When grandpa takes a Chicago girl fishing

Although I love Chicago as if I were born here, I was not. I came into the world under the auspicious gaze of the statue of Vulcan, at the foot of Iron Mountain, in Birmingham, Alabama.

I occasionally leave my children in that great state under the gentle care of their grandparents, my mother, MiMi, and their grandfather, the incomparable Paw Paw Lamar. Lamar has left Alabama voluntarily only once in my lifetime. He came to Chicago.

Leaving my children with him in Alabama has opened their lives to the simpler joys, those human efforts closer to the red dirt of my birth. Fishing.

It requires patience to understand, patience to perform. I fish fast. The moment my bait hits the water I’m ticking off the seconds until I get a strike. I cast and retrieve with such restless fury my lure leaves a wake. I haven’t caught anything in 20 years. I’ve assumed it’s genetic. I was wrong.

Fishing with Lamar, Sarah started off exhibiting the same ruthless inability to angle I’ve enjoyed my entire life, casting into the middle of the pond as the remainder of her line spooled into a complex and intricate wig, ensnaring the reel and her hands, causing her to whine with alarm.

This is where Lamar excels. Any man who watches every lap of a NASCAR race knows a little something about patience. Carefully, slowly, gently, Lamar began untangling the monofilament snarl, when the rod was snatched out of his hands. He and Sarah looked up to see a goose had grabbed the lure and was now waddling away, dragging the rig behind.

The goose tried to take off, but the hopelessly entangled rod and reel was an albatross around its neck. It waddled randomly, honking in contrapuntal time with Sarah, who reacted exactly as I would have, hopping around the edge of the pond, screaming OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I CAUGHT A BIRD!

Lamar reacted with the trained impulses of a former Marine, wrestled the goose to the ground and, patiently, removed the lure with as little damage as he could manage. The goose flapped away, landing in the next pond over in a group of geese where, presumably, he honked, “You will NOT believe what just happened …”

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