Today is Thanksgiving 2020. I am going to resist the temptation to post about being thankful 2020 is almost over, though I do not begrudge anyone who feels that way. Undoubtedly, this year has been filled with challenges. The pandemic has changed the way we live. Everything from how we do our jobs to how we parent our kids to how we celebrating weddings, births, and holidays has been impacted. Though each family has faced its own unique set of challenges this year, it’s important to remember we are all in this together. This is my family’s story…
For those of you who don’t already know, I am celebrating Thanksgiving alone in quarantine, closed behind a door across the hallway from Jessie and my 8-day-old daughter Rosemary Jean. Rosemary was born last Wednesday. The first two days were blissful. Then, I awoke late last Friday in the hospital with feverish symptoms. I was forced to leave Jessie and Rosemary behind in the recovery room to go to the ER and take a test. On Saturday morning, I got the results that I had tested positive for COVID-19, and I’ve been in isolation ever since. However, I’m not writing this post seeking sympathy. Fortunately, my symptoms have been mostly mild and manageable. The hardest parts for me are that I am unable to hold Rosemary and unable to assist Jessie in co-parenting our daughter during these first days of her life.
If anyone deserves your sympathy, it is most certainly Jessie. She is the real hero in this story. As if giving birth was not brave enough, she has been tasked with solo-parenting our child out of our nursery. During the rare occasion when Rosemary lets her sleep, Jessie’s options are the rocking chair or the floor. She is the most selfless, generous mother, and I cannot wait to be out of quarantine to help support her and Rosemary the way I should be.
Circumstances are less than ideal, but this is a thanksgiving post, and I am thankful. That is where baby Rosemary comes in.
I want to tell you all about her name. I love her name and the rich meaning behind it.
Let me begin with her middle name, Jean. Rosemary Jean joins a long lineage of Jeans from my side of the family. You could say she’s got good Jean genes! (Get used to the dad jokes, Rosie!) Anyway, my Grandma Hubert, who passed away in 2009, was named Jean. She was a painter, and I hope Rosemary channels her creativity and artistry in her life. My 91-year-old Grandma Nies, better known as Benjamin, Maxwell, and Rosemary’s GG (great-grandmother) is Jean. She is the matriarch of the Nies family and the friendliest face, always happy to share in a conversation. I hope Rosemary grows to be as friendly and classy as GG some day. My mom’s middle name is Jean, and my sister’s middle name is Jean. They both pursued career paths in the medical field and are smart in ways I cannot even comprehend. Plus, they both are devoted, loving family women. I hope Rosemary’s intellect and love of family follow in the footsteps of her amazing Grandma and Aunt Molly. Joining that legacy of women is pretty awesome.
There are many less straightforward reasons why we like her first name. Jessie posted on Facebook earlier this week about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the image of Mary, who gifts people poor in spirit with roses and faithful friendship, which has been sacred to her family for years.
We like that rosemary is of the earth. While Rosemary includes the sweetness of a “rose,” rosemary is also an herb itself with a wide variety of uses related to cooking, health, fragrances, etc. Likewise, we hope our Rosemary will possess a multitude of talents and abilities to share with the world.
We call her “Rosie” for short, which in addition to the cutesy, flowery connotation also evokes the badass working woman spirit of Rosie the Riveter. Who run the world? Girls!
I am sure there are other reasons I am overlooking, but I saved my favorite “Why Rosemary?” reason for last. This one will require a more lengthy narrative explanation.
As 2020 began, the Hubert family was preparing to grow and celebrate in so many beautiful ways. My brother Mike and his wife Crystal were expecting their first child in August. My brother Jeff was engaged to marry his fiancée Kristin in September. And my sister Molly was engaged to marry her fiancé Evan in November. Meanwhile Jessie and I had a wonderful secret of our own—we were pregnant!—and we were planning to tell our family members in mid-January after our appointment with our midwife.
Unfortunately, we never got the chance. The appointment did not go as planned, and after a follow-up appointment days later, Jessie and I received confirmation of the tragic news we had feared. We had a miscarriage. Suddenly, daydreaming about our baby turned into grieving before we could even wrap our heads around who he or she was. Instead of sharing our good news with family, we were asking them to pray for us and help us navigate the unstable terrain of grief and loss.
Only a few days later, on January 26th, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash. As a diehard Lakers fan, the loss of Kobe hit me hard, harder than any celebrity death in my lifetime. As a father, I could not shake the thought of Kobe and his daughter in those final moments together. The grief from the miscarriage and the grief of Kobe and Gianna’s tragic death were conflated in my mind, and my heart ached. Meanwhile, Jessie had to not only process the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of miscarriage but also the physical hormonal effects.
As a result, we spent most of February in a fog, reconciling who and what we lost. We grieved independently and together. We listened to cathartic music and shed Sanguine Tears together. We prayed and met with our pastor to tell our story and pray together. It took weeks, but eventually we broke out of the fog and came to grips with the reality of our circumstances. Our loss was an important part of our story, but we were resolute in our belief that loss was not the end of the story.
In March, as the coronavirus brought life—and basketball—to a screeching halt, we learned that we were pregnant again! It was an answered prayer that came so quickly we almost felt guilty. Well aware of the fertility struggles that other couples endure, we wondered why we were so fortunate to conceive again so soon after our heartbreak. We even doubted the process. Was it too soon for good news? Had we mourned our loss long enough? There were no easy answers to these questions, but ultimately we had to move forward. As Jay-Z rapped on “Lost One,”
But time don't go back, it goes forward
Can't run from the pain, go towards it
Some things can't be explained, what caused it?
So forward we went. In July, when we learned that our baby was a girl, my thoughts immediately went to Kobe and Gianna and our miscarriage. Kobe was a proud #GIRLDAD, and I was ecstatic at the thought of becoming a #GIRLDAD myself.
In August, after the NBA had resumed play, my first niece, Harper Mary Hubert, was born. She arrived on Aug. 23, Kobe’s birthday, and I have no doubt she was born with that Mamba Mentality. There were complications during Harper’s birth that meant an extended stay in the NICU, but she has been a fighter and an inspiration since day one. The day after her birth I woke up to my 5:15 alarm for a pre-sunrise run. I didn’t even know Harper’s name yet, but I swear I felt so connected to her in that moment. I was listening to the track “Bigger” from The Lion King: The Gift, and as Beyoncé sang, “You’re part of something way bigger…” I was overcome by a feeling of God’s presence and a belief that we all are part of something way bigger. Hearing those words about legacy on 8/24 , aka Mamba Day, really impacted me.
In September, Jeff and Kristin were married in a beautiful ceremony at a barn in Cochranton. In October, Molly and Evan were married in a beautiful ceremony in the Finger Lakes area. Although I cannot begin to imagine the level of stress and anxiety that went into planning and re-planning how to celebrate their weddings amid a pandemic, our family pulled it off—twice!—in consecutive months. Each location played host to a lovely ceremony and provided the perfect backdrop for unforgettable memories celebrating the respective couples and our family at large. Whatever may have been lost from what their weddings would have been like under different circumstances pales in comparison to what was gained by adding a new sister-in-law and brother-in-law for me and Jessie, and a new aunt and uncle for our kids!
October was also the month the Lakers won the 2020 NBA championship. In a year filled with so much collective and personal grief, watching the Lakers became more than an entertaining escape from the challenges of life in 2020. Watching the Lakers became a source of joy for me. In a year that will be remembered largely for who and what was lost, I will also remember that the Lakers won the championship and baby Harper was home with her amazing mom and dad in time to watch the Lakers win! As Game 6 ended and the Lakers’ championship celebration began, my thoughts raced from the players on the team to Kobe and Gianna to Harper and Mike, and finally to me and my kids.
That leads me to November and Rosemary. When Jessie and I were discussing names, Rosemary was always in the running. In fact, the name was included on the baby bracket for Benjamin back in 2015. All of the reasons I listed earlier in this post rang true for me, but none of them resonated with me in a deep enough way to convince me to lock it in. Then, as I was researching and writing the final item on my NBA Bubble article, I stumbled upon a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet that changed the game:
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray you, love, remember;”
Digging a little deeper, I learned that historically rosemary was often used as a symbol of love and remembrance. For us, Rosemary is a symbol of what we will remember about 2020. Rosemary serves as a remembrance of the joy and hope we felt in 2020, despite all the loss. Yes, there was an incredible amount of loss, but joy prevailed! And our daughter is the ultimate reminder of that.
She was born on November 18, 2020, which was also NBA Draft Day, a joyful day when all 30 NBA teams look to the future and focus on the the potential of what lies ahead. Even teams who had really bad seasons are optimistic and hopeful on draft day. Rosemary is absolutely my #1 draft choice. The thought of watching her grow up and all of the joy that lies ahead in our family’s journey together is a reason to celebrate even amid the hardships of the present moment.
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, as I prepared to leave Jessie and Rosemary behind to go down to the ER and get a COVID test, a teary-eyed Jessie looked at me and said, “Now is the time when we let Rosemary live out her namesake.”
So as I type this post today, isolated across the hall from my two favorite girls, I am sad, but I am also thankful. Our time apart is yet another example of loss in 2020, but when I think of Rosemary, I remember joy wins over loss, and love wins over grief. It is clear that is exactly what has been happening here the past few days. The outpouring of love and support from family since I got my positive COVID test has been overwhelming. As I mentioned before, Jessie is stepping up as a superhero solo-parent mom. My parents have taken over temporary full-time duty with Ben and Max. My mother-in-law organized a food train, and friends and family volunteered en masse to ensure that we would have meals delivered to us daily. The list of helpful people who have reached out through texts and calls is incredible. Thank you to our wide and generous network of support!
As I prepare to eat Thanksgiving dinner alone for the first time in my life, it would be easy to feel sorry for all that is lost by not gathering with loved ones. Instead, I will FaceTime with Jessie and Rosemary and remember that joy is right around the corner. Soon, our family of five will be together for the first time, and I cannot wait to share that joyful moment together.
Until then, Happy Thanksgiving from Rosemary Jean’s Dad!