The morning after asking Mary to marry me I called my older sister to tell her my good news. We said our hellos and then I blurted, “Pat, guess what!” Without waiting for her to respond, I continued, “I’m getting married.” She had to know all about Mary. Somewhere along the line Pat asked, “How long have you known her?”
“That’s awful fast, don’t you think?”
“No, not really,” I retorted. Dad and Mom were already married at six weeks.”
After calling my parents and others the next step was to meet Mary’s dad and step-mother. Mary arranged for us to get together a few days later. We would have dinner together. This is going to be
Byron and Lillian Whited
Mary's Father and Step-Mother
as much fun as going to the dentist, I thought.
The meeting went well — certainly better than I had anticipated. Following the necessary introductions Mary told her father we were getting married. Her dad turned to me and asked, “Can you fish?”
Can I fish? I knew what fish looked like. I had dangled my pole over the pond at Cobbs Hill, a turning basin on the Erie Canal many years ago. I had also cast my line from the half-mile-long pier at Ontario Beach Park. Both of these places were in Rochester, NY many miles and many years away.
Can I fish? To tell the truth, I really didn’t like fishing. I didn’t then and I still don’t. It’s not my idea of fun. I do not find it relaxing. Well, I do like trout fishing. But I didn’t then. I do not like going through the preparations of getting everything ready. And much more distasteful is cleaning up and putting everything away. All those efforts I made and all the energy I expended as a child trying to hook a fish on my line ended up with exactly zero fish being caught.
Can I fish? I knew Mary’s dad loved to fish. She had told me that. Would his liking and approval of me hinge on that one particular question? Can I fish? Could I fudge on my answer?
Can I fish? I knew what a hook was. I knew what a treble hook was. I knew what sinkers were and had even made some. I even knew how to tie the necessary knots. But fish? Oh, yes, I could fish. On one occasion I had helped some young children catch whitefish on a safety pin. We pulled six in in rapid succession from the oily waters of the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. But isn’t that like saying I can play the trumpet because I played one note?
“No, sir,” I finally admitted, “but I can learn.”
“You’ll do,” my future father-in-law intoned. And that was that.