The thing I’ll remember most fondly about him is fishing. More specifically, teaching me to fish, on the edge of Lake Musconetcong, behind the Old Morris Canal Inn.
It was just down the street from our house, where we were lucky enough to live on a hill overlooking the lake. There was always a serene view just outside our dining room window, a postcard picture of nature, tranquil and placid. Down at the lake, with our poles rested on our tackle boxes, we would sit, quietly. There would rarely be spoken words, except for the occasional bite on my line, during which he would try to help me learn how to set the hook and reel in the fish.
This is the essential picture of my father. He enjoyed the quiet. My mother, by contrast, loved the bar and loud voices and chaos. There was a primal difference in the way my parents approached life, resulting in a divorce when I was six. My father won custody, unsurprisingly.
Even though he promised my brother we would never move from our house in Stanhope, when my father remarried, the very next year, we spirited our things from that lake view house to one on a lake, in Jefferson. My dad loved water. Fishing, or just sitting on the boat in the middle of the water, was the one proven balm for his troubles.
My stepmother and he eventually divorced (thank goodness, for she was—quite literally—insane), but my brother continued lashing out against Dad, until he was finally given what he wanted: freedom. He moved back to Stanhope to live with a friend’s family and continue playing football with his home team.
Then it was just me and Dad.