By Bruce Stambaugh
Love was a word that my late father used sparingly, unless it was in reference to ice cream. Instead, Dad chose to display his affection, devotion and genuine love for people pragmatically.
That could explain why he was so deeply involved in such a wide range of activities in his long life. His presence was his way of saying he cared.
Dad went at life full throttle, never holding back, even when he probably should have. In the process, Dad didn’t let little things like tact and common sense get in the way of enjoying life.
Dad was like a big, little kid who loved life so much, he was afraid he was going to miss something. He immersed himself in any activity that brought him much joy.
That didn’t mean he was a selfish person. Just the opposite was true. If he liked you, Dad would give you the shirt off of his back, and he often did, even if he couldn’t really afford to. Dad liked a lot of people in his lifetime. When you live to be 89, are gregarious and have a variety of interests, life gives you many friends.
Dad had friends in both high places and skid row. He felt at home with either, and often used his friendships to get where he wanted to go. Dad’s goals weren’t lofty ones. But he saw no shame in networking when he needed to. In fact he knew so many people, he may have invented the practice.
If one of us kids needed a summer job, he would make a few calls and more often than not, we were employed. During my college years, I found gainful employment where Dad worked. I thought I was hired because of my charming personality and abundant skill set. More likely Dad pestered the daylights out of the personnel department, as human relations were called way back then.
That’s the way Dad was. He wouldn’t say he loved you. He just did loving things for you or with you. Dad wasn’t a mushy person, and he never would have been mistaken for a Casanova. He just put his love into action.
Hunting, fishing, arrowhead hunting, family picnics, reunions, traveling, civic and church organizations all attracted Dad like a magnet. Dad chose those activities to express his affections. He seldom did things alone. He lived for outdoor expeditions that involved as many of his buddies, family and friends as possible.
Dad hauled us kids along whenever he could. I never could figure out if it was his way of relieving Mom of some of the domestic duties or if he genuinely wanted us to learn how to find arrowheads or shoot rabbits or explore a buzzard’s nest deep in a cave.
In sorting through Dad’s myriad of items that he had saved, we discovered pictures of family, letters he had sent home from World War II, and much, much more. Dad could never throw anything away because it had a special meaning to him or could possibly be used for something. Problem was, only he knew what.
Weeks after Dad’s death, the family is still receiving notes of condolence. Many of those expressions of sympathy include specific, personal images of my father. Several have said they can still see Dad intently walking their farm fields back and forth scouring for any piece of flint he could find.
This year, those kind remembrances have a special twofold purpose. Besides heartfelt sympathies, they are Dad’s Valentines to us, too.