John was worried about the upcoming “Let’s Go Fishing” field trip. “I might be disappointed because it won’t be the same.” John had been an avid fisherman and has many fish stories to share. I truly understood his concern. Experiencing something that was an important part of your past can trigger a sense of loss. When an artist holds a brush again after 20 years, their hands may shake and the result may appear wonderful to us but feel substandard to the artist. At Open Circle we move carefully through these experiences. I took John’s concern very seriously. What do the words, let’s go fishing mean to me?
It would start with digging worms. I’d go with dad to the super rich spot behind the outhouse on the edge of the woods. Dad would turn over the black dirt and I was responsible for putting the worms in the Folgers can. It was a sign of good luck if we got all the worms we needed on the first shovel full. I was in charge of the worms and Dad picked up the tackle box, rods, and thermos. The aluminum boat by our dock was powered by a 5-horse Johnson motor. A couple of pulls and it would sputter to life. Memory has a way of condensing many days to one day with high cumulus clouds and a light breeze. After we found a spot Dad dropped the anchor and we worked our way to quiet. That aluminum boat responded to every movement with a clank. Hooks baited, lines in the water and Dad’s coffee poured, we sat and waited. Our talk was soft, almost a whisper. Dad would tell me about fishing with his grandpa in a cedar strip boat that his grandpa built one winter. On the water we talked about different things than what spoke of on land. We talked about the sky, clouds, the past, and the time before any of our ancestors lived here. I could imagine a Sioux Indian in a canoe finding their favorite fishing spot, maybe it was right where we were anchored. We must have caught fish because I recall the red stringer and stories about “a mess of crappies.”
No fishing trip would be like those fishing trips, John certainly had a point. The day of the trip arrived and some of our members boarded the bus for Cedar Lake in New Prague. The “Let’s Go Fishing” organization removes every barrier. Wheelchairs, walkers, and canes are just the tools we use and cause no extra concern. No, it is not the fishing trip of years ago. It is probably easier. The things that are the same are the water and the sky. The sound of a Minnesota lake lapping against the pontoon, the wingspan of a crane as it lifts itself into the air from the shallows, the thrill of a tug on the line, those things are there. Conversation is different on the water. Memories come back and must be shared. The willingness to bait your own hook or remove a fish that has been caught, remain the same. The age-old art of chiding the ones who are unwilling continues.
Let’s Go Fishing is a state wide, volunteer organization. Each year Augustana Care Open Circle Adult Day Services makes a donation to this organization, which allows us to schedule trips at no cost to our members. The pontoons are new, safe and handicap accessible. They furnish life jackets, fishing poles and bait. Our members don’t need licenses because they are part of an Adult Day program. The volunteers are supportive, safety conscious and excellent guides. Hats off to this wonderful organization!
My Dad is still fishing on a “Let’s Go Fishing” pontoon in his hometown. I wonder if when he is on the water he thinks of that noisy aluminum boat, the high cumulus clouds and his little girl who was willing to bait her own hook. As for John, he wasn’t disappointed. The fishing trip wasn’t meant to recreate old experience, but rather build new memories.
Augustana Care Open Circle Adult Day Services provides respite care for caregivers while helping people with changing physical, cognitive, and/or social abilities to enjoy fulfilling lives. We offer three convenient locations throughout the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area. Each of our locations offer programs, recreation, personal care, respite and social connections to individuals with memory loss or other emotional and physical needs. Contact one of our centers to learn more about how Augustana Care Open Circle can support care partners to find balance and meaning in a life touched by memory loss or other diagnosis.
The author, Patty Crawford, is the Center Manager at Augustana Care Open Circle of Apple Valley. She has been a part of Augustana Care for over 40 years. Patty is also a sought-after public speaker on subjects of aging. She weaves her insight and research into meaningful presentations. Patty is a Master of Leadership graduate from Augsburg University.