Round about three o'clock this morning, I was stuffing my daughter's bed sheets into the washing machine. Just minutes earlier, Tinkerbell and her fellow quilted fairies had been soaked with Emma's bile and vomit. As I loaded the basin, a small chunk of what I must assume was semi-digested Chicken McNugget was propelled from those sheets onto the lens of my glasses. I stood there horrified, helplessly watching the little dollop of gelatinous faux-poultry slide down the length of the lens leaving an opaque snail-trail in its wake. In that moment, I was blessed with a clarity of vision I had previously thought reserved to prophets and philosophers, and I realized a fundamental truth.
More on that in a moment.
I wasn't supposed to play nurse maid today. I was supposed to catch my first bowfin. I was supposed to present flies to 20 pound carp; powerful fish that have a fondness for crayfish and hexagenia nymphs. I was supposed to spend a day on the water; water that is to me both completely foreign and incredibly exciting. Water that has always been close enough to touch, but otherwise just outside my grasp. Virgin water waiting to be deflowered by my rod and my flies.
But toddlers and paternal obligation are no respecters of the quiet sport. Sometimes daddy has to take care of business, even when that business is a regurgitated Happy Meal (I'm suddenly reminded that Happy Meals used to come with cookies ... not anymore ... what a freaking rip off ... damned clown). So today will not be the day. Today will not be the day I finally meet Drew Price of Master Class Angling. Today will not be the day I broaden the limits of my piscatorial experience, and catch a fish whose ancestors swam Paleozoic waters.
Instead, I'll let my baby girl curl up on my lap, and nestle her head into my chest. I'll wipe away the tears when they come, and for sure they'll come - Emma's our crier. I'll push her sandy blonde hair away from her face, kiss her cheek, and tell her she'll feel better soon. I'll do the same for my wife, who seems to experience for herself the discomfort of her children when they're ill. Today, I'll set aside my fly rods, and do all the things that a husband and a father is supposed to do ... which brings us back to a fundamental truth and that piece of plasti-form chicken creeping down the lens of my glasses.
As much joy as I take from fly fishing, as much as the sport fills my thoughts and infuses my dreams, there are other things that matter more. Fishing isn't a priority, not when it comes right down to it. As much as I want to be on the water, I would rather be here, washing the stench of yesterday's fast food from my hands.