My grandpa Hubner died in November of 1986, just a month before my 13th birthday. He was 75. E.A. Hubner was a pretty great grandpa, despite not really seeing him a whole lot. Elwood and Dorothy Jean(grandma Hubner) would come over occasionally on sunny Sundays to visit and drop off dime store fireworks or those cheap styrofoam airplanes for my brother and I. We’d see them on Thanksgiving and Christmas, Easter occasionally. I can remember a couple times when they came over and we headed to Goshen to Ox Bow park for a picnic dinner of KFC and climbing the giant watchtower where you could see a good portion of the park. There’s even a picture of Elwood laying on the floor in our living room in his dress slacks, button-up shirt, tie, and wing-tips when I was probably 4 or 5 playing with me and my Fisher Price Sesame Street play set.
But despite those great memories there’s plenty of memories that never were. My grandparents were very much cat folks, and at 3 or 4 years old my parents found out I was deathly allergic to cats. Our family doctor for awhile thought I might have Leukemia because of the fact I was always so sick(how he came to that conclusion I don’t know.) My mom suggested getting me tested for allergies, you know, before they start planning on those Leukemia treatments. Well, turns out I wasn’t dying of cancer of the blood, I was just allergic to cats, dust mites, and mold.
I started allergy shots and improved immediately. And despite this revelation, my grandparents just couldn’t part with their Siamese cat Ching. I think it rubbed my mom and dad the wrong way, but for me it was just a series of visits on the front porch at their place in Nappanee, drinking Coke, eating Schwann’s vanilla ice cream, and talking about what birds we were seeing in the yard. And I never felt any ill will towards them because they preferred the cat to a little kid in their house. Their place wasn’t really conducive to entertaining rambunctious boys. Hell, my brother isn’t allergic to cats and I don’t ever remember him staying over there. The place felt more like a museum than a house.
So where am I going here, you ask? Well, despite never having any hard feelings about Ching winning out over me I never wanted my kids to have that kind of limited relationship with my parents. They spent the night over there a lot growing up. My parents were great grandparents to our kids. They took them places, played with them, explored with them in the backyard. My mom and dad were involved, and not just on occasional Sundays, holidays, and a birthday or two.
Yesterday was a pretty special day for me. My 16-year old son and I picked up my dad and we headed east to Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was my third trip there, while it was my son’s second. My dad has never been there, so this was his first.
I’ve always been close to my parents. There was never any of that weirdness some people have with their mom and dad. Mom and dad were married in 1967 and have remained married ever since. They love each other very much despite butting heads occasionally. But I never went through one of those “my parents aren’t cool” phases, simply because my parents are cool. Seriously, they’re the reason I’m who I am. I grew up in a house where music was played all the time, they took us to see movies, they were constantly reading in the house, and every summer we hit up Cedar Point or King’s Island. They both encouraged my brother and I’s interest in music, and they definitely influenced us by exposing us to Led Zeppelin, The Doors, AC/DC, KISS, The Beatles, and Aerosmith at an early age.
Growing up I was closer to my mom, simply because I was sick a lot and she was a stay-at-home mom, so she was the one who took care of me when I was feeling terrible. She made sure I got my dose of antibiotics, whether it was 7 am, noon, or 3 in the morning. We both loved going to the mall and shopping for clothes, shoes, and getting lunch at the Apple Orchard at the Glenbrook Mall. And she always let me hit up Musicland or National Record Mart and pick out a cassette to take home. Before I was into music, she’d let me grab a Star Wars or GI Joe action figure at Hook’s Drug Store when we’d be picking up my prescription(there was always ample General Nadine’s to choose from.)
I was close to my dad, too. But he worked a lot, so most of our time spent was on Sunday mornings grabbing donuts at Tom’s Donuts or hitting Reader’s World downtown so he could grab a paper. He’d let me pick out a MAD magazine, and when I was a little older it was Fangoria magazine. He was the one who’d help me put decals on various Star Wars ships and GI Joe vehicles Christmas morning, and took me to see Krull and Cloak and Dagger when my mom wasn’t interested. He also encouraged me when I started playing guitar at 12. He’d talk to me about Jeff Beck, Booker T, and Link Wray. I’d tell him about Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Yngwie Malmsteen.
As I got older my dad was the go-to when I didn’t know what to do with fixing things. Problems with my car or the house I’d ask him and he’ be quick to head over with various tools and we’d figure it out. My dad and I are the two that put up walls and finished most of our basement. It took close to a decade, but by God we did it.
It wasn’t until my dad retired after 50 years at the same company that we got closer. He began coming over on Saturday mornings for coffee. We talk about pretty much everything. We get to see each other in a whole different light. I’ll make him breakfast occasionally, and once in a while he’ll bring over donuts. It’s something I look foward to, as does he. And I think my mom really likes to quiet for a couple hours on Saturday morning.
Awhile back he’d mentioned that he’d like to go the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My wife and daughters were all going on week-long vacations, so I thought I’d take the week off as well and my son and I would hang out that week. Figured we’d go to Cleveland one day and hit up the Hall of Fame. I asked my dad if he’d like to go with us and he said sure. Yesterday was that day, and we had a blast.
Well, the weather was lousy but the museum was great. My dad took pics of James Brown’s various outfits for my mom. He was amazed at all the guitars they had of Jimi Hendrix(and was fit to be tied when he found out one of them was now owned by John Mayer.) My son and I were thrilled to see Cliff Burton’s Rickenbacker and Trent Reznor’s mud splattered DX-7. They even have a new area where you can go in and play various instruments called “The Garage”. And adjacent to it is a room where you can go in and jam. Like, perform for crowds of onlookers. There was some 9-year old boy playing like Buddy Guy. It was impressive to say the least.
All in all we made it through the whole place in like 2 1/2 hours. We left the house at 7am and were back home by 7:30pm. My dad had a great time, as did we. He got to see some rock and roll artifacts that he wouldn’t have otherwise. My son and I have a day with my dad that we’ll have for years.
I’m sure we’ll talk all about it when he comes over for coffee Saturday morning.