Knowing that I had a few hours of peace and quiet, I quickly got ready and looked at the window as I did every Saturday morning. Fall finally started to set in; mountains of leaves lay upon the ground while trees still appeared bright with colors of orange, red, and yellow. The trees looked like a streaking flame making up the backdrop to the rising sun. Despite the monumental change in scenery, I was in awe at the glistening lake at the forefront of this unique sight. Sadly, I also recalled my situation; I was kind of sleeping on the floor of my twin sisters’ room because my uncle stayed the night in my room. Yearning to leave the room infested with my little sisters’ snores, I tiptoed across the hall and prepared for the day.
With my hand streaking across the banister, I gazed again at the blue lake, and I recalled my intense aspiration to fully explore it. When we moved to our house in 2006, my family inherited a canoe from the previous owners. This canoe formed the grandest idea of my childhood: a whim to go fishing like they do in cartoons. I learned how to fish years ago when a plumber came to our house and decided to go fishing once the job was done. He showed me how to reel and set up proper bait, but my first attempts were largely unsuccessful. With a bit of help, my eight-year-old self surprisingly managed to catch a small sunfish that scampered away before a proper photograph. Still, this experience was one of pure joy, and I longed to one day try again. Creak! The step in the stairwell caused me to jump back into reality. I always complained that stairs were unsafe, but my mother rejected my proposal to install a personal elevator from my bedroom to the kitchen.
Of course, by the time I arrived downstairs, my grandfather was already seated at the table with his breakfast set before him. On his right-hand side, his tablet was propped up, and he was reading the news as usual. I greeted him softly before proceeding to grab my beloved Life cereal, the main thing that I look forward to in the morning. That’s how my morning went until my sisters bombarded down the stairs adding a large array of sound. Still, my grandfather remained calm and ate his breakfast like any other day. However, I felt the need to yell at my sisters to keep quiet because my parents were still asleep. Despite this grand display, my grandfather remained with his tablet at his side, but his expression shifted. Perhaps, it was something of an idea or dream, but my grandfather then remembered a very important fact.
“You’ turning thirteen,” my grandfather asked.
“Yes,” I replied with hesitation, “…in one week.” I stood there for some time. My sisters had left to go watch TV in their playroom.
My grandfather then began to tell me a riddle; one that he said would stump me to the point of exhaustion. It revolved around a single train moving throughout the Pakistani countryside, his ancestral home. He mentioned numerous facts about the train, and there seemed to be an underlying truth. Unfortunately, I failed to decipher it.
“…Where did the smoke go from the train?” my grandfather melodically questioned at the end of his perplexing riddle.
“I dunno’; nothing was mentioned about smoke,” I mumbled while still chewing my cereal.
“The train was electric!” my grandfather exclaimed and then drew a big smile. I did not help but instead realized that the very first line of the riddle stated this fact. I completely overlooked it while eating my cereal. I pushed the bowl away from me and asked my grandfather for another riddle. My grandfather is known for his occasional jokes or riddles, and I would reluctantly participate despite knowing their complexity. Perhaps, I enjoy the fact that he often incorporates topics from his upbringing into these riddles, and this particular riddle defines my grandfather. Despite his age, he maintains a strong wit, and his wisdom knows no bounds.
At this point, my mother appeared out of nowhere from the direction of the blaring television, which now had died down, and she picked up on the conversation.
“Abu Gee, didn’t you promise him a fishing rod for his birthday?” she asked denoting my grandfather with his title of respect.
“Oh yes,” he replied with a look of slight confusion, “Where do we get this thing?”
Since my excursion with the plumber, my grandfather always wanted to take me fishing at our lake behind the house given its convenience. Who would want to go to the local lake or stream when one could simply fish with the comforts of home close by? Unfortunately, my ascension into higher grades prevented me from having a lot of free time, and I would spend what little time I did have either with friends or electronic screens. It depended on my mood at any given time. Still, these two decisions did not include time with any family or even my grandfather who has remained home more frequently as of late.
Right on cue, my uncle came down the stairs with my father. Although he normally resides with his family in the north of the country, my uncle decided to pay us a visit here in Atlanta. An amateur fisherman himself, my uncle clearly knew a lot about fishing in the sense that he at least knew how.
“Let’s go get the fishing rods!” my uncle said with eagerness, “Yusuf, then you can go fishing…”
“He’s only thirteen,” my father stated. He decided to join the conversation at the last minute.
“Still, it’s a good skill to learn.”
Thus, my mother had ended the conversation, so that was that. Without much objection, my father tagged along, and my uncle, grandfather, and I headed for the local Walmart to catch an idea of what was in store. Racks and racks of fishing rods ensued as we browsed for two basic rods to use for our lake. We settled on two blue rods, and then we also grabbed string and hooks to begin our quest. On our way home, we picked up fresh bait from the grocery store.
“Chicken liver works the best!” my uncle exclaimed just as he found a pungent green container of the stuff. I remained skeptical, but it did not seem wise to argue because I knew nothing about the subject. Once we arrived home, my grandfather and uncle went through the agonizing process of assembling the rods together with the string and hooks necessary.
For the next two hours, we tried to fish. I already knew the basics on how to use the rod, but I had forgotten everything else. I managed to snare the hook against trees, leaves, chairs, and even shoes for the majority of the time while my uncle easily threw the bait out in the middle of the lake. The task seemed impossible, but we eventually persevered to some extent as I managed to reach the actual shore of the lake. Although I didn’t catch anything, I really began to appreciate the fact that my grandfather stood proudly by my side as we proceeded to miss every single fish in that lake. These moments were rare prior to this point, but we seemed to feel that such a past time may be beneficial. My grandfather started to tell me a story of his childhood. He explained that his grandfather was an avid fisherman himself and often would go to great lengths to catch his prey. Back then, fishing was sometimes necessary for survival, so my great-great-grandfather went out onto a lake or stream and tried to grab the biggest fish possible to feed his family. Although our act of fishing was more for “sport,” it really served as a hobby on long weekends. Naturally, my grandfather seemed excited about this whole idea while I merely enjoyed the newfound attention. Not everyone can say that they can go fishing in their backyard.
Over the next few weeks, we attempted to go out and fish more often, and we spent hours together in the process. With more time to spend together, we shared more stories. My grandfather told me about his childhood while we reminisced the highlights of mine. History had always been a major interest of mine, and my grandfather would entertain me by recounting old tales about his forefathers. One such tale again revolves around the fisherman. Like someone from a video game, this ancestor of ours used to fish simply with string and a hook without needing the actual rod part. Perhaps, my grandfather intentionally made a joke or simply wanted to try it, but he suddenly cut off the string and hook from the fishing rod. After this strange act, my grandfather threw the hook into the lake like there was a lasso in his hand. The hook caught something, and my grandfather jerked the string backward revealing the bottom of one of our chairs.
“Dada Abu?” I asked with confusion, “what are you doing?”
“Yusuf, this is fishing,” he responded and then let out a big laugh.
Another instance occurred at the bank of the lake; I had prepared to throw my line out into the middle of the lake, but it slightly snagged on a tree. The word, incompetence, probably resonated quite well with this action because the tree branch that I snagged upon was at least twenty feet off the ground. Despite trying to get it out of the tree, the hook seemed to be wedged into the wood itself. My grandfather came to the rescue with a pair of scissors, and he cut the line from the rod. Then, he grabbed the string and yanked the hook from the branch, so it fell right in front of my feet. Immediately, I resumed my quest to fish before snagging another hook into the same tree. This time, however, was different; my grandfather packed up his equipment and headed up towards the house laughing all the way. Before going, he cut my string, and he told me to put the chairs away. I then laughed too after realizing that we failed to catch any fish as usual, but any moments with my grandfather have been ones to remember.
Regardless of the activity, spending time with family is a must in a society where cell phone use and diversions run rampant. Despite any other assertions, I truly enjoyed these occasional outings. However, they became more seldom once I enrolled in high school at the beginning of this year. During these fishing “trips,” I learned a lot of my culture and history from my grandfather who told me stories of old. These stories have shaped my understanding of the world as I prepare to ready myself for the future. In these instances, my grandfather served as my mentor, and he would explain my role in society better than anyone else. The preservation of history and truth of this world is apparent in the hearts and minds of the elderly. Thus, one can understand the importance of caring for such providers of wisdom. My story seems simple; it probably is quite anticlimactic too, but it reflects other stories, ones that define society. As I am approaching an age of maturity, I have begun to appreciate the fun of family, and I seek to have more moments like these ones. In terms of importance, family comes first regardless of their relationships and ideas.