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TEARS AND CLAM DIP
21 April 2006
Pat and Rich brought a piņata. Nothing could have been more fitting. Nobody had to say anything. Jeri went out and got a hammer to place next to it. We all remembered the very first party, back in 1967, when all the kids were little. We decided to have a piņata for the kids at our annual New Year's Day party, but it was home made and so strong none of the toddlers could make a dent in it. None of the older kids were strong enough either. Bill had to take a hammer to it and, with some difficulty, managed to poke a hole in it. It was a story we have told over and over again, through the years and we still laugh when we think of the sight of Bill with that hammer trying to poke a hole through the damn pinata.
So read my e-mail from Phoebe, our friend from Colorado who tried to do battle with United Airlines, which would not let her on the plane so she could get out here to see Bill before he died. (I hope she writes a letter. I would have written a letter. She wanted to say goodbye to Bill and because of United Airline's screw-up, she was denied that opportunity. What's worse is that the crew essentially said "screw you" to her when she tried to get them to open the just-closed doors to the plane, explaining that her friend was dying and she had to get to California.)
She made plans to fly out the following day but, of course, Bill died at midnight. Liam reached her at 4 a.m., California time, and they decided she'd come anyway and we'd have a party for Bill.
I made clam dip. Char drove up from the Bay area and brought wine. Phoebe went and picked up cold cuts and salads. Rich and Pat had the piņata. Instinctively we had fallen into our usual routine.
We arrived at the house and there were hugs and tears to go around. You didn't have to say anything. We all knew what we were thinking. It's still so sudden. We all met, dated, and married while in college. We raised our kids together. There were five core families who raised 22 kids, many of whom are now approaching or already in their 40s. We have remained close through the years. We all agreed that of all of this group, Bill is the very last person we would have picked to be the first to die. There is still a lot of "surreal" about the whole thing.
But we did what you do at times like this--we sat around and shared Bill stories. His daughter Colleen remembered Dad teaching her to drive, and making sure that she could change a tire, change the oil, install chains, and drive a stick shift before she could take her test...and then going on the test with her, since she was driving one of his company cars, and having Dad to talk with so distracted the guy giving the test that Colleen passed with flying colors (well--that was her version--I'm sure she would have passed with or without Bill doing a ride-along).
His youngest brother Ralph remembered the time Bill was working at their dad's service station and had to deal with some yappy little dogs who were left in the car of a client. He had a rather... uh... unique way of silencing them. (You'll have to watch the video to get the details.)
Rich remembered the time Bill did battle with a mother bear and her cub, using a fire extinguisher.
I remembered how I loved watching him with babies. Jeri added that he could calm any baby anywhere and talked about how many pictures they have of Bill sitting in a recliner with various babies sleeping on his chest.
Char remembered how uncomfortable he was when she would take sourdough starter into a tent with her on a camping trip--and then make pancakes with it in the morning.
So many stories. We laughed and we cried. And we ate, which is "what we do."
As it came time to leave the house and get Phoebe back to the airport, we spontaneously formed a full circle, arms around each other, heads bowed, like a football huddle and we said our goodbyes to Bill.
There will be a memorial service sometime next month, but as for what
will be Bill's ultimate resting place, he is being cremated...and anybody who knew Bill
will chuckle to hear that they plan to store his ashes in the garage, the place he loved
most and where he can keep an eye on his treasured tools and where Jeri can go talk to him
when she needs advice--just like always.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
A goodbye to Bill
Phoebe, Colleen, Me, Jeri, Kevin, Liam, Char