, Corbin, KY

June 13, 2013

Growing up with Dad

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — Someone close to me was recently divorced.

It was a tough battle because children were involved, but necessary for a myriad of reasons.

But what bothers me is those children will not have memories to fall back on when they’re adults about times spent with their father — largely because his behavior proves he has little to no concern for their existence or welfare.

I guess I was lucky.

I was blessed with some great memories of time spent with Dad, and was very recently reminded of one particular time we were hanging out together.

This past weekend I was camping in Greene County, Tenn., and a man and woman pulled into the campground in a motorhome.

Shortly after their arrival, the man walked over to my site, and asked where he could do some trout fishing.

For some reason, a fishing trip involving a rowboat came into my mind.

I couldn’t help that man in the motorhome, and he went on to the next camper he could ask.

Meanwhile, I sat back in a folding chair and did a bit of reminiscing.

I was about 9 or so, and Dad and I headed out for Hungry Mother State Park outside of Marion, Va.

We rented a rowboat, and packed it with fishing gear, bait and a cooler packed with snacks.

We spent a long time that day out on the water. I remember trying to figure out how to eat with the same fingers I was using to scoop up night crawlers to fish with.

It was a great day — no rain snuck up on us, and we both managed to hook a few fish, all of which we threw back.

When the shadows started getting longer and longer, Dad started rowing toward the dock.

When we got there, Dad was closer to the actual pier, and I figured he’d get out of the boat first.

Dad motioned for me to get out, and I said, “No, go ‘head.”

But my Dad insisted I get out first, as I was not a swimmer.

So I get out, and turn around to help Dad empty the rowboat.

But instead, he took on that chore all for himself — by flipping the rowboat and making a huge splash into the lake.

Funny did not describe the scene — and Dad said with a serious look, “See why I wanted you to get out first?”

I laughed so hard — in fact, I’m chuckling as I write this right now.

As we drove home, he made the request, in vain of course, that I didn’t share that part of the trip with my mother.

Although how she would miss him being soaked from head to toe is a wonder to me.

Of course, I have to be realistic.

I flat-out would not be here today if it hadn’t been for my father’s knowledge of first-aid.

If it hasn’t been figured out, I am a pretty clumsy person.

In sixth grade, I put that clumsiness to the ultimate test after sending my arm into and through a glass window.

Three of the five arteries in my arm were severed, and the blood was running freely. I was running for the house after the accident, and by some crazy bit of luck, my Dad was coming outside to call me in for the night.

I cannot envision the picture my Dad has emblazoned on his memory of that first glance at his son’s arm.

But with no hesitation, my barefoot, bare-chested, Bermuda shorts-clad Dad applied direct pressure to the gaping wound and bellowed for my mother to move.

Of course, even the simple memories can be just as fulfilling. I have a brief memory when I was maybe about 5 or 6, and Dad, as he usually did, took me out just me and him on a Saturday.

We were heading back to the house, and Dad had been trying to teach me how to blow bubbles with gum.

Over and over and over I tried — I almost cramped up my tongue at one point trying so hard.

Then, I remember my eyebrows jumping straight up.

“MMMM,” I shouted closed-mouth. “MMMM, MMMM, MMMM.”

Dad looked over at me, and grinned. I had managed to blow my first bubble with bubble gum — albeit it was a small one that I couldn’t even see — but you could see in his face he was happy passing on the simple lesson.

I have so many funny and poignant stories I could share about my Dad — and those of you blessed with great fathers, take a moment today to remember what a blessing it really is in this day and time.

Especially when there are so many children growing up without Dad.

John Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at