A generation of giants and rock stars

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Betty Findley and her two sons, Bill and Dave, at Betty’s 100th birthday party. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I stood in the background with my camera capturing the unfolding, tender moments. I did so out of appreciation and gratitude for this gracious, gregarious family.

I had known Betty Findley and her late husband, Bud, for a long time. We lived just blocks away from one another when we were all much younger. Now here we were celebrating her 100th birthday in a different place and century.

Her son, Dave, shared a timeline of his mother’s life with the assembled friends and family. It was ironic that her birth came as World War I, the war to end all wars, began.

If ever there was a peaceable woman, it was Betty. She loved her family, community and church, and expressed that love in faithful graciousness. Betty was and is equally loved and respected in return.

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Maren, left, and her two brothers came 350 miles to celebrate with Betty. Quinn and Elise, two of Betty’s great grandchildren, joined in the fun. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
When our granddaughter heard that our friend was turning 100-years old, Maren asked my wife if Betty was a giant. Her four-year-old logic reckoned that the older you get, the bigger you become physically.

There is a kernel of metaphoric truth in that innocent comparison. If you hit your 100th birthday, you most certainly are a giant. Not too many people live that long and get to see the world change the way Betty has.

In reality, age has a way of humbling you physically. Notwithstanding, Betty may not be a Goliath in stature, but she sure has been by nature. Her son tearfully ticked off her fruitful lifelong achievements.

Betty canned and baked and sewed, and was a favorite room mother in my elementary school days. She made the best heart-shaped sugar cookies a kid could conjure.

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Surrounded by family, Betty readied to blow out the birthday candles. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
Betty does exhibit one minor flaw, however. She has always been a faithful follower of the Cleveland Indians, and still watches them on television.

The morning of Betty’s birthday bash, I heard another shocking descriptor. The speaker at church called Paul Roth, another senior citizen friend, a rock star. Everyone in attendance chuckled, but nodded their heads in agreement. I think modest Paul enjoyed the flattering hyperbole, too.

The speaker said her two sons referred to him that way out of admiration and reverence. After all, he was the doctor who brought them into the world and treated them for childhood illnesses and bumps and bruises. It was most appropriate that this kind, humble country doctor be elevated to Mick Jagger status.

I concurred with that assessment. Dr. Roth, as he was most commonly addressed, had brought our daughter and son into the world as well. He treated patients of all ages kindly and compassionately, even making house calls. He usually charged less than he should have, too.

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Paul Roth shared with a friend at his church. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
He was the consummate small town doctor. In his many years of service to the community, Paul, too, was and is a gentle giant.

Our granddaughter’s literal pronouncement spoke volumes. Persons born early in the 20th Century have experienced major transformations in their lifetime, the wars, the Great Depression, the herculean jumps in communications and transportation, the advances in medicine, and so much more.

To honor these two titans is to also celebrate all other productive individuals of what Tom Brokaw has labeled “The Greatest Generation.” Their work ethic, devotion to family, friends, community and country set the solid foundation for society to advance, as it never had before.

I bet you know genuine giants and rock stars, too. Let’s celebrate their magnanimous contributions to the world while we can.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

Food and photographs create great conversations

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A typical late summer scene in eastern Holmes County, Ohio. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Recently, I had the privilege of sharing with two different senior groups. They had asked to see a few of the many photographs I had taken.

Most of the shots I shared were captured within 10 miles of our home. I wanted to show that, though travel to exotic locales is nice, we don’t have to go far to see the real beauty in any season. That may be true no matter where you live.

I think I was preaching to the choir. Most in attendance were seasoned citizens of the kingdom, people who had lived through hard times, much more difficult than whatever the Great Recession has thrown our way.

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A Baltimore Oriole and a Red-headed Woodpecker shared opposite sides of the same backyard feeder. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
You could see the joy in their eyes, hear the love of life in their queries and comments, and sense their genial concern and caring for all creation. These were good folks for sure.

Colorful landscapes dotted with farm animals and farmhouses predominated the slideshow. I threw in some family photos and shots of birds that frequent my backyard feeders for a change of pace.

I have to confess that I did it for effect, too. The close-ups of Eastern Bluebirds sipping at the partially frozen waterfalls of my garden pond, and the shocking size of the Pileated Woodpeckers that frequent the suet feeders created a few muffled sidebars.

The presentations were dominated by slides of our lovely rural geography. Some of the same scenes were shown during different seasons. An Amish farmstead was featured in winter and summer from the same vantage point.

The photograph that meant the most to me wasn’t a beautiful bird or a lovely landscape. It was the shot of my late parents at their 65th wedding celebration. It perfectly summed up my parents in one click of the camera shutter.

Dad wore a suit and tie, his usual attire for any formal social gathering, be it a family Christmas dinner or an anniversary remembrance like this occasion. An outdoorsman through and through, his pheasant patterned tie reflected his life’s priorities.

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Mom was elegantly natural in her pose, too. Her eyes beamed what she longed to say but could not due to her advancing Alzheimer’s disease. She had long before expressed her appreciation for being in the world through her lovely landscapes and her abundant patience and compassion as a mother, wife, and artist.

I was sure to credit my folks for my passion to see things creatively and appreciatively. Dad gave me the love of nature, and Mom the ability to see it through an artistic perspective.

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Female Pileated Woodpecker. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
I never could paint the way Mom did, though she tried to teach me once. After several attempts, Mom kindly suggested I stick with writing and photography. And so I have.

I recognize that there are far better writers and photographers than me. Still, I am passionate about both, enjoying the attentiveness and inquisitiveness of people like these marvelous seniors.

My guess is their values and perspectives closely matched those of my folks. Familiar with several people in both audiences, I know they have and continue to share their gifts in their family, church and community.

These gathered folks formed their lives around the old adage, “It’s better to give than receive.” They gave me an opportunity to share, and graciously tolerated my lame attempts at humor during my presentation.

In both settings, these generous folks extended their warm hospitality around food. Food and friendship generate the best conversations.

That was genuine sharing, no camera needed.

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The view in fall from our backyard. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

A good day made better

Sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

The dawn broke cloudy with a promise of needed sunshine. Compared to the previous gloomy day of overcast skies, gusty winds and chilly rains, the sun, even just peeks of it, would be more than welcome. It didn’t disappoint.

Blue sky by Bruce StambaughBy mid-morning, the layered blanket of grayness drifted east. Stray cumulous clouds took turns hiding the sun, until they tired of the senseless game. By noon, the wonderful warming sun had the entire blue sky all to itself.

By that point, I had already embarked on my dedicated plan for the day. Having been holed up for several days due to illness, I was ready to get out and about. I headed to one of my favorite places, the retirement community where I used to work and where my folks and my wife’s parents used to live.

I needed to visit with an elderly friend from church. Fannie’s welcoming smile always makes me feel right at home. This day was no exception. I enjoyed the comfort of her old wooden rocker while she chatted away.

Of course I had to hassle the office staff with whom I used to commiserate for five years. Aides, nurses, therapists, and other staff members greeted me as well. The place and people were as gracious as ever.

While there, I decided to check on several other residents I knew. All are old enough to be my parents. Each one always asks how I am doing, and I always respond, “Pretty good for an old guy.” They laugh, refute my declaration, and assure me that I’m still a young man.

I don’t always feel that way. But with every visit there, I come away feeling blessed and motivated. It seems an oxymoron to be renewed at a retirement center. But it’s not by any measure.

I see people I have known all of my adult life, some since I was a child. Despite their various ills and infirmities, I still envision each just as I knew them in earlier days.

One room school by Bruce Stambaugh

There was Betty, my favorite homeroom mother in elementary school; Eileen, the most pleasant of cooks at the school where I taught; Ethel, a model of encouragement for many, and Frances, who radiates sunshine on the gloomiest of days.

Fred, the retired minister, filled me in on his trip to Virginia, hardly missing a detail. His 91-year-old mind was sharp, his eyes bright as he recalled his reunion with friends, brothers, children and grandchildren.

There are others to be sure. Each has captivating stories to tell, yet they sincerely want to know how I am doing, and my wife, too. I always answer that question by saying with a twinkle and a smile, “She’s as mean as ever.”

My senior friends laugh and scold me in the same sentence, proving that they indeed are still deserving of my respect and honor. It heartens me to see and hear them laugh as if they were 40 and not 90. They ooze wisdom.

As they settled in for their lunch, I headed for the car. The dominating sun had warmed the once chilled fall air. It was a beautiful day, made more so by the lovely and loving folks who call me “young man.”

The day had promised to be a good one. My mature friends made it even nicer than the amiable weather.

Buggy on fall day by Bruce Stambaugh

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Weatherwax lends a helping hand

By Bruce Stambaugh

Jill Weatherwax, 59, of Glenmont, Ohio likes to lend a helping hand whenever she can.

Weatherwax, who by day works at Rice-Chadwick Rubber Company in Killbuck, spends several evenings each month helping others feel better. She provides reflexology treatments for residents at area retirement and nursing homes.

Weatherwax has been offering her services to seniors for a dozen years now. In fact, she specifically focuses on the elderly for a personal reason.

“I got into this because I missed my grandparents, Bob and Sally Allison,” the petite woman said. “I felt a void without them around.”

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Jill Weatherwax provided reflexology treatments for Esther Miller, a resident of Walnut Hills Retirement Home in Walnut Creek, Ohio.

Weatherwax has easily filled the void all these years with her gentle touches. She is careful to differentiate what she does from that of massage therapy.

Reflexology is considered a complementary touch therapy. Weatherwax gently, but firmly, works with the hands and feet of senior residents at Majora Lane Nursing Home, Sycamore Run Nursing Home, both in Millersburg, and Walnut Hills Retirement Home, Walnut Creek.

Residents who receive her treatments report relief from pain, stiffness, and other maladies.

“I like it because I can sleep better,” Esther Miller said. Miller is a resident at Walnut Hills Retirement Home and said she looks forward to the helpful visits by Weatherwax.

Weatherwax said it is not unusual for residents to report such extended advantages to the reflexology treatments.

“Relaxing the hands and feet improves the circulation,” she said. “Consequently, the entire body is relaxed, which is why some people report being able to sleep better.”

Her visits, which are paid for by the facilities and offered to the residents free of charge, are regularly scheduled at each location. She said she visits Majora Lane twice a week, Sycamore Lane weekly, and Walnut Hills every other week. And she does so after completing her daytime shift at Rice-Chadwick, where she has worked for 33 years.

“I am on my feet for eight-hours a day,” Weatherwax said. “So I know how important taking care of your hands and feet is.”

Weatherwax, who is certified to offer the reflexology services, said that before she works on residents, she gives the facilities’ administrators the opportunity to experience her treatments. That way they know exactly what is happening when she is there, she said.

“After my grandparents passed on, I asked God to do something to help me fill the void,” she said. After the third time of having her own hands and feet treated by a reflexology therapist, she realized she could provide the same services.

She said she knew such services were not offered in the area. “People don’t want to handle other people’s feet,” she said. “But I feel called to do it.”

According to the Farber Family Foundation, reflexology is a unique method of using the thumb and fingers on reflex areas in the feet and hands that correspond to all of the glands, organs and part of the body to elicit areas of potential or actual disorder. Pressure applied to the reflex points promotes better blood flow and nerve impulses, along with other physiological benefits.

Weatherwax began at Majora Lane, and then reached out to the other retirement centers. She actually finds the sessions therapeutic herself.

“The therapy works both ways,” Weatherwax said. “I get to listen to them while I work on their hands and feet, and they get to listen to me.”

“You need to be in tune with the person you are working with,” she said. “You have to be compassionate for each situation. If not, you are going to hurt them.”

Weatherwax’s gentle touch, soft-spoken approach and years of experience help provide positive results for many area seniors. That’s what helping hands are meant to do.

This article first appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, Ohio, August 2, 2010.