How I almost didn't come to be

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

I suspect many families have someone who is the de facto historian/archivist and best source for information about their extended family — the second cousins, the deceased aunts and uncles, et al. He or she knows not only the trunk and limbs of the family tree, but also the branches and twigs.

My cousin Judy fills that role for the Hubbuch family. In March I visited her in Cincinnati, and she gave me a photograph of a celebration of my Uncle John and Aunt Patsy's 10th wedding anniversary. The photo was dated Feb. 14, 1946. There were five couples seated around a table at Club Madrid, which, according to the sleeve was the "largest theater night club" in Louisville.

The souvenir photo was slightly out of focus, but the celebrants were in their best clothes. In addition to John and Patsy, my Uncle Pete and Aunt Margaret plus two other couples were in attendance — and there was my mom and dad.

Or so it initially appeared. Closer examination revealed that the woman on whose knee my dad had his hand was not my mother, but according to the handwritten note was one Helen Lips! Who? Where was my mother?

I did some quick math. I was born Feb. 28, 1949, so my mom got pregnant in June of 1948. Sometime between my dad's lovey-dovey liaison with this temptress on Feb. 14, 1946 and June 1948, he and Ms. Lips broke up; my dad met and wooed my mom; the two of them planned a wedding; got married; and my mom got pregnant.

I suppose World War II had created stiff headwinds in the life journey of most young people. Everyone was in a hurry to catch up on living their lives.

But the Club Madrid photograph sent me down a reflective path. I realized how little I really knew about the life of my father before I entered his life. I know nothing about the very busy 27 months of his life that is the backdrop to my very existence.

Of course I do have a partial version of my dad's life before I knew him, but his is the curated story that he chose to tell. He may have left out certain chapters. He may have lied. He may have exaggerated. He may have forgotten. He may have misremembered.

Those crucial (for me) 27 months are now gone forever. My dad and his siblings and friends in that picture are dead. I have no idea if there are any letters or diaries that might explain anything. I doubt it.

All I have is the Club Madrid photograph of my Dad with his hand on Helen Lips' knee. We like to think we knew our parents, but I'm not so sure we know much at all.

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