Nonfiction: Poles in the Treetops This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
I cast the thin line
out across the mistly lake and hear a plop as it lands in the calm
water, upsetting the order and throwing the lake into confusion. Without
waiting, I reel it back. Climbing over the bank, out of the wet sand, I
walk over to the soot-filled fireplace and balance my pole against its
cement edge, the remains of a hot dog still dangling on the end of my
pole. Something does not feel right. Something is missing. I have the
same pole and the same line. It’s the same Adirondacks I love,
yet, as I stand alone on the beach, I have no urge to fish. * * *

Ever since I can remember, summer has meant two glorious weeks in the
Adirondacks with my family. What’s not to love? There’s
boating, swimming, shopping, beautiful sunsets, gorgeous mountains,
biking, pizza and time to do anything you want. There is also
catch-and-release fishing, which is not the most exciting activity in
the world, and a little cruel to the fish you accidentally kill when you
take them off the hook they swallowed.
When I was 10, I was finally
old enough to leave the campsite with my sister. This new freedom opened
up a world of biking and anything we could think up. One morning, we got
up just after the sun had peeked over the lake, crept out of the camper
dressed in our pj’s and walked down to our grandparents’
site. The campground was silent; a peacefulness floated in the air and
muted our voices. It was so foggy we could not see the other side of the
lake. We waited patiently outside their camper, careful not to make a
peep. The picnic table was set up with all my grandpa’s equipment
neatly laid out: his fishing box, toolbox, wash station and stove.

Poles in hand, we waited for Grandpa. In past years we had arrived
only to find he was already fishing. He would tell us that he had been
up since early morning, when the “fish were biting.” We were
so curious to see if he were telling the truth that we vowed to get up
and see if we could try our luck.
My grandpa could easily earn
“Employee of the Year” for his job as grandpa. While most
grandmothers feel the need to worry and make sure you have a jacket on
and don’t play near the fireplace, a grandpa is usually there as a
counterbalance. My grandpa is so good at his job that sometimes it is
easy to miss the significance of the small things that make him so
amazing. He wears a hearing aid, so he can’t always hear you.
I’m sure it is also so he doesn’t always have to listen to
Grandma talk on and on, as she tends to. He is smart and tries to keep
up with the world of computers and technology. He never makes a joke
outright, it’s always subtle. He has a way of communicating with
his eyes, as though he has a secret just for you. When you are doing
something wrong, he never needs to yell. He just gives you a smile, and
you stop. When my grandpa and I have a secret, he simply winks and
smiles.
After endless waiting, Grandpa would emerge from his camper.
He never objected to us being there, or treated us like we were too
young to fish with such a “professional.”
“Could
you please put a worm on my hook?” I begged. One look at the slimy
worms was enough to convince me I didn’t want to stick a hook
through one.
“I’ll bait the hook for you this
time,” he agreed with a smile. I knew that “this time”
meant every time for as long as I wished. All three of us took our spot.
We cast our lines, mine landing so close to the shore that no fish would
swim up. The trees immediately became a threat. Their tall branches hung
over the lake, grasping for our lines and catching them in the palms of
their treacherous hands. More times than we could count, our poles were
taken victim by the birch trees, but Grandpa never got mad, laughed at
us, or even flinched.
“I’ll get a pole to fetch yours
back with,” he said. He shared our amusement. Reaching into the
branches, he freed our poles, only for them to be taken captive again.
Before we knew it, everyone was up, breakfast was in the air, the big
boats had reclaimed the lake and the mist was gone. Grandma emerged from
the camper and, when she saw us, a smile covered her face. At that
point, my sister and I decided it was best to return to our site, since
breakfast was sure to be on the table. Fishing became a tradition. Every
year we would get up early and fish with Grandpa. It was the only time
it was just the three of us. My sister, my brother and I played cards or
checkers and watched movies during the year with my grandparents, but
fishing belonged to him and my sister and me. At the time I never
realized how importance it was. I thought it was all about the fish, not
the man who made it fishing.
Then it hit me - it wasn’t the
pole, the line, or the fish. Fishing alone, at noon, just wasn’t
the same. It is my grandpa who makes fishing what it is. It’s
getting up early and creeping over to his site, having him put the worm
on my hook, and untangling my line. This year I did not awaken early
enough to fish with him. The warmth of my sleeping bag won out and I
never realized what I was missing. It hit me as I stood alone on the
beach, pole in hand, in the middle of the day. It had seemed like a good
idea at the time - I had my pole and nothing better to do - but I
didn’t realize I was missing the most important part of fishing:
my grandpa.
My relationship with my grandpa stands strong today. I
am so lucky to still have him with me. As you grow up it’s
inevitable that things will change, but sometimes the changes are so
small they’re unseen. It wasn’t until I stopped fishing with
my grandpa that I realized how important it was. I am no longer the same
little girl who started this tradition. A grandpa is not someone to take
for granted.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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