January 11, 2010

Big Bill

Once upon a time on Little Springs Road there were two children - Chris and Little Bill. Little Bill was called Little Bill because his father was, naturally, called Big Bill. Bill and I were born three days apart and only a few houses separated us. We played together constantly and became best friends. Most of the time that I wasn't at home, I was at Bill's. I distinctly recall every detail of Bill's room and the vast playroom they had off their kitchen. Inevitably we accumulated other friends and even went to different schools due to some bizarre elementary school zoning but we always had a brotherly bond. Or at least I assume it was a brotherly thing. I'm an only child; I don't know from siblings.

Big Bill was a strict father. He demanded perfection. It was a demand I think his wife and kids struggled with. I know Little Bill did. There was a part of Big Bill that was also angry. He'd do crazy shit like sit at a stop sign in his broken down Volare and chase down anyone who breezed through without stopping and attempt to make a citizen's arrest. I never quite figured out what drove him.

Little Bill's mom died a few years ago in a freak car accident while visiting family in Alabama for Christmas. Big Bill coped but he became a sad figure. Each Christmas he'd haul out the address book and send cards that were inevitably late. His Christmas letter, if one was included, contained constant references to coping without his wife, even years after she'd died.

Big Bill was a slightly tragic, somewhat imposing man. A big, stern man who was the definition of a curmudgeon. But he was a good man with a big heart, someone you wanted on your side. Luckily he was always on mine. Until late last week when he died.

I'm really sad about it. Big Bill was always a figure in my childhood and he is inextricably linked with the memories I have of growing up in the small bubble of a world that was my neighborhood. Years later, when that bubble had expanded to encompass more of the world, he was still there, driving Bill and I to our distant high school in the same Volare chase vehicle.

I'm going to miss Big Bill. I know his kids will miss him even more. They're now parent-less. And while I know that inevitably happens with the passage of time, I can't imagine how it feels.

I think I'll try and give Little Bill a call soon. He's not little anymore but I can't help but feel that he needs a brother. Even if I'm not a real one.

Posted by Chris at January 11, 2010 6:43 AM

Yes, make the call. I think sometimes we put off doing that for fear of saying the wrong thing or not knowing what to say.

I speak from far too much experience to say that the actual words which have been said me matter much less than the love behind them.

I'm sorry for your and your friend's loss.

Posted by: ann adams at January 11, 2010 6:54 AM

Yes, do call. It's funny, I just found on Facebook a girl I had been friends with all during our youth. Her Mom was the first Mom to pass from cancer.
Her Mom was a really nice lady, I remember so well. She was a pharmacist at the local hospital and unfortunately I was a sick kid and when I was in the hospital she always came to see me. Smiling her beautiful smile.
Anyway, her daughter mentioned missing her parents the other day and I wrote to her about her Mom and she was so pleased that I did.
She is 51 and both of her folks are gone.
And having lost my own Dad this year I can attest that although it is part of the passage of time, it isn't easy.

Posted by: Maribeth at January 11, 2010 7:21 AM

How incredibly sad. You should definitely make that call.

Posted by: Fraulein N at January 11, 2010 9:15 AM

I'm with the ladies above. Make the call. Even if you don't know what to say, it will be appreciated. I just went through two deaths myself (two friends in their 20's) last week, and I know the family appreciated the support from people who weren't even all that familiar with the boys. So I am certain that Little Bill will want to hear from his "brother".

Posted by: jess at January 11, 2010 9:25 AM

you'll feel better after you call him. i imagine he will too. One of my oldest friends lost her mom some years ago and it was hard to deal with as she was like a mom to me. its just one of those things that comes with getting older.

Posted by: madmom at January 11, 2010 9:38 AM

Oh Chris,

I'm so sorry. He DOES need a brother right now. And you do too. Call him, you'll both feel better.

Posted by: k8 at January 11, 2010 10:26 AM

I'm sorry for your loss, Chris. We're much to young yet to be losing our parents.

Posted by: Brooke at January 11, 2010 11:34 AM

this post needed a warning at the top. i was needing my usual rude cactus laugh this morning :)

but i definitely think you should call him!

Posted by: kati at January 11, 2010 11:53 AM

A lovely tribute. I know those calls are difficult (both to get AND give), but appreciated. I think more deeply the closer the loss.

I've just lost a close relative so this is a current issue for us. I tell my kids: it's one of the most difficult thing you'll put yourself out there to do (give condolences - there are lots of more difficult things we may be forced to do), but you NEVER EVER regret it.

Posted by: harmzie at January 11, 2010 12:30 PM

Rest in Peace, Big Bill.

Posted by: Mr Lady at January 11, 2010 1:04 PM


Posted by: alektra at January 11, 2010 3:15 PM

The first commenter is right - it's not the words, it's the love behind them. And yes, you do feel like an orphan - even when you're old. RIP Big Bill.

Posted by: laineyDid at January 11, 2010 5:13 PM

You know the old saying, you may be one person in the world, but you may be the world to one person.
You should call Little Bill, I'm sure he's struggling. You don't even need to talk about his Dad but maybe say something about his Father's passing reminded you that life is short and you want him to know that you care and you want to make a better effort to keep in touch. Something along those lines.
I'm sorry for your loss Chris....

Posted by: Rose Winters at January 11, 2010 5:47 PM

I find it hard to hear about people's parents dying. I guess it's a sign that we are all getting older.

My sympathies...

Posted by: Nat at January 11, 2010 9:14 PM

Hopping over after googling National De-lurking Day which lead me to your January 2009 de-lurking post and I clicked on Main to see if you were still going.
Sounds like Big Bill was a hard man but a good one.
I'm with the commenters above. Make that call. Little Bill could use a brother.

Posted by: Marie at January 11, 2010 11:13 PM

It's always weird knowing that someone who is such a big part of your memories is no longer on this Earth. RIP Big Bill.

Make the call. If we can't reach out at a time like this, then when.

Posted by: Nila at January 12, 2010 5:09 AM

You are as real a brother as they come. Call him.

Posted by: K at January 13, 2010 12:50 PM

Chris - you were/are a "real" brother to Little Bill. Brother/sister doesn't only have to mean through blood. I'm sorry for your loss.

Posted by: diane at January 13, 2010 5:04 PM