If you have been an avid follower of my blog then you know how important my father, Ivan Carmichael, was to me. I haven’t done much fishing in the past few months; partly due to a pretty crappy winter here in southern Indiana…and partly due to the fact that my dad has been fading away.
If you have experienced the death of a parent, I now can empathize with your loss and pain. My dad, Ivan, passed yesterday morning, March 9th of 2018. He did so with incredible dignity; which was the only thing I had been praying for. My dad was my best friend. Often people speak of a parent with high regard…please believe me-my dad broke the mold.
It was in his footsteps that I learned the love of the outdoors. Hunting, fishing and nature in general were his passions. I can vividly still recall the day I caught my first smallmouth. It was in a stream that I still fish today. I followed dad quietly along slippery rocks trying not to make a wave or cause too much commotion; that’s a tough thing for a 12 year old. He pointed to a deep pool and told me to make a cast (sorry folks, I was using conventional equipment…I wouldn’t teach myself to fly fish for another three years) as close to a stump as I could without snagging. Before I could even start to wind my small Zebco…I felt “The Tug”! Yep, the same tug that still gets me today…some 40+ years later. My first smallie wasn’t a ‘thumper’ as dad called them, maybe 10 inches; however, it fought like it was a trophy and I was literally and figuratively ‘hooked’.
Through the years my dad has been my greatest supporter. Isn’t that what a parent/father should be? Unfortunately that isn’t the case with enough of today’s youth. These past many years…dad was too weak to actually walk the streams with me (here’s a peak back to the last time I actually got him to come along). That didn’t stop him from still being a part of my life and my day as he would drop me off and pick me up a few hours later. In the meanwhile he would read the paper or a magazine and enjoy sitting by the stream.
When I would once again show up or arrive at my destination point he’d always ask me the same thing, “Well, how’d it go today”. I would then give him a quick run-down of any big fish or exciting happenings and it was like he had been there with me. If I had seen an eagle or an otter or anything special…he would always perk up and really take notice.
Often our day involved a breakfast, milkshake or ice-cream cone on the way home (sometimes it would involve more than one). These were the times that we talked…well, dad listened and mostly I talked. He was the greatest shrink a guy could ever ask for. Dad was a thinker. He believed that if you put your mind to any task, there was always a good solution. In fact the quote that he often jabbed at me if I were to ever whine was this, “You are either part of the problem or part of the solution…which one are you going to be today”?
Even in his last hours he remained a class act. He was in a hospital and only wanted to go home…but he didn’t whine, it wasn’t in his nature. He, dad, was of “The Greatest Generation”…and if you have had the privilege of knowing one of these great people then you know that they didn’t get through the tough parts of their lives by whining. They forged on…and that is exactly what dad did. He took a quiet last breath and moved from this world to the next.
So, as I write this piece I am sad…very sad. My sadness is that I no longer have my best friend along to share a story with. No longer can I call him up at any point in the day to ask his advice. No longer will I hear him answer the phone, “Hey feller, what’s going on today”? The truth is that I am sad for myself, for my loss. Dad however…well, I know where he is. He was a great Christian man; a quiet Christian man. He witnessed by his actions. So I turn the page and move into a new chapter of my life. A chapter that I knew was looming. I know I will make it…I am in truth a ‘chip off the old block’. That voice in my head, nope, I’m not crazy…that’s just dad moving me forward, one cast at a time!