Fishing with Matthew

Matthew always forewarns me that there must be snacks, so I pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese and crackers, soda pop, potato chips, candy bars and fresh fruit in the cooler.

I check to see if there is sufficient gas in the tank for the outboard motor, life jackets for us both, adequate rods and reels and other tackle, and that the boat, boat trailer and vehicle are in order. I also must go into the backyard and dig some worms, if any can be found.

With these things ready at the designated time, I head for his house. We usually go fishing after he comes home from school. Today, I have arrived early so we will have all the fishing time possible.

Matthew's school bus arrives and I see him step down on the pavement carrying his backpack. He is 11 years old. Too soon he will be grown and will have to make that timely decision about what he is going to do with his life. I hope he will reach for a star and have a life filled with challenge and excitement. One of my worst fears is that he will settle for a dull, uninspiring existence.

I brush this uneasy feeling aside and watch Matthew walk down the street, dressed in loose-fitting, baggy jeans and shirt. As soon as he comes within speaking distance, he greets me. "Hi Grandpa," addressing me with a title that rates far above names reserved for dignitaries, such as President, General or Your Honor.

We exchange small talk, and I encourage him to move inside and change his clothes so we can be on our way. In his room, Matthew eagerly shows me his prized possessions, both old and new. I inspect these things as he chats about his experiences of the day. As we lock the outside door and proceed to the car, Matthew asks, "Grandpa, did you remember the snacks?"

We have some driving time before we make our first stop to purchase minnows. It is usually at quiet times like these that Matthew begins asking questions and sharing the high and low points in his life. I try to be alert and prudent with my answers.

Our stop at the bait shop is always a thrill. To the novice, its smell might seem nauseating, but to an angler, it is pleasing.

As I purchase a few dozen small minnows, Matthew explores all the merchandise and sees