“The Fishing Trip”
Written By Julia Bracewell
It was a resplendent summer day. Points of lights danced through the trees creating kaleidoscopes of green. The air was warm and sweet and above was a cloudless blue sky. My tiny right hand felt the comforting warmth of my daddy’s as we walked down the gravel path at Holiday Beach. Today was going to be the best day ever. Daddy had chosen me to go fishing with, not my two older and more capable brothers, but 3-year-old me. The smile on my face threatened to spread right off my cheeks as my dad got a bucket of water from the shopkeeper to put our catches in.
“Juju,” He said, “Do you want to carry it?” I was excited. Daddy thought I could carry it? Using both of my little hands I grabbed the metal handle and focused all of my strength into the task. I tried and tried but had no luck. I was disappointed. It was far too heavy for my tiny little arms
“That’s okay Juju, I can carry it!” He smiled. Relieved I looked up and smiled as he easily picked up the bucket with one hand. Fortunately my inability to carry the bucket didn’t slow me down. I was with daddy. We continued walking and reached the edge of the lake. We found a soft grassy patch to sit on and cast our lines. All afternoon my dad would reel in catch after catch and I would sit there staring at my red and white bob float in the water, unable to attract a single fish. But my memory of the day wouldn’t be measured by the fact that I couldn’t catch a single fish, or that I couldn’t carry the bucket when dad asked to. No, it was measured by something much different; a gift that my dad gave me that I wouldn’t see until this year, the year I reached “adulthood”.
“Juju,” My dad would always say, “Juju, will be my fishing buddy.” Not my brothers who were very capable fisherman, but me, the crazy-cowboy-princess-mermaid-toddler who didn’t know the first thing about fishing. You see, my dad always believed in me. Not because of the things I could or couldn’t do, but just because he saw my worth. Just because I was me. I didn’t need to do anything or say anything to earn my dad’s love, and because of that he taught me that I am a real treasure; a rare gem full of incomprehensible value just because I am me.
That same year my dad would find out that cancer was ravaging his lungs and after three years of fighting tooth and nail, the cancer would take the upper hand and send my dad to be with God. It would never be the same. After six years old, life’s fairy tale glow was gone. I learned that bad things do happen and just because someone wants to be with you forever, doesn’t mean they will. Many people and institutions tried to define me after that…
“Be careful Julia. Girls without dads always go boy crazy when they’re older and get daddy issues.”
“You’ll probably have self-esteem problems.”
“Girls without dads are at a much higher risk for teen pregnancy, low self-esteem, eating disorders…”
“She’ll never have her daddy to tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll never go on daddy-daughter dates…”
I heard these statements growing up from every angle. What happened to my dad’s words? What happened to me being amazing and special and valuable? Why was everything telling me that I was doomed?
As I got older I began to wonder at all these statements. I’d never really felt that insecure. I liked myself. I liked how I looked and the different things I was good at. Sure I had a list of things I’d change, but so did all my other friends with dads. I didn’t think I had “daddy issues” either. My experience with dating had been just like all my other close friends. I’d never done anything I regretted. I was happy without a boy in my life. And I’d always been confident. I loved public speaking and performing. I was good at making friends. And so I began to wonder why these things hadn’t happened to me. My dad was gone and most of my life had been spent without him or any type of father figure at all. Why did these things happen to so many fatherless girls, but not me? This past spring, in a conversation with a spiritual mentor, I got my answer.
When my dad died, most people made it seem like all the affirmation and confirmation my father had given me went with him. But this was incorrect. My father gave me a gift as a child. His actions and words, which were very simple, gave me a confidence that not all daughters are given. And when my dad died, that confidence did not go with him. The gift that he gave me was the ability to access a confidence whenever possible. When I doubt myself I can say, “daddy knows I can do it”. And I believe it. Because he chose me as his fishing buddy just for me and not because of skill, he showed me my worth and gave me the confidence I still have today. Because he encouraged me to try a task that would be nearly impossible in trying to carry the bucket, he gave me the gift of not being afraid of tough things, and the ability to go forward with confidence. He may not be here physically, but I understand what people mean when they say “here in spirit”. He’s cheering me on all the time.
Dads, your words and belief in your daughter can change her life. The smallest seed can grow into the largest bloom of confidence, self-esteem, or recognition of self-value. Daughters, if you’re like me and your father is gone, don’t forget that his words don’t have to go with him. You can still access that praise, and understand your value whenever you need to. Although I only spent six years with my dad, I don’t see myself as unlucky. I got to spend six years with the greatest man who ever walked on the planet, and that makes me very blessed. As much as he is a beautiful part of my past, my dad is an even more grand part of my eternal future, and when I’m all done making something amazing out of myself and my life here on Earth, I’ll get to go and tell him all about it.
Julia Bracewell is 18 years old and currently lives in Essex, Ontario with her wonderful mother and two big brothers. She is very passionate about music, literature and adventuring new places. In the fall she will be attending Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario for Business in International Development with a minor in Music. After that she hopes to work abroad employing women and children who have been involved in the sex trade. She hopes to one day make it to the New York Times Bestseller list and buy her mom a fancy jet plane so she can travel the world.