I just returned from my second funeral so far this year, this one for my other uncle who succumbed to Parkinson’s last weekend. Having 2 “Uncle Bill”‘s in the family may seem confusing at first, but it was easily rectified with the creative application of occupational title: “Uncle Bill” was my mother’s brother (the deputy sheriff), while “Dr. Bill” was my dad’s brother. And he was, indeed a doctor, of the “old school” variety: a “GP” or “General Practitioner”. In short, he was a family doctor … heck, he was our family’s doctor.
My fondest memory of Dr. Bill revolves around the 4th of July. As a kid, family gatherings for holidays was a tradition, and each family member played a unique and highly important part. July 4th was no different, as Dr. Bill would throw a party in his back yard that I’d look forward to all year, complete with a whole roast pig slowly turning over a pit he dug, enough food (picnic pot luck, with everyone chipping in) to feed a small army, and a pool. He had a pool. A real pool. Not one of those “tank on the lawn” deals either. This was in-ground, big (well, big to me) beautiful pool. I remember playing with my cousins, all of us having a blast, while my grandmother (or, it could have been my mother) warning me to wait at least 20 minutes after eating before going in. There was nothing better on a hot July day than the food and fun.
I knew Dr. Bill was a bit of a collector. I remember his basement: dark, cozy, and full of rocks, fossils, barbed wire, and other things. What I didn’t know was his literary bent as a teen, but at the service today the bulletin had a poem he’d written when he was back in high school. It sums him up better than I ever could, so I’ll just say “I’ll miss you, Uncle” and leave you with his words:
I don’t have time, no time at all,
to do the things I’d like.
To dream of pleasant brooks and falls,
and picnics on a bike.
I’d like to write a bit of verse,
and then some prose perhaps.
And travel the whole universe
while poring over maps.
I’d like to day-dream hours on end,
a very pleasant way
to meet a long departed friend,
and pass the time of day.
If I had time to do my best,
in everything I tried
I’d reach my goal, attain success,
and finally when I died
They’d write a simple epitaph,
and briefly it would read:
“Here lies a man who dreamed and laughed,
and took time to succeed.”
– William Walter