Then today I enter Larson's Bakery to grab some cast off buckets and turn to look straight into the face of his daughter Jill. It's his face only prettier and younger. I can tell she misses him. Misses the house she grew up in and only a year ago lost as a regular part of her life.
He's a man I never want to let myself forget. And as I stand at my yellow roses, I pray somehow he's in heaven, enjoying roses perfected.
"Now what age is it that they start to walk? It's been so long since mine were little that I forget."
My little one's walking this summer and Bill's not around to ask the question or see the answer bounding into his yard.
He's asked it of my five and three year-olds when they were babies. But not this time. Not ever again.
I knew when we moved here and met our 89 year-old neighbors we'd likely experience loss. Now we have and I miss them terribly.
Bill and Ruth. Once it got nice out you could count on them sitting in front of their garage with the door up, cigarette lit, enjoying the shade of the birch tree and the house.
And if you stopped to say hello to them you could count on them asking you to sit down, and Bill getting up and giving you his rocker while he went to get those plastic white chairs stacked just beyond in the garage.
Froggy was right there too and the boys always loved to hear him croak. When the batteries died, Bill searched for his old ones and tried them till he found some with juice left, and with shaky Parkinson's disease hands, he'd get old Froggy working again.
You'd hear stories of World War II over and over. Some funny, some scary, some just about the gigantic Begonias in the South Pacific. And he'd always mention how much he missed their old friends Bernie and Hal.
His laugh was deep and rich, mind sharp, and delight in the children, weather, stories of of adventure were real and deep. He always wore a stocking cap and a large sweatshirt that hung off his thin frame, and was tough on the outside.
Once, when Dawsy was very young and in love with cars, he threw a rock at Bill's. A dent in the driver's door to prove it. I offered more than once to get it fixed. He just shook his head with a sparkle in his eye and said, "This is Ruthie's car and she doesn't use this door. I don't think she'll ever notice."
There was the time they took us blackberry picking. Bill had this special stick he brought along that was formed in such a way you could use it to pull down the top prickly branches so as to get to the hard-to-reach blackberry gems.
In terms of material possessions, they had very little. We even watched their kids throw all of their belongings into a large dumpster after Bill fell into a final sleep. But Bill and Ruth had time, and they gave it freely to people who came their way.
I've always felt something sacred in living right next to them, no fence separating our yards. Here, a home bursting with new life, babies born every other year. There, the finishing of golden years, life coming to a close.
Shortly after Bill left us, his niece came to our door crying and holding a Bible. It was the large print edition Brian had given Bill when he had told him he couldn't read all those small words.
She was in tears, and asked Brian, "Do you know if he prayed?"
Brian had no definite answer for her.
I've misplaced Timmy and find him climbing up Bill's vacant deck. Bill would smile to see him walking, climbing, and attempting to run.
Each life a gift...those God places in my path I must not forget. For there is always a purpose in the meetings. Always.