By Bruce Stambaugh
My late father and late father-in-law were clearly different men. But they had a lot in common, too.
Both my father and my father-in-law, Wayne, were genuinely friendly to everyone they met. They each set an example on how to interact and connect with others.Dad was lanky and gregarious. Though skinny as well, Wayne was of average height. Dad was a Type A talker. Wayne was more laid back, but could easily carry his own in any conversation.
That was especially true when it came to sports. Both men were like little kids if baseball, football or basketball were the topics of conversation. They had a love-hate relationship with all teams Cleveland.
They didn’t just talk athletics either. Dad played three sports in high school and perused his enthusiasm for games well into adulthood. Wayne bowled and played church league softball.
Both found those activities as a means to an end. They got to play, and they thrived on the conversational interplay before, during and after the games.
Of all their commonalities, friendliness was at the top of the list for both Dad and Wayne. In fact, they became good friends, in part because they knew many of the same people.Wayne was a farmer, and Dad loved farms, but for different reasons. Farming was Wayne’s livelihood. Dad made friends with farmers near and far because he liked to hunt and fish. He also found their various stories fascinating.
Wayne and Dad got along famously. In fact, once Neva and I set our wedding date, both men started to invite folks to the ceremony that knew both families. Unfortunately, some of those people weren’t on our invitation list. Is it any wonder we had 400 guests?
I learned early on that Dad liked to meet new people. He’d take us kids along on his excursions exploring farms all over eastern Ohio.After he retired and stumbled onto the hobby of Indian artifact collecting, Dad’s interests in farms had a new twist. Again, Dad’s high-spirited enthusiasm carried over to his children and grandchildren, who he coaxed into accompanying him on his relic gleaning excursions. It was his version of hands on lessons in history, geography, and conversation.
I knew Wayne liked me right away. On my first visit to the Miller farm, he took me straight to the barn to see the pigs. My wife said it normally took other guys two or three visits. I was honored, and our relationship blossomed from there. He treated his other son-in-law with equal love and respect.Dad would use the arrowhead hunting excuse to visit Wayne and Esther’s farm, along with neighboring fields. Their real friendship was just part of the formula that successfully melded our two families together.
Even in death, Wayne and Dad connected. Wayne died on Dec. 22, 2001. Dad died on Dec. 21 eight years later.
It is no wonder that even today people that knew Dad and Wayne describe them both with the same fondness. They use similar complimentary terms to reflect on each man. Both were sociable people, easy to like and admire, they say.
Of course, both Wayne and Dad were human. They each expressed themselves in less than articulate ways at times. But to those who knew them, or maybe only once met either of them, the conclusion was the same.
People remember the genuine congeniality of both Dad and Wayne. That’s a legacy we’d all like to leave.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2015