My earliest memories of my grandpa are giant bear hugs, his big belly laugh, kisses to my forehead and the smell of cinnamon. He loved cinnamon candy.
He also loved his Buick convertible. I remember sitting in the back of that pretty blue car with both my grandparents in the front, a sibling by my side, and the wind whipping around my face. I have one very specific memory of getting excited when my grandpa turned the Buick around to head back home and I exclaimed, “Oh good! Now we are going the right way!” My grandpa laughed, “The ‘right way’? I didn’t know there was a wrong way!” In my young mind I thought that my hair was whipping around my face because of the direction we were driving. Then, as we turned around and went the other way, I quickly realized there was no ‘right way’ in a convertible, as my hair was still stinging my face and making me look like Medusa. I laughed, and didn’t even try to explain myself as I let my hair be wild. It’s weird, the memories you keep.
I’ve been grateful for my siblings and cousins posts on social media over the past few days as I reminiscence, far from home, about the man who was Jim Habegger. I totally forgot about the gum ball machine he had IN HIS HOUSE, and the coins he always had ready for the grandkids when we came to visit. He was the one who introduced me to homemade ice cream and Skip-bo, and gave me a deep appreciation for country living, though I am only now starting to realize it.
My grandpa could annoy you like crazy and then make you smile all in one sentence. He tried to say at least one offensive thing to me before every grand adventure I went on.
“As long as you don’t bring back a black man.” He said to my 21 year old self before I studied abroad in South Africa. GRANDPA YOU CAN’T SAY STUFF LIKE THAT. THAT’S NOT RIGHT, I CAN IF I WANT TO. I mean, I didn’t say that, but I thought it.
“Don’t go to Korea, they have no roads there and it smells.” Before I moved to South Korea to teach for one, errr, seven years. Well, while the Korea my grandpa knew during the war, and the one I discovered in the 21st century are very different, the smell is still there. I will give him that.
He was the kind of grandpa who never forgot to send you a card on your birthday no matter where you were in the world (a serious accomplishment for a granddaughter like me). He was the kind of grandpa who had a hard time admitting faults, but changed to become a better man the whole 32 years I knew him. The kind of grandpa that wanted to spend time with you, just to spend time with you.
My mom planned a special weekend trip for me to visit my grandpa, who lived one state away from Michigan, just before I move to Australia. Neither of us wanted to say aloud why we needed to make sure this weekend happened. My sister, Amber, and her two girls came with us. I am so grateful for that last weekend with my grandpa, though I can honestly say I can’t remember a single thing we talked about. We probably talked about my jet setting ways, and when I was going to live in the States again. We probably talked about Australia. We probably talked about his health and his golf game. It doesn’t really matter what we talked about, because we spent time together. Just to be together.
My grandpa broke his back over 10 years ago. The doctors said golf is probably what saved his life, he had a very strong back from swinging those clubs every day. He always tried to get us grandkids into golf when we were younger. My older two brothers played the game and I loved grandpa so much, I took golf lessons two summers in a row when I was 13 and 14. And I was really, really bad. After three holes I would be sooo tired. I never managed to make it to 9 holes, let alone 18.
But I am glad that even though I never got to play golf with him, my grandpa never left the golf course… and is probably up there perfecting his swing in Heaven.
Swing away Grandpa, swing away.