Waking up at 4am on a Saturday morning wasn’t exactly the in thing to do for a child. But when you are walking in the shadow of a father, every moment is priceless. Simple things like sitting in the garden with a salt shaker and a fresh picked cucumber or tomato- those things that shape everything about who you are right down to your eating habits.
Dad grew up during the time where men had to spend two years in the military and he never stopped the habit of getting up early. So even after my parents divorced and I would visit him, I was up each Saturday at 4am. He would have his coffee. I would have my tea. He was the one who got me hooked on assorted teas. Dad grew up on the water and even though we lived in the projects without a car, as a child I would skateboard the miles to my grandmother’s house where he lived after the divorce and we would go crabbing and fishing.
The rest of my brothers and sisters would also drop in over the weekend along with aunts and uncles. But after he got his own place, I was the only one who would visit him there. I guess now that I think about it, me being so young, I never had an issue with him having a girlfriend and maybe my siblings did. But I didn’t care. I had him all to myself at his place. So by 4:30 we would be finished with our breakfast and in his truck on our way to grandmas where we would use grandad’s little motor boat to lay out a trot line.
It was a long rope with pieces of eel twisted into it every few feet with a empty milk jug on each end so you could see where you put it in the water. The boat had a spool off to the side and I would drive the boat while dad would hook the rope over the spool as we slowly went down the line. The crabs would hang on to the eel trying to eat til the last minute before letting go and dad would dip them and throw them into the boat. Sometimes right at my feet trying to pinch me but I had to keep the boat straight.
That time of the morning caught between a bright moon and a rising sun the water was like glass. Dad never missed a grab even with a cigarette in his mouth cussing them out when they would let go “Oh no you don’t… God you dammit”, he would follow the crab with the net deep into the murky water and always come up with it laughing. Then it would be my turn. I hated my turn. Because that always meant I was going to get stuck on the sand bar. It was a place in the middle of the bay that was only a few feet deep that boats knew to avoid. It was where dad would kick me off the boat if I missed a crab. I would have to watch him drive and dip alone and then he would come pick me up.
This is how REAL men handled ADD and ADHD back then. I stood on that sand bar with critters pecking at my toes trying to figure out what I did wrong. Until one day I saw a crab swim by. And when it saw me it zig zagged down into the water. Then it hit me. My dad had mastered seeing the direction and rate the grab would zig zag and it would literally swim right into his net. After being on the sand bar for most of the season, one day I never missed. Dad never said a word. But his pride was very loud. These are the lessons our young people are missing today. -NEO BLAQNESS