As I proudly watched the happiness spread over her beautiful face while battling a trophy spotted bass this past week, I couldn’t help but drift back to the first times that I had taken my daughter PJ with me on fishing trips at Lake Lanier. It was more than a quarter of a century ago, my guide business was booming, her mother was teaching school, and she was my daily responsibility. So, regardless of the weather, from the time she was one year old, I would bundle her up in a tiny snowsuit, wrap a blanket around her, and place her beside me in my bass boat as we sped across the lake to meet my clients. Thankfully, none of the anglers that came with me on those trips ever had a bad thing to say about the quiet, little girl who would amuse herself with discarded plastic worms in the bottom of the boat. Though we have had our ups and downs during the maturing process, those simple beginnings have kept PJ and I very close over the years, and once in a while, when she is in town, we renew the magic of a simpler time that seems to get better with age.
Despite the many hours spent with me in a bass boat at Lake Lanier, PJ caught her first fish in a small pond near our house. As a professional fisherman, it was especially touching to see my youngest daughter bait her own hook and catch her first bream at the age of three. From those simple beginnings at the pond, I watched her develop into an accomplished angler in both fresh and saltwater, and until the week that he died, PJ and I would often share our angling outings with my Father. The three of us especially loved this time of the spring when wild azaleas are blooming and the spotted bass are in a romantic mood.
By the age of twelve, PJ discovered sports and boys, and the fishing seemed to go to the back burner, except for times when she needed some space or had a problem. As I had done with my Father forty years before, the joy and solitude of being together on the water with a fishing pole seemed to always dissolve any hurt or diminish any pressing problem. Despite the huge age gap and differences of opinion, fishing was, and still is, a common denominator that has a healing effect.
These days, PJ is a flight attendant for World Airways, who are contracted to fly all of our brave military men and women and their families to every remote corner of the globe, and she has seen most of the world. In fact, just in the past few months, she has been in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, Cyprus, Germany, Ireland, England, Poland, Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, and many places in the lower forty-eight states. As her father, I am very proud of her personal treatment and commitment to serving these wonderful defenders of our freedoms.
Though she is rarely home anymore, luck would have it that PJ had a few days off during the bass spawning season this year, and it gave us a chance to renew the deep bonds that we had developed through fishing. She was again the excited, little girl that I remembered, the weather was gorgeous, the spotted bass were active, and for dad and daughter, all was again right with life and the world!