By Bruce Stambaugh
My father loved life and his family, sometimes with reckless abandon. He seldom realized the latter. Dad chose to express his affection through actions rather than words. He enjoined his family in whatever he enjoyed doing, and Dad had a wide range of interests throughout his long life.
Dad especially had an affinity for all things outdoors. My brothers, sisters and I learned much about nature and sportsmanship. We also learned about safety, although I don’t think that was the primary lesson Dad had in mind.
Dad’s uninhibited fervor occasionally overrode practicality. The tricky tandem of affability and naiveté resulted in some memorable if not scary situations.
Take the time my older brother and I nearly drowned while Dad was supposed to be watching us. I was too young to remember this incident, but I heard the story so often, I can visualize it in my mind. Craig was six. I was two. We lived on a channel that connected two lakes.
My brother and I wandered on to the boat dock behind our house. According to the neighbor, the next thing she heard was plop, plop. When she no longer saw us standing on the dock, she assumed the worst, jumped in the water and pulled us both to safety. I understand our mother gave our father a good going over, and with that fearful incident firmly ingrained in my psyche I never learned to swim.
My first actual memory of my father is less dramatic, although it, too, was problematic. Dad handed me a bottle of soda. That gesture certainly was tame enough. Problem was I was only three and at the time sitting on the ceiling rafters of the house in which I grew up. Dad and my great uncle Elmer built the brick bungalow together. Dad wanted his family to see the progress to date.
There I was a toddler dangling over what was to be the dining room, Dad proudly smiling, handing me a Coca Cola from the floor below. Either they had nailed me to the 2 x 6 or they were overly trusting that I wouldn’t fall.
Sometimes the unsettling consequences weren’t necessarily Dad’s fault. Dad signed up the family for a special all day passenger train excursion from our hometown of Canton, Ohio to Cambridge, Ohio and back, a distance of about 120 miles roundtrip. The only problem was the train’s locomotive had so many mechanical issues we were gone for 24 hours. No food service or sleeping quarters were available on the train. We arrived home at 6 a.m., and once again Mom was not pleased.
On a family outing to Leesville Lake, Dad rented a boat with a capacity of four for a family of seven. Dad thought two kids counted for one adult. The boat patrol officer thought otherwise.
Should I even mention the time Dad left Craig, our cousin and me in a drenching rainstorm 40 miles from home? In honor of Father’s Day, let’s just say that it all worked out in the end. Mom, of course, had the last say.
Certainly not all of our experiences with our gung-ho Dad were harrowing in nature. We had many, many good times together. I do believe that our vicarious adventures with Dad taught my siblings and me to both enjoy life and to do so responsibly.
Dad was a loving, lovable guy who at times simply couldn’t help himself. I am forever grateful for his headlong dives into life.