Remembering Uncle Billy
I’ve been struggling all week with what to write about Uncle Billy. Not because it is particularly difficult emotionally speaking, but because I just simply didn’t know what to say. I would open a blank post and stare at it for awhile, before closing it and making my mind up not to write anything, only to change my mind and stare at it some more later. Rinse, repeat.
It seems like it’s not my place to say anything; there are other people closer to him that will probably say it better, or have more of a “right” to remember him. On the other hand, once I thought about it, I realized I probably saw him more than most of my dad’s brothers and sisters, seeing as he lived with Grandma, so we’d see him whenever we’d stop by.
Finally I decided not to write anything.
…until I was on the way home from the funeral today. It’s weird to say, but it was a really good funeral. It wasn’t a religious funeral, but it was more of a…I don’t know. A storytelling festival? A celebration of life? A bloodletting? It wasn’t a ceremony as much as just people letting everything out. Good times, bad times, talking about things we don’t normally talk about. Talking about the dementia at the end. It just seemed like exactly what everybody needed.
To me, the quintessential Uncle Billy memory is the Price is Right tape. I’ve watched the video so many times that I’ve memorized it, but there’s a part when Grandpa gets called up and it cuts to Grandma and Billy in the audience. I don’t know how old Billy is, but he is so ridiculously young (and thin!), that you can hardly recognize him. He’s cheering and whistling wildly, and Grandma is just tugging on his arm telling him to sit down and knock it off.
I don’t know why that’s the first thing that comes to my mind, especially since I’m pretty sure it happened before I was born.
The other memory I thought of is a kind of funny one. One year we were at the fair, and I *really, really* wanted to see that night’s performer, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. (That’s right, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Ooh you are so jealous.) My dad, or whoever I was with, didn’t want to hang around until the evening when the show started. I was really bummed out, because I wanted to tell everybody I had seen Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch (MARKY MARK!)(AND THE FUNKY BUNCH!). Uncle Billy must have seen the disappointment on my face, because he agreed to hang around the fair with me, and then take me to the show.
Okay, so that’s a stupid story (except the part about how awesome I am that I went to a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch concert), but I think it does really represent my Uncle Bill. I’m sure he had zero interest in seeing Mark Wahlberg rap, but if there was something he could do for you, he would do it.
I remember when Grandpa died, they had a flag ceremony and some other military trappings at his funeral. I remember thinking how odd that was; my Grandpa almost never spoke of his time in the service. It seemed distant, not really a part of him, and so it seemed weird to include it.
Uncle Billy was the opposite. The Air Force shaped his life, and was a defining characteristic of who he was. I think those were the best, most important years of his life. Therefore, the military part of the service was just so moving. When they handed Chris the flag and thanked Uncle Billy for his service, it really meant something. I know it would have meant so, so much to Uncle Billy.
I know I cry like a baby at all funerals, but even still, I was kind of surprised at how hard the whole thing was. I’m crying now while I write this, and I’m not sure why, exactly. But I really think he would have been happy with today. I think he would have been proud.
I think if he were watching today he would have had a big old smile on his face, and for once, he might not have had anything to say.