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This chokes me up every Father's Day! God Bless both of our Fathers and all the rest of the Fathers in the world!

"Writing Home" to Dad
By Larry Bozka

Dear Dad:

Here it is, mid-May, and Father's Day is once again on the horizon. I've been thinking about you a lot.

I gotta tell you; it's been 10-1/2 years, but I still miss you bad. It's not like we didn't spend time together-especially those last 10 years, after your first heart bypass. Still, every time I go someplace special, I wish you were with me.

Roy and I went to the north jetty last week. Fishing was pretty slow. We got to visiting, and I told him how you took me, Bill and Bob there so many times, and how you had such an incredible knack for catching redfish even when everyone else wasn't. We could have used your help. Roy got a nice keeper drum, and we caught enough big gafftops to slime the entire boat. But the reds evaded us.

Mary, Jimmy and I went down to the ranch last month. I wish you could see the big pond. Heck, maybe you can; I sure hope so. Aside from the fact that we still haven't finished the pier, it's everything you envisioned. You said that if we ever got enough rain it'd cover better than two acres, and at long last, it does. The bass have spawned, and there are fingerlings in all the grass beds. The deer all look real healthy, too.

Those two places bring you back to me in a way I can't really explain. The memories come flooding in like a tide, and I always feel at peace when I'm at either one.

This is a fun business, Dad, but it's a lot more stressful than most folks imagine. Sure, I wouldn't trade it for anything. But you told me back in 1976, when I decided to turn my hobby into a job, that it would never be the same. You were right.

When I announced to the world that I intended to make a living writing about fishing and hunting, you didn't laugh. A lot of other people did. I think that particular vote of confidence might have been the most significant one you ever afforded me. I never said so before, so "thanks."

The week before you passed away, you said your only regret was that you weren't going to be able to take Jimmy fishing. You asked me to take him twice as much, just to fill in the gaps. I've tried hard to fill your shoes. He'll turn 15 on the 31st, and at this point in his life has probably done more fishing than most men will experience in a lifetime.

Despite everything I've done to keep him in my mind as a "kid," he is indeed a young man now. A fine young man, one that I know you'd be very, very proud of. He's in the ROTC, and voluntarily wears his hair as short as you wanted me to. You and I, as I recall, argued a bit about that particular subject. He's doing well in school, he has a very pretty girlfriend and he loves his fishing and hunting.

He's already talking about getting his driver's license, and I can't deny that scares the hell out of me. I know you felt the same way when Bill, Bob and I started driving. But until now, I didn't really understand why you and Mom were so nervous about handing us the keys.

You'll be pleased to know that I quit smoking last Labor Day. Me and the Marlboro man were getting way too familiar, and I was setting an awful example for Jimmy. It was an absolute nightmare getting off of the stinking things, but I now have greater respect than ever for the fact that you quit when I was only six. Jimmy swears he'll never pick one up, and I believe him. He's a smart kid.

We'll be in Rockport this Father's Day, fishing with Roy and his son, Jeff, in the 1st Annual Blue Wave Family Fishing & Fun Tournament. I can't think of a better way to spend the weekend; tag it on as one more effort to fill in for you in your absence. I'm not sure that I have the patience you possessed, and heaven knows, I don't claim to be the fisherman you were. But if I go tomorrow, I do want to be remembered as a guy who did everything in his power to be the best father possible. You certainly did, and I'll never forget it.

Put in a good word for me up there, OK? Everything you told me about being a father, about how it's the toughest and yet most rewarding job in the world, was right on the money. I've had few slip-ups here and there, but at least I'm learning from them. I suppose it'll be that way until I, too, move on to where you are.

Don't worry; I'm not ready to make that move anytime soon. Too many fish to catch, too many deer to hunt, too much life to live and all that. But Mary and I talk often about how you assured us that you weren't afraid, that you knew there was nothing ahead of you but a wonderful reward for a life lived to its fullest.

Whatever that reward is, Dad, you earned every bit of it.

Your loving son,
Larry
 
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