerous to ice- skate, play tackle football, or even hula-hoop (he had a bad back). But, they could fish together. And fish. And fish.
So, there they sat, on that worn-out old dock, jutting out into the Pocono mountain lake, waiting for a fish to get hungry for an unfortunate, drowning worm pierced with a hook. The old man worked two jobs, so these moments were precious. They expounded about life, death, war, peace, love, hate and sometimes in a pinch, something as trite as the weather. Sometimes they fished all day and did not even get a bite. “Fishing is a dignified way of doing nothing,” the old man chuckled, when they had no luck.
But, that day, when the conversation stalled, and the fish weren’t biting, the boy took notice of the sun shining off his dad’s wide gold ring. It was a handsome, impressive large gold ring, with an ornate ruby red stone. Yet, it was dignified, not gaudy. It had words and designs on each side, but the boy had never been able to inspect it so closely as to decipher them. The old man loved that ring, and never removed it. No one knew what kind of ring it was. The boy knew it was not a high school or college ring. His dad quit school in 10th grade to go to work and help support his family. The old man used to joke that it was his “World Series” ring. Everyone knew he never even played high school baseball, but they still nodded in awe, and tried to catch a glimpse of the World Series ring, as the old man gesticulated with his rough, sandpapery hands. When the old man talked, and punctuated his words with those flying hands, the ring was like a golden tennis ball in a herky-jerky Wimbledon match, mesmerizing the listener to follow its path.
This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of The Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association, a publication of the Delaware State Bar Association. Copyright Delaware State Bar Association 2009. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.