Sometimes my grown children still surprise me. Please keep in mind that my kids are step-kids, so they missed a great deal of time with my family because they were with their mom every holiday and weekend. They never seemed upset by their lack of time with my family. That’s why I was surprised to receive a text from my stepdaughter last weekend asking for my dad’s full name.
Dad passed away in 2009 when the kids were still young. His death was sudden and devastating for my family. While I’ve told stories about him from time to time, neither one of my kids has ever asked me about him out of the blue.
I gave my girl his full name and asked why she wanted to know. She then proceeded to make me cry. She had been telling her boyfriend about Dad and was trying to find his obituary. I explained that I have it on a flash drive because I wrote it, but she could also look on the funeral home’s website and probably find it faster. After all, that flash drive is 14 years old and most likely in the back of my desk drawer.
She texted me a few minutes later telling me she found Dad’s obituary and was curious about some things. I started telling her things she probably didn’t know such as that in addition to being a truck driver, Dad had worked in a few factories, my elementary school, a used car lot as a salesman, and drove an armored car, which was his favorite job.
She told me she thought he had been a truck driver his entire adult life. Then I told her how he was a volunteer firefighter for many years, achieved Missouri State Farmer when he was in high school, and was the most talented, mechanically inclined person I’ve ever known. There was very little I could break that he couldn’t fix.
My conversation with my stepdaughter made me really miss Dad. Therefore, I’m sharing a little memoir about a time we went to the woods with you today.
A Creek, My Dad, and Me
By Margarite Stever
My dad loved many things, but being outside was really close to the top of the list. It didn’t matter if he was mowing a field, planting trees, fishing for catfish, or hunting for deer. He just loved being in the great outdoors.
After his heart surgery several years ago, he decided that if he was supposed to walk around for exercise, he could do it just as well in the woods as he could on the treadmill. So, one day while I was visiting, we decided to go and get some heart healthy exercise. I didn’t know that day would become one of my most cherished memories.
We hopped in Dad’s truck and set out for our adventure. It was November. Winter hadn’t hit yet, but the weather was brisk. We were bundled up appropriately and only planned to stay for an hour or so, so we wouldn’t catch a chill. We checked on the pecan and walnut trees that we had lovingly planted to make sure they were healthy. We took a few minutes to just enjoy the fall colors and the songs of late migrating birds.
We found several animal tracks. The animals had been active in the preceding days due to the relatively mild temperatures. We found tracks for raccoons, deer, rabbits, bobcats, and even some squirrels. Tracking was one of the skills that Dad had insisted on teaching me when I was a child. He told me, “You should always be aware of what animals may be nearby. It’s best to avoid some of them. You sure don’t want to mess with a bobcat.”
We were having a very pleasant afternoon until Dad decided that he wanted to check the field across the creek. The creek is only a few yards across and usually not very deep. However, we’d been experiencing a great deal of rain, which made the water fairly deep and swift. Dad, being a sure-footed country boy, hopped across the creek using some large rocks as stepping stones. He crossed quickly and without incident.
I am not the most graceful person in the world, and I have very short legs. I tried to follow Dad, anyway. I hopped on one rock and then another. A few feet from the creek bank, I hopped on a moss covered rock that was extremely slippery. I could feel myself slipping off the rock, so I flapped my arms frantically fighting for balance. I fell into the icy water with a big splash and landed flat on my butt.
My jacket absorbed the water like a thirsty elephant, and within seconds it weighed a good thirty pounds. A look of abject horror crossed Dad’s face until I finally stood up in the creek and told him that I felt like a water buffalo. He laughed so hard that I was afraid he might hurt himself. He laughed the entire time I fought my way to the bank and out of the water.
We took a quick hike around the far field that Dad was so keen on checking, and then found a narrower place to cross the creek on the way back to the truck. To Dad’s credit, he turned the heater on full force and pointed all of the vents at me. He loaned me a pair of his sweat pants when we got back to his house, so I could be a little more comfortable while my jeans and jacket were in the washer losing a healthy amount of creek mud.
Dad had the best time telling my husband all about our afternoon adventure. He laughed through the entire story. “It’s a shame you had to work today because you missed your wife’s swim in the creek. She couldn’t keep her balance and fell right in! She looked like that coyote in the cartoons waving her arms around like she thought it would do any good.”
While I didn’t think the episode was very humorous, my dad had a great time. That day was the last time I went to the woods with my dad. He became extremely ill shortly after our afternoon exploits. He was too sick to walk around by the next spring. His kidneys shut down, and he passed on to that great wilderness in the sky five years later. I’m really happy that I took that accidental swim because it became my dad’s favorite story.
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