Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day My Labor Day

OK, there will be no politics in this post, I promise. I don't mean this to become a political blog, just felt there were a couple of things I wanted to get out there. Today, back to being personal.

Labor Day has always been a special holiday in the Baker Family. My paternal grandparents lived in Wildwood, NJ, which is a beach resort community. I have terrific memories of going to visit them when I was young, walking on the boardwalk, going on rides (except not the ones that go inside, my grandmother would never allow that!), eating French Toast at the Surfside Restaurant and taking long walks on the beach. Most of all, I remember spending time with my Grandpop Sam. Labor Day was always his favorite holiday, because it was the end of summer, when he could finally rest after working hard during the busy season. He'd call each of the grandchildren and sing us a song, to the tune of Old Tannenbaum, that went "Labor Day My Labor Day, OH Labor Day My Labor Day."

Its one of a thousand little memories that I have of my grandfather. He was a tough man, but one who in my adoring eyes was liked by everyone he met. I remember sitting at the foot of his chair late on a summer night watching the Phillies as he dozed. When someone asked "Hey Sam, how are you?" invariably his answer was "Never Better!" Even in his later years as he retired and moved to Florida with my Grandmother, they lived an active life, volunteering, travelling, playing golf, always busy, never better.

Its been 16 years since the last time my Grandpa Sam sang his Labor Day song to me. It saddens me of course that he's gone, but also that I never got the chance to show him what type of man I became. When my Grandpa died, I was floundering. Struggling with the transition from boyhood to manhood took me longer than most, certainly longer than it should have. My grandmother was able to meet my wife and the twins, but Sam never got that chance.

Two weeks ago, I felt like I had that chance for him to see that we're doing right. That weekend my uncle got married ... again. (he'd want me to point out that he's my favorite uncle, which he does win by default as I lack any other uncles) It was the first opportunity for all of my grandparent's great grandchildren to be together. 6 of them, of which 2 were named for my grandfather. We had a great time at the wedding and the following day on the beach, just enjoying the sand and the sun. I head my grandmother telling me not to let my girls get too deep in the water and my grandfather laughing.

The next day, on our drive back to the airport we stopped at the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. Its tradition on Judaism to leave a small stone on the grave marker when you go and visit a loved one. The girls were excited to find the perfect stone to leave for GG, as they still remember her. There were a lot of stones already on their marker, more than any of the others around them. I pointed out all of my aunts and uncles in the area and I told some of the old jokes I remembered hearing from each of them as a boy. I stopped by my grandfather's grave one last time and imagined him calling me "Jamie Baby" one more time and I said "See you later, Grandpop Baby!"

Now, I'm not one to be invariably positive. I read a lot of fitness blogs and leadership blogs where the writers seem impossibly cheery and motivating. But when I'm feeling down, when I'm crushed by work or frustrated by children who are learning to press every one of our buttons, I will try to think of Pop Pop Sam, that someday I'll be able to answer the same way.

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