The lake was exactly the way Byron remembered it. Five A.M. was early for Byron. He couldn’t recall the last time he had been up this early, definitely not in the past decade. He had stared at the alarm clock, daring it to continue it’s blaring, hoping that it was incorrect about the time and that he could return to sleep. But now that he saw the fog slowly clearly as he and his father quietly sat in his father's small row boat, casting out into the perfectly placid water he was grateful to be up.
The sun crested over the horizon as Byron realized it had been far too long since he had found himself so busily doing nothing. After Julie had asked for a divorce, he quickly cleared his calendar and decided to get away. He didn’t care where, just away. Without knowing where else to go he ultimately decided on home and called his Dad.
“Dad, can I come visit. Maybe, for a few days...maybe a week.”
Even if Byron’s voice hadn't been trembling and on the verge of tears his Father's answer would have been the same. “I can’t wait to see you. You tell me when and I’ll be at the airport. I could use a break also, perhaps fishing?”
And that is exactly how it went, and here they were doing their favorite father, son activity.
The thing that made fishing so popular for both Byron and his Dad was that it didn’t require talking. Byron loved that his dad was never pushing him to say what was going on in his life. In high school his friends said that trips with their fathers were excuses for an inquisition, how’s school? Who’s your best friend? What’s your favorite class? Like any girls? But Byron’s Dad never pushed. Byron enjoyed that in his youth but now he wished his Dad would make an exception now.
Byron didn’t want to admit it, but he needed to talk. After an hour in silence he realized that if he needed conversation it would be incumbent on him to take the lead. “Dad, um… there are some things I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Okay, Byron. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Dad, did you ever have any tough times with Mom?”
“Sure, everyone has tough times. No marriage is perfect.”
“Well, things are definitely not perfect with Julie and I.” Byron waited for the follow up question, but it never came. Dad was not one to pry any further than he was offered. So, Byron finally said, “She wants a divorce.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” He slowly reeled in his line, pulled it up to see that there was still some bait and then made a gentle cast out into the perfect stillness. “Do you want a divorce?”
“No, not really. In fact, I really had planned on telling her that I loved her when she asked for a divorce,” Byron said.
“You have been married for a while now, haven’t you told her that you love her before.”
“No I haven’t.” Byron decided it was time to fill his father in on some of the complexities of his marriage. And an hour later, Byron’s dad was more or less up to speed. He knew about how they had met, why they had married, their recent mechanical dating and even about good old Charles.
“So, did you date her only because your father-in-law asked or did you enjoy the time with her?”
“Like I said, I planned to tell her I loved her, and I do. I love her, I love spending time with her. But I feel like I can’t stop her from having a chance to date someone else, if she really wants to. What can I do?” Byron asked.
“Son, there is something I think you should know. Something I think your mother would want you to know.” Byron’s heart was as still as the water in front of him. The tone was something he had never heard before, and he could sense that it was important. “When you were a senior in college your mother had an affair.”
“She had gone to work full-time after you left for college and found herself regularly traveling with her boss for work.”
“Was that why she quit that Law Firm.”
“Yes, after the affair she felt guilty, quit her job and came to me on bended knee, begging for forgiveness.” He reeled in his line, picked his pool out of the water, set it down in the boat and turned to Byron. “I didn’t want to forgive her. The truth was, I was bitter, and unwilling to face the truth. The truth that I for years took her for granted, ignored her needs, and her dreams. I knew the affair was as much my fault as hers, but it was easier to blame, and embrace my bitterness. I knew everyone would be on my side, all I would have to say was, ‘she cheated’, and everyone would understand. So, I began working with an attorney on the divorce. He had dropped papers off at my office for me to take home and sign. I walked in one night with those papers in my hand. Your mother had no idea.
“I had a chip on my shoulder bigger than me. And I hadn’t been in the house five minutes before I was upset and arguing. She had been out all day at interviews and looking for a job so hadn’t gotten to dinner. I had just said, and it’s hard for me to admit it, but I said, ‘at least at the last job when you didn’t have time to make dinner you helped pay for it, even if you were sleeping with your boss.’
“That is when the phone rang. Your mother let it ring a few times as she tried to cover the tears. She answered and I could tell it was you. I started to head to my study, since I assumed you wanted to talk to her. I was surprised when she stopped me and said you wanted to talk to me, it was the first time that I recall you calling and asking for me, when it wasn’t my birthday.
“ ‘Dad.’ you said, ‘I have decided what I want to be.’ You were so excited, that I couldn’t even bring myself to say, ‘Couldn’t you figure this out before your senior year in College.’ So, I simply asked you, ‘what?’, and you said, ‘marriage counselor.’
Of all the things you could have said at that moment you said, ‘marriage counselor.’
“ ‘Why son?’ I asked. I don’t know if you remember what you said, but I will never forget it. You said. ‘Because of you, Dad. Because of you and Mom. I know your marriage isn’t perfect but you work it out. Through good and bad, you work it out. I want to give people what you have. So many people give up so quickly on their marriage. I want to give them what you have.’ Those words. ‘I want to give them what you have.’ You probably didn’t repeat it ten times but that is how many times I heard it. It kept going over and over in my head. My son was basing the career for the rest of his life to give people what I had. And what did I have? An unfaithful wife, a broken marriage, anger, and resentment. I felt that I had nothing.
“Yet you thought I had something to share with the world, something worth saving. There was a huge divide between what I thought I had and what you thought I had. ‘If only he knew, really understood,’ I thought. I stayed up late into the night debating calling you, to let you know that if you planned to spend your life giving people what I had, that you were going to waste your career. To let you know that your mother and I were over, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was somewhere between praying and yelling at God when I muttered, ‘do I have anything worth saving?’ and I heard a voice. I don’t think it was an angel or anything but a voice said so clearly in my head, ‘yes’. ‘Your son is right. You do have something worth saving.’
“I wept more than I had in years and began to realize for the first time, so many things I had been blind to. I knelt down and asked God to help me see what you and He saw in my marriage. I cried, I prayed, and at some point during that restless night, I took the papers I had brought home and burned them. It wasn’t easy, but from that moment I began to build the trust, forgiveness and love that I had spent years tearing down.
“The night your mother lay dying in the hospital. I remember looking over at her so grateful for that night. So grateful for your career and what you were doing. You had saved me from wrecking my life, and had given me years of joy that I would not trade for every cent I ever had. I have always been proud of you son, and particularly because you are doing the most important things any human being can do, saving the most precious thing this world has to offer, family.
“Now I know that you and Julie are not exactly your typical family. But honestly, in that regard you are like everyone else.”
Byron laughed as he wiped his nose and eyes, “What is that supposed to mean?”
“All I mean is, no one is typical. All our families are weird and unique. But what is important is they are ours. And what you taught me is no matter how far gone you think they may be, no matter how much you think you don’t have something worth saving, you have more than you realize. At least, I am so thankful that a young, want to be marriage counselor helped me decide to realize and save what I had. And I think, no matter what happens you will always regret it if you don’t try to save what you have.”
Byron allowed the moment, thoughts and words to all set in. “Dad, do you mind if we call it a day, and I get a ride to the airport. I think I better get home.”
The engine was started before Byron could finish, “Eye-eye captain.” his Dad said as they headed for shore.