Sunday, May 27, 2012

On Memorial Day, remembering those who preceded Holden Jae Hubbard

For much of my life, Memorial Day involved reflecting on the memories of the singular person who impacted my childhood more than any other: Edsel Hubbard, my grandfather and still the greatest man I've ever known. That was in part because of the special bond I had with him, but also because his and his mother's death a few months earlier were the only ones that touched my family until I reached adulthood.

In recent years, it's unfortunately expanded to include a few other close loved ones like his wife and my grandmother, Midge; my cousin Alicia Colvin; and dear family friend David Dearinger.

Sarah's family has even more loved ones to remember on this weekend, including her dad's father, mother and sister when she was a kid. And most recently her grandfather, Popi, who I got to know for a few short years.

But this Memorial Day not only has me reflecting on my memories of my lost loved ones, but also how they impacted me in becoming who I am and specifically how I have the responsibility to do the same for my new son in a few short months.

The one thing this long wait to bring Holden Jae home makes me appreciate, is the time we will have with him once he arrives. And once he is here, I hope he has many, many years to get to know each person in his life, especially his grandparents.

Because I always have -- and still do -- feel that the time we had to spend with my grandfather was far too brief.

Edsel Hubbard was, coincidentally, a veteran based in Germany during the Korean War, which ended with Holden Jae's birthplace remaining a democratic country. Shortly after, he had 4 kids and worked as a salesman for Prudential until retirement during a different time when our grandparents could retire in their early 50s.

It's hard to believe it's been 22 years since my grandfather died of throat and lung cancer at the age of 60.  He would be 83 on Halloween this year. He's now been gone more than twice as long as I knew him. But for 10 brief years I enjoyed fishing outings, tossing ball, and cuddling up in his lap while he watched Bassmasters and nodded off from narcolepsy he developed from his abnormal sleep regimen during military service.

Those are the things I remember fondly of Edsel Hubbard. But he was more than just my grandfather, he was my best friend. He was loving, endearing, loyal, admirable and as much a family man as any that's ever existed.

My grandfather's death was the greatest pain of my life. His funeral was on my 10th birthday. He seemed so old and wise at the time, and there was no one who could ever replace him -- as a grandfather or a friend -- but he died far too young in retrospect.

It's probably my age and perspective, but neither my dad nor Sarah's dad seems like they're as old as Grandpa Hubbard was, yet both are less than 4 years from 60 and already older than Edsel was when he first got cancer. The same was true of Sarah's grandfather, Arnold Zopfi. One of my greatest hopes is that Holden Jae has the same kind of relationship with Wendell Zopfi and Tim Hubbard as I had with my grandfather. And seeing him with my nephew, Brody, I know my dad is much more like his own father than I ever imagined or gave him credit for when I was young.

It's because of my respect and admiration of my grandfather, my father and my father-in-law that it took me so long to accept this fatherly responsibility: Sarah has wanted to be a mother since she graduated college, while I held out until I neared my third decade. I have such huge footsteps to follow, and I will never live up to the example set by Edsel Hubbard, Tim Hubbard and Wendell Zopfi.

Fortunately, the bar was set so high by that triumvirate that even being half the man/father/friend will be quite the accomplishment.

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