Carson’s first fish will go down as a sting ray.
For the last three years or so, Beckett and I have fished with the Ocean City Guide Service each summer. We started with a couple two-hour trips followed by longer four-hour jaunts.
With Carson’s behavior and overall temperament at their best levels ever recently, Pam and I decided to make it a family trip this summer. I’m so glad we did.
There was a time when taking Carson on a four-hour fishing trip would have not even been considered, but our confidence in him has grown immensely. While we still live by the golden rule with our special needs son – “expect the unexpected” – his social growth over the last year has been amazing to watch.
During our fishing trip Saturday, he did not disappoint. In a private moment before we left the house, Beckett asked me if I was sure taking Carson was the right move. I told him not to worry he will get to catch a lot of fish, thinking he was being selfish and wanting to reel in all the fish like he had previously. He said it wasn’t that. He was worried he was going to get bored and cause us to have to end our trip early with restlessness and bad behavior. I assured him if things weren’t going well that his mom and I would handle it. We wouldn’t let it ruin the trip.
I reminded Beckett not to underestimate Carson. Each of us in our family tend to think Carson will under-
whelm when the reality is he is amazing. We have all learned so much from him. He has taught us patience and awareness of people with differences. He consistently demonstrates understanding and maturity, continuing to thrive more and more with time. It’s exciting to see these changes. Each of us have our own personal scars from Carson, but we each reason to be incredibly impressed by his growth.
Therefore, I was not the least bit concerned about taking Carson fishing. I was confident he would not act up if he got bored or make things difficult for us. The difference in the Carson of today and the Carson of years ago is I think Pam and I, and Beckett to a degree too, are equipped to stave off any issues through being attentive and aware of situations before they become a problem.
The great thing was Carson did not give us any reason to worry. If he got bored during lull times, he didn’t show it. He loved the movement of the boat and all sights and sounds.
Though we had all agreed Carson would get to bring in the first fish of the day, it just so happened Beckett was at the stern of the boat when the mate handed him the rod. Carson seemed fine with it, content watching his brother instead. We knew almost immediately there was a sting ray on the line. Beckett faded after a few minutes of hard fighting. The reel sp-
inning out of control as the fish took off was demoralizing to him. Needing a break, he called Carson over who gave it all he could for a bit before signaling in his non-verbal way for me to come take over for him. It did my self-confidence good as he made a muscle and pulled my T-shirt sleeve up to show my guns. After far too long of a fight, the ray was eventually brought to the boat and released with some tackle as a sou-
After Beckett boated and released a ray of his own, Carson was up next. We all agreed we wanted to let him do it on his own. Captain John and mate Riley recommended he leave the rod in the holder and just focus on reeling it in. He stayed with it and got the ray to the boat. We were able to get a picture of him smiling with the ray in the water. It wasn’t a keeper for dinner, but it still goes down as his first fish and a heck of a memory for all of us. A few minutes later, Pam followed up with yet another ray. It would turn out to be a day full of rays.
During one of our drifts in the Inlet came probably the highlight of the day for Carson. Pam caught a puffer fish, which blows up like a ball as a defense mechanism. With action light on the bow, I told Carson to go back and check it out. The little fish quadrupled in size once on the boat. After Carson touched and examined it, Captain John bounced the fish like a basketball, tickling Carson’s funny bone. He’s always up for a little goofball session.
When it was time to release the puffer fish, something didn’t seem right. It didn’t swim off when it hit the water. It just floated for a minute until a few pokes – each a little more forceful – sent him on his way back under.
The action was solid throughout our trip with several undersized flounder releases, but we did end up shutout of the keeper fish department. We were taking home dinner off the boat. It didn’t really matter. We hit the nearby Shrimp Boat for some seafood carryout.
Next up for Beckett is a deep sea fishing trip. When I ran through what that would entail for Carson later that night, he needed some time to think about it. He seemed to know his limits, but we have underestimated him in the past and felt foolish. For now, he seems content inshore fishing, but we will see.
(The writer is the publisher and editor of The Dispatch. He and his wife, Pamela, are proud parents of two boys. This weekly column examines their transition into parenthood and all that goes along with it. E-mail any thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.)