Monday, April 22, 2024

Memories of Dad

The Western News | June 21, 2022 7:00 AM

When I picture my Dad, he’s walking up the north bank of Beech Run with a small fishing rod in his hand.

I’m not sure why that’s the image I have of him when I think about him, but it is.

We shared many outdoors adventures together, even touring Mount St. Helens, setting and pulling crab pots in the Puget Sound, driving through the Bison Range in the Mission Valley, chasing steelhead trout in Pennsylvania and New York and certainly hunting white-tailed deer on our home lands in the Keystone state.

When he came out to hunt rabbits with everyone, including my beagle, Brandi, it was more of a social event. His back didn’t appreciate standing in one place for several minutes waiting for a rabbit to cruise past him.

So he wandered around to the others, chatting with them about what was going on in their world. But when a rabbit did past near with a pack of crazed, yelping, baying beagles, no one’s smile was broader.

Yep, there are a million good memories, but little Beech Run in Jefferson County is where I see him.

In my never-ending quest to find a new place to fish, hunt or explore, I came across this little stream 30 years ago. It really wasn’t far from where either one of us grew up, but it had escaped our scrutiny for a while.

We enjoyed sneaking along the brush-lined banks, casting a hook baited with meal or wax worms. It was silty in some places and it flowed not far from where some old strip mines were located.

But the stream was in relatively good shape as it coursed through state land and it was well stocked with brook, brown and rainbow trout. When the water levels got low in the summer, we’d even sneak on our hands and knees to make a cast to a trout finning lazily in the clear water.

Beech Run didn’t receive a lot of pressure, so we left there frequently with some fish to be coated in sour cream and onion chips and baked.

My dad died nearly three years ago of a heart attack. It was his second. The first occurred while he was recovering from knee replacement surgery in a nursing home, also in Jefferson County. He was there because his wife, my mother, was there battling dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The internal bleeding that caused his near-fatal attack was, we believe, due to stomach ulcers he developed caring for Mom. We, my brother and I, were lucky he was in the home where help was quick at hand, or he wouldn’t have survived the first one.

Even after all that he went through, Dad was still the one holding us up when Mom died a little more than a year later on Thanksgiving weekend. I can’t imagine what we would have done if he wasn’t there when she passed.

My brother and I were both grown men in our 40s with careers, my brother married, but I can’t imagine negotiating her passing without him.

I consider myself to be unbelievably lucky to have had him as a father and mentor. I have a high regard for those who have succeeded as husbands and fathers but did not have such a caring, thoughtful, giving and strong person gently guiding them through life’s twists and turns.

The morning he died, he has just paid a neighbor for cutting the grass. When my brother arrived to pick him up an hour or so later, he found Dad on the kitchen floor. They had an appointment with someone to see about Dad living elsewhere.

He had struggled, more than I realized, after I moved here. My brother, Todd, was rightfully concerned about him, but Dad was not having any talk of leaving the home he had lived in for 44 years.

When I went home for the services, neighbors told me he had been speaking frequently of missing Mom and wanting to go Home.

And so he did.

Scott Shindledecker is the editor of the Western News