Sometimes, the most valuable hunting and fishing trips are the ones we don’t take.
Let me explain. First of all, I like the outdoors as much as anyone. For that reason, Saturday’s fishing opener weighed heavily on my mind.
In fact, in anticipation of this year’s fishing season, I bought a boat that has all of the features I wanted. And, as recently as two weekends ago, during one of those nasty stretches of cold weather, I went out into the garage and climbed into my boat, dreaming of the warm, fishing days of summer.
That said, I realized I had a tough choice to make this past weekend — fishing or Mother’s Day. Because I had a work commitment on Saturday, that left only Sunday to ply the waters in search of walleye.
As tempting as this idea was, I felt a hesitation in my spirit about leaving my wife on Mother’s Day to spend time in my boat.
Maybe I could come up with some sort of compromise, like taking my wife fishing with me. With that idea in mind, I casually queried my wife, Julie, about her interests for Mother’s Day.
Without hesitation, she shot back a quick, definitive answer — clean up the yard.
Yes, that gets me outside, but that wasn’t exactly the type of outdoors experience I was hoping for. Yet, I felt like I could not ignore her wishes.
In the end, I determined that fishing and Mother’s Day, for me, would be incompatible this year. I would spend Sunday sprucing up the landscape and filling a trailer with things my wife wants gone.
The walleye would have to wait. I realize that probably gets me in trouble with other husbands who will insist my decision makes them look bad.
Believe me, that is not my intent. And, I would caution “fishing widows” out there not to wave this column in front of their husbands and make this type of cynical retort: “See, loving husbands do NOT go fishing on Mother’s Day.”
No, I do not presume to make some type of theological ranking of Mother’s Day above walleye fishing. Even the state legislature backed away from this one as it briefly pondered changing the date of the fishing opener so as not to conflict with Mother’s Day.
Rather, I leave each fisherman to his own conscience in settling this matter with his wife.
I merely believe that there are times when men ought to have enough courage and enough conviction to recognize and grab hold of opportunities to make sacrifices out of love for their wives.
I can’t say I have a great track record in this. Just three years ago, I went turkey hunting on Mother’s Day with my oldest son.
Bad idea. Not only did the hunting turn out to be lousy, but the conversation I had with my wife on the way home was nothing short of painful. She made it clear just how disappointed she was in the choice I had made to leave her on Mother’s Day.
I resolved not to make that mistake again. The experience played a big role in my decision this year. As recently as the Friday of Mother’s Day/fishing opener weekend, I was feeling pretty confident in my decision.
Then, I ran into Julie Pfitzinger of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. She and I both were at St. Joseph School in West St. Paul to cover a talk by Imaculée Ilibagiza of Rwanda on her personal experience of the genocide that took place there in the 1990s. Pfitzinger is a mom and a freelance writer who has written about issues like this over the years.
After the talk, we spent a few minutes discussing the issue. Julie’s insights confirmed I was making the write choice.
“Although my husband isn’t a fisherman, I have friends who have been ‘Mother’s Day widows,’ ” she said. “I don’t think it’s ever about them [mothers] wanting the big spotlight to shine around them on the second Sunday in May, but is really about the desire to just spend quality family time together.”
That simple remark made me realize that what my wife — and, I suspect, many other wives — really wants is merely the chance to spend time with me and feel a little special.
Lord knows, moms take a lot of abuse in our culture these days, often from members of their own gender. This is just one day out of 365 when we husbands can show them a little appreciation for all that they do to make our families strong and vibrant.
And, as Pfitzinger pointed out, this also is an opportunity to send a message to your children, especially boys, about how to set and maintain the right priorities.
“I believe that every opportunity we have to model to our kids the importance we place on family should be taken now — it’s all part of helping prepare them to raise their own families some day,” she said. “I guess if that means missing the fishing opener in favor of spending Mother’s Day together, the valuable message inherent in seeing Dad choose family over fish is more than worth keeping the tackle box packed for a few more days.”
I agree. But, make no mistake, my tackle box will open soon.
And, walleyes of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, beware.