When your birth father dies before your first birthday, and your mother is 40 years old that year, the Year of Living Dangerously, and then your adopted mother is ten years older that that, you end up without a grandfather. Well I learned many things due to the circumstances of my birth in a PA coal town. My Nana gave me a certain self-confidence that was sorely needed when we’d visit her on occasion. But I never had a Grandfather; and my children, I was afraid, would follow suit.
Bob’s parents were divorced, and his father basically skipped out on our little family. But Grandma Ada found it in her heart to marry again, when the Bride was two years old. Hudson was a “younger” man, and he lived in Poughkeepsie, so we called him the Poughkeepsie Gypsy, until he packed up his wood carving tools and his pastoral counseling degree along with his African missionary artifacts and moved to NJ. He instantly became the de facto grandfather I’d never had and our kids adored him.
He would drive them around in his truck; he would film their every move with one of the first hand-held, shoulder-mounted video cameras in America; he would cook them breakfast; he would show them how to plant a seed; he would swim with them in the pool and show them how to make a hot tub out of an old bathtub; and of course, he’d teach them how to whittle. To name certain trees, to catch crabs, to fish…
Little did I know Great Grandpa Hudson would eventually send me his official Baptist pastor degree, so he could marry the Bride and Groom on Carter Mountain. Or that their red-headed baby boy would carry on his name.
Bob is doing his best to carry on his step-father’s amazing grandfathering duties when we see our babies. From the WWII sailor who was called “Red” by his shipmates, Bob has learned to slow down time, to feed birds, and turtles. To dry tears. To name bugs and touch them, to teach the Love Bug how to swim. Luckily for me, Bob never picked up the habit of enjoying a good cigar, while patching a roof in the sun. To keep the mosquitoes at bay!
So Happiest of Birthdays Hudson! You’re turning 90 this weekend and friends and family are coming together from near and far to celebrate your extraordinary life. I’m sure Great Grandma Ada will sing your praises, you’ve been her rock through some very hard times. You’ve been her traveling companion for many years, her woodcarver. Her faithful, second-chance, side-kick on the carousel of life. Your marriage was the model many of your patients aspired to have; and still is a beacon of how love works.
I simply want to thank you for being the best Grandpa Hudson to our family. The family you chose, but really, we choose you! And always will.