Sunday, August 21, 2011

The First Man

He was a giant of a man. Tall, like all the Hoagland men, but it was so much more than that. His personality filled up the room and to this day I've never met someone who could make my world light up like he did. And although I miss him (every single day) I know that the lessons he taught me will carry through for the rest of my life.

Laugh. Laugh when life is falling apart and you're certain that tomorrow everything will end. Laugh at yourself, at the world and you'll find a way to get through it all. Even when he was sick I can remember him making jokes. He wanted to hear us laugh. Maybe it was to make us feel better, but I think it helped him as well. Laughter heals and there was never a shortage of laughter. He was one of the few people who could reduce my mother to tears.

Eat. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Food is meant to be shared with family around a table. Orange Roughy brings me back to that kitchen table, trading food with my cousin when we didn't like something he had made. Eat without worrying about the calories or how much you weigh. Life isn't about a scale or what size pants you wear.

Learn. It is never too late to learn something new. It doesn't matter the subject or if it will benefit you. Learn because you want to understand. Learn because you crave knowledge. But never stop reading, asking, learning or striving to be more. You'll do a disservice to yourself if you don't pick up a book and uncover something new.

Love. Love the people in your life with your whole heart. Families won't always get along and sometimes you want to strangle them, but never stop loving. The very, very last time I spoke to my Poppo I was holding my cousin Chrissy's hand as we stood next to his hospital bed. Even though it pained him, Poppo made sure to tell us that we were loved. I know that this lesson has had the biggest impact of them all. Our family is.. complicated. We're all different and when we lost Poppo, things started to fall apart. But he is why I struggle to make things right and keep loving.

Tomorrow would have been my grandfather's 89th birthday. It pains me that he isn't here to celebrate with his family. A family that now include great-grandchildren and spouses and grandchildren who are now old enough to enjoy a drink with him. I miss him more than I can possibly explain. But I won't cry. I'm going to laugh today. I'm going to learn and I'm going to eat. But most of all, I'm going to love. And I owe it all to one giant of a man who taught me how to be the person I am today.

I love you, Poppo. I miss you and I wish you were still here with us. Knowing that you're in Valhalla with the rest of the Hoaglands drinking vodka and playing cribbage makes me smile. You are, and will always be, the first man in my life and the best.


Erin said...


Leanne Hoagland-Smith said...

He is smiling down on you right now and so very proud of you.

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