In memory of a beautiful mother

Mom with painting by Bruce Stambaugh
My mother, Marian Stambaugh, with her award-winning painting with the mauve matting, “River Run.” It was painted from a scene near Burnsville, NC.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My mother was a beautiful woman in so many ways.

Mom was a pretty woman to be sure. Yet her graciousness and her colorful paintings revealed her artistic inner beauty. She also modestly disclosed her creativity through her color-coordinated attire.

Mom at 90 by Bruce Stambaugh
Marian Stambaugh just after she turned 90 in June 2011.
Mom died peacefully in her sleep on April 23 after a lengthy trial with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 90.

Though she had lost much of her recall of all things past, Mom still knew who her five children were. She couldn’t always call us by name, but she recognized us. She also lit up when old friends stopped for a visit. Conversation for her, however, was difficult.

My brothers, sisters and I found it intriguing that Mom maintained her pleasant personality throughout her journey with Alzheimer’s. The staff all loved her at both the retirement home, where she lived with Dad before he died in December 2009, and at the nursing home where Mom spent her last year.

Mom was a model resident. She was polite, gracious, kind and asked for little. She didn’t wander, was not a bother to anyone, and maintained her politeness despite her dementia.

In her last days, she had pain, but because of her diminished language skills, was unable to articulate where she hurt. The staff and family could only guess.

At the calling hours and during the funeral, the same descriptive word kept being repeated to define our mother. Beauty. Mom radiated beauty not only in her looks, but in the humble and generous way she lived her life. She was the kind of mother everyone wished for. We were very, very fortunate to have her for so long.

Dad was always very proud of Mom, perhaps even to the point of being a bit overprotective. Early in their marriage, Dad took Mom to a company party. When his male coworkers saw her for the first time, they feigned shock that Dad had such a beautiful wife. They even teased Dad that his wife must have been mad at herself the day they married.
Painting 1 by Bruce Stambaugh
As the preacher at her funeral said, Mom never drew attention to herself. She just drew, and painted. Even when she won awards for her lovely landscapes, Mom would respectfully accept the award, and often declare that some other artist should have won.

Mom also showed her beauty in how she raised her five children in the tumultuous post-World War II era. We had rules to follow, simple household chores to do, and if we didn’t quite respect what should have been done, she judiciously administered a discipline that was appropriate for our age and the offense. She was as fair as she was attractive.

It wasn’t easy to rear five energetic and individualistic children. Since she was a stay-at-home mother, Mom carried the primary responsibility of keeping us clothed, fed, nurtured and behaved. She could have written a book on parenting. Given the beauty of her personality, she probably would have used a pseudonym if she had.
Painting 2 by Bruce Stambaugh
Mom was a wonderful woman, and we will never forget her kindness, gentleness and most of all the exquisiteness she naturally shared in this world through her paintings and her authentic living.

At the funeral, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace about our wonderful mother. It was as if Mom’s gracious, artistic spirit had permeated the service in one last beautiful brush stroke for all to behold.
Painting 3 by Bruce Stambaugh

Painting 4 by Bruce Stambaugh

Painting 5 by Bruce Stambaugh
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Enjoying the beauty of the first snow

Snowy lane by Bruce Stambaugh
The first snow of the season decorated the long, steep lane to the cottage.

By Bruce Stambaugh

We awoke on the first Saturday of November to a skiff of snow on the roofs, grassy areas and glued to the trees. The driveway and the road in front of our house were just wet.

Since the temperature hovered right at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, I figured we probably had had more than the dusting that remained. Not one to quibble with the weather, I simply inhaled the beauty as a drab dawn broke.

My wife and I were ready to head for our cottage for a post-election weekend retreat with some friends. After the tiresome multimedia blasts of campaign negativity, we needed a quiet place, and the cottage was it.

Just a few minutes down the road, we caught up to the menacingly low clouds that were still spitting snow. During the 75-minute trip, we were amazed at just how spotty the snow was. We drove in and out of the white stuff several times.

In some places, the snow was two or three inches deep. In most, the ground was bare. The snow had fallen in various depths in a long, narrow band stretching northwest to southeast from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.

When we pulled onto the long steep lane that leads to our cottage, an inch of fresh, fluffy snow welcomed us. Initially the lane goes uphill. At the summit, the road dives into the woods, and quickly curves right, down a steep, straight slope.

Just as I began the decline, the car stopped out of respect. It couldn’t crush the beauty before us, not at least until I had taken some pictures of the virgin snow.

The limestone on the lane must have been warm enough to melt the snow on impact. Everyplace else, the snow stuck undisturbed, beautiful, mesmerizing.

Snowy woods by Bruce Stambaugh
The snow cover made everything appear black and white.

With the concealed sun unable to lessen the early winter grip on the landscape, the panoramic scene seemed basic black and white. The only variation came in the clay colored clouds.

I snapped a few photos and returned to the vehicle. I guided it ever so slowly down the straight slope, around the hard left-hand curve, under slow laden white pine bows, toward the lake that reflected the steely sky.

We made the final zigzag up the lane and into the drive to the cottage. This last leg of the trip adds a faux remoteness to the location. I had brought along a leaf blower to dispense with any remaining natural litter on the cottage deck. I should have tossed in the snow shovel instead.

The combination of the snow and the cabin’s chill called for a fire in the impressive sandstone fireplace. I obediently responded.

Snowy scene by Bruce Stambaugh
The snow created picturesque scenes all around our cottage.

With the fire underway, I cranked up the chain saw and headed out into the morning sharpness. Each time I exhaled my glasses steamed up.

There is something about snow, especially the season’s first, that exhilarates me. I have to plunge headlong into it.

The chain saw, which had not run in months, must have liked the snow, too. It purred right along, and the two of us accomplished our woodcutting goal in less than an hour.

The snow was still in place when our friends arrived late morning. They wore the same smiles as my wife and I. I don’t know if it was the snow, the blazing fire, the setting or the combination there of.

No matter how long you live where it snows, there is just something extra special about that first snowfall. This one was breathtaking.

Roaring fire by Bruce Stambaugh
A warming fire is always welcome on a cold, snowy day.