Friday, April 13, 2012

The Piggy Bank in the Bathroom…


We lost my Uncle Bill this past week.  There are a multitude of images and memories that come to mind with Bill….ranging in time period from my childhood until now.  When I was a child, he was the uncle who took me on his knee and hugged me and teased me about the outfit I was wearing or wondering if my older siblings were picking on me.  As an adult, he was the uncle who always gave me a big hug and whispered in my ear that he loved me after a visit where he was giving me a hard time about something or another.  The last time I saw him – he gave me that same hug and kiss and whisper in my ear.  It is a nice memory to think of – but there will always be something else that will make me think of Bill – the piggy bank in the bathroom shaped like a baseball.

The Piggy Bank
My mother and Bill had a great relationship – they were both people who were married to siblings.  Jokes were always told between the two of them and there was always a warm relationship.  Mom always remembered when they were much younger and the four of them went to a bar.  This was an unusual occurrence for all of them.  The barkeep knew Mom from school and therefore her age, but she made the rest of them show her their ID’s.  Despite being the oldest of the group, Bill couldn’t get served a beer.  He had left his wallet at home…he asked the barkeep if pictures of his five sons would help.  Mom always got a kick that she pulled one over on Bill.  Several years before my mother died, Bill and Anne would visit and Bill would ask to use the bathroom…and Mom would tell him to not forget to leave a quarter.  Bill would rifle through his pockets and check to see if he had enough change…and then head to the bathroom.  Sure enough, in the bathroom would be a quarter on the shelf – Bill’s payment.  It was a fun joke between my mother and Bill that extended over to my grandmother’s house as well.  One day Bill and Anne made a special trip to Lewiston to bring a piggy bank for both my grandmother and my mother.  It sits on a shelf in the bathroom and is full a decade’s worth of change….some from my father’s pockets, but mostly from Bill.  Even after Mom died, he still left his quarter. 

Bill was a vibrant individual whose presence was always felt.  He couldn’t sit still and was always remodeling the house, tinkering with some engine, feeding his fish or the stray cats that showed up outside.  Bill was a packrat that collected bits and pieces of a lot of things…I’m sure as his sons clean out his stash of bits and pieces they will wonder where he got all that stuff…and probably wonder why he left it for them to go through.  They are lucky though…they had a father who adored them and their children had grandfather who adored them as well.  Bill had a soft and mushy heart.  When needed, he could spring into action to help when a child was hurt or stand patiently at a campground with his granddaughter’s cat on leash so it could go to the bathroom…no matter how silly he looked.

Anne & Bill on their Wedding Day
Bill hasn’t had an easy life during the past thirty years.  In some ways he was a broken man.  During a house fire, he lost one of his five boys despite his desperate efforts to get to him.  It forever changed him – there was still a twinkle in his eye and a joke, but you always knew that there was sadness behind it.  Bill has had enumerable health troubles through the years, but especially the last few.  The most important thing to Bill was his family especially his wife and sons and later their families.  He was the adored only child of wonderful parents and the beloved son and brother in-law of his wife’s family.  After so many years as part of our family,  “in-law” is no longer an appropriate description.  But Bill was also as his wife called him “a stubborn old goat!”  How else did he survive all of the health scares of the last several years?  He didn’t really like listening to the doctors unless it was absolutely necessary or if his beloved Anne put her foot down.  I suspect that he didn’t want to leave his wife and sons and grandchildren, and held as long as he could.  I would like to believe that Bill is reunited with his lost son, Alan, his parents, and mother-in-law and my mother.  I’m sure Bill gave her a hard time because she left us too soon. 
Anne & Bill - 2008

Dad and I have decided that we are going to take that piggy bank, empty its contents and cash in the change.  We are then going to pick up Anne and go out to dinner and tell a few stories and reminisce about Bill, Mom and other family members that we’ve lost.  Then we are going to take that piggy bank and put it back in the bathroom.  I’m sure people might wonder about a piggy bank in a place of honor in a bathroom…and when they ask, I’ll be sure to tell them about Uncle Bill!