Eighteen years, 10 months and 45 days ago on Oct. 9, 1989, my life changed tremendously — only for the better.
Early that morning, I vividly remember standing next to my wife, Lori, in the delivery room gripping her hand as her contractions and discomfort worsened. For me — certainly not for Lori — time seemed to fly in the delivery room. At 11:47 a.m., he arrived: Michael David Frenette, a tiny little thing that seemed to have a huge smile on his face that he still carries today.
I know that those whom have had children will relate to what I am about to say.
Immediately, I felt this tremendous bond, a feeling that words cannot describe. At that particular point in my life, I had already experienced many, many highs.
I had a great wife that supported me in whatever I did. She stood by me in my career reinforcing my strength to follow my dreams, which at that time was still in the building stages. Even though it was still early in my career (about 12 years) I had already experienced what many may never.
More than 20 Louisiana state records had been caught on my boat, three world records, one of the largest blue marlin ever to be caught in the Gulf of Mexico, a 16-foot beast, estimated at 1,000 pounds or better that was tagged and released but we still have on video, several tournament wins and memories that would last a lifetime.
But none up until that time will ever compare to the moment when Michael was born. I was, as many other fathers have been, a proud daddy. From that moment nothing, absolutely nothing mattered to me more than him.
He was my top priority. I envisioned him taking his first steps, speaking his first words, catching and hitting his first ball, and yes, of course, catching his first fish. All of which I did get to experience.
For his first steps, Lori held his hands high above his head. He giggled, looking right at me. As Lori released her grip, he continued to giggle, then took three awkward, although legitimate, steps toward me, before he collapsed on the floor.
Yes, he was still giggling. Like all fathers, my first thought in the back of my mind was, "Wow, what speed. He may turn into an Olympic sprinter." Well not exactly, as that might have been the fastest he has ever run.
His first word other than mom and dad was ball. He was infatuated with all balls whether it was baseballs, footballs, basketballs, tennis balls, it really did not matter and I was there the first time he sputtered out, "Bbbbbbbaaaaaaaalll".
The first fish that he caught on his own was a 2 1/2-pound bass caught on his Snoopy rod when he was two years old. We were standing on the bank next to my lodge in Venice and he was casting his lure, a 1/4-ounce jig head with a cochahoe tail next to the dock and, wham, it hit.
Next thing I knew, he was on his butt sliding into the water that was only about 10-inches deep. Now don't get nervous as he always wore a life jacket. It was a rule that he always wore it around the lodge when he was outside. But he slipped into the water, scrambled back up the bank and finished the task he began.
He reeled in his first fish that was not helped by someone else. Although you may not have known why, but on July 4, 1991, at around 3 p.m. the world had stopped (just for a minute) as again it was proud ol' Dad taking pictures.
Of course there were many others, such as his first hit and catch in baseball, his first goal in a soccer game, his first extra point and field goal in football, our first tournament win in the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup, our top five finishes in the Cup.
Memories continued to gather as my second son Stephen Anthony Frenette was born on Feb. 2, 1992. The day that he was born, Michael sat in a chair located in the corner of the hospital room cradling his brother and to this day they have been inseparable. They have done everything together and enjoy what I call a special bond. They truly support each other in whatever they do. Lifetime memories continued to pile as these two goofs played and continued to grow together.
Lori and I have always believed that spending time with the boys will be our largest and most important investment in our lives. Coming from a broken home, and an extremely tough childhood I, of all, knew the importance of this.
Even though our business is approximately 80 miles from our home, and with my rigorous schedule, as the boys became older I volunteered my time to coach four sports, just so I could spend time with my boys.
I did it to teach them what hard work, sacrifice, and dedication could reward them with. I also did it to teach them to have fun in whatever they do, to learn how to win, but more importantly to learn more from your failures or losses as they will teach you and guide you to become more successful.
I wanted to teach them to never give up on their dreams, as life at times will seem difficult and trying, and to be honest and work hard as nothing comes easy.
I am not sure I can be any closer to Michael as I am now. I have been with him during trying times — successes as well as failures. I watched him mature from a tiny tot to a young man. He is my buddy, my tournament partner, but mostly he is one of my sons, both of whom I am very proud of. But this is a bittersweet time for me.
This is a very difficult time for me as I delivered him to his next challenge. He started college and it was time to move him to his new place of residence. I say his, as we rented him a small house close to his college, Southeastern University of Louisiana. This was hard for both Lori and me as we knew now life again was changing for both him and us.
Yes, he is 18, but when I am at home, I still hug my boys before they go to bed. I talk to both of them daily, about their activities, school, friends and just plain ol' nothing conversations. I will miss the daily interactions, but I know that this is the next step for him to become a better young man.
He has immediate challenges: Maintaining a strong GPA is first and foremost, he has a football tryout for a kicking position, and an endless amount of new responsibilities.
Well, he was gone for one day and came back to pick up a few more things, but most importantly to give us a gift. A night out to dinner at a very nice restaurant that he has already made the reservations and paid for, but most importantly a card that read as follows:
To Mom and Dad;
"Thank you so much for everything you have done for me. I promise to do my best in college because I know how much you have sacrificed." P.S. Dinner is at 7:00 Friday
Love You Michael
Wow. Don't tell anyone, but it brought tears to my eyes, as he actually took time to think of us during his most exciting times.
I will truly miss one of my best buddies, but on the plus side, I still have two more years with Stephen.
To those that are just beginning parenthood, trust me, be there! Spend as much time as you can, enjoy the moment and record the memories. As it is the truth, time flies and they will be gone before you know it. How true it is!
Capt. Mike Frenette is an Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup angler. For more information, visit his Web site, www.venicefishing.net or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.