Cookin', Critters and Chillun

I remember Poppa

He was the sweetest man, always more concerned about others than he was about himself.

I remember how my husband’s dad, Bill Hibbert Jr., was so concerned our toddler children might stick their fingers into electric sockets that he went around our house putting child safety plugs into all the sockets – even the ones behind the sofa.

And when we first got a child seat on my bicycle, he made sure the leg guards were attached to the child seat on the rear. That was more trouble than it was worth, as it turned out, but it gave him peace of mind.

I was glad he wasn’t around when our first-born, Rex, managed to stick his little hand underneath the fender while I was starting off, giving Rex an interesting tread scar of which he was proud. I was horrified, though. My baby was scarred because of me!

Once while Poppa Hibbert and Grandma Robbie were visiting, he went out an bought me a new toothbrush before I knew what happened: mine had dropped on the floor, and he thought I should have a new, sanitary one.

He might have been a little overly concerned about germs, now that I think about it. I remember seeing his fingertips stained red with Mercurochrome, and old-fashioned antiseptic, when he had a hangnail.
But I remember most Poppa Hibbert’s quiet, non-complaining ways. He loved sitting in his upholstered recliner, watching his favorite television shows. We kept that worn, old off-white recliner at our house for the longest time after he passed on.

Poppa Hibbert was one of the first television engineers in the South. Originally he was a radio engineer, and when television came along, he helped keep WSB – known as “Welcome South, Brother” – television in Atlanta on the air. Part of his job was to watch television, even at home, to see what the competition was doing, so there was a TV in their house before most of the neighbors had one.

Because of his job, he worked afternoon and evening hours and wasn’t around to go to my husband’s sports activities. My Bill felt his dad’s absence keenly, and made sure he went to as many of Rex, Haley and Meredith’s events as possible.

Unfortunately, our children don’t have enough memories of Poppa Hibbert. His last trip to Virginia was at Thanksgiving in 1982, I believe. He wasn’t a complainer, but did say his back hurt him enough that he and Grandma Robbie flew home from the Roanoke airport rather than drive back with my parents. “It’s my coathooks,” he said, explaining that was the way his doctor described arthritis in his backbone. Poppa wasn’t one to go to doctors, and he didn’t go often.

It turned out the diagnosis was wrong, so wrong. He had prostate cancer that had metastasized to his spine. He spent his last 18 months in Wesley Woods, a nursing home in Atlanta near Emory University. We and our children traveled there as often as we could, drawing pictures for him, leaving funny drawings taped onto the mirrors and doors, and sending photographs. Once we even smuggled our mixed terrier dog, Chewbacca, into the room.

The word “cancer” was never mentioned in his presence. That’s the way Robbie wanted it. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t go home – even though I offered to quit my job and move there to help out with him their house along with hospice – but she wasn’t comfortable with that. It was probably for the best. She wasn’t comfortable with death and dying in general.

Poppa Hibbert passed on in 1984 at age 78. That’s way too young, and I wish he had been here to share more of our children’s growing up years, and more Father’s Days. But I remember Poppa.

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