Thursday, April 5, 2012

Remembering Uncle Bill

I’m drinking orange spice tea tonight and thinking about my Uncle Bill who passed away in the wee hours of the morning.  He’d been very sick for about a week, but I don’t think anyone expected him to go so soon.

I have dozens of good memories of my red-headed uncle. Although he was 77 years old, his hair still had plenty of red in it. I guess that’s where my youngest brother, my sister and I get our auburn hair—from Uncle Bill and one of our aunts.  Dad and all the rest of his eight siblings had dark hair. 

Like so many of us Arvins, Uncle Bill loved food.  He loved to cook, and he loved to eat, too.  Whenever or wherever we had the opportunity to visit, the conversation would always turn to good things to eat. 

 If you were lucky enough to have dinner at his house, well, you were pretty lucky. My mouth waters at the thought of the fresh green beans and garden tomatoes he’d prepare straight from his garden. 

I can remember being at his and Alice’s house in late summer and how his tomato plants would still be green and prolific when everyone else’s were dried up.

Uncle Bill never seemed to get in a hurry, particularly when it came time to plant tomatoes, but he still managed to grow some of the prettiest big ol’ tomatoes before frost. 

Uncle Bill was a big fan of bluegrass music.  I think maybe that’s how he and Alice met.  When they first got married, they attended a lot of bluegrass music festivals together.  I’ve heard it said that Uncle Bill liked to sing and that he had a high tenor voice, although I don’t recall ever hearing him sing.  I know he didn’t care much at all for modern country music.

I remember him telling of “going around the mountain” with a couple of the Fox boys from Drip Rock when they were all young, and how they stopped to listen to some old fellow play the banjo or fiddle—I can’t remember which.   He said he was so moved by the music that he “just had to dance.” 

“Jovial” is a good way to describe Uncle Bill.  He liked to talk about his garden, cooking, and after he retired from the state highway department, he liked to talk about the long Sunday drives he and Alice would take.  He’d tell us all about their vacations to Bronson and other places too. 

We camped one time at his recommendation at Bee Rock in Rockcastle County.  I remember us taking a hike and coming across a big black snake stretched across a trail.  I don’t know who was more jittery afterwards—me or Alice.

Dad used to tell us a story about how Uncle Bill “pulled a prank” on one of their dogs.  He chased it with a stuffed red plush dog, and the real dog took off down the road like he was a scalded one. 

That stuffed toy sat on a shelf collecting dust for decades in the old general store that my grandfather once operated.  Whenever we stripped tobacco in that old store, Dad would tell us the story of “Bo Wo Bill.” 

Only a couple of years separated my dad and Uncle Bill in age, but I always found it amusing how different they are in personality.  My dad is quiet and reserved, and doesn’t enjoy being in the spotlight.  Uncle Bill, on the other hand, was louder and more talkative, and I don’t think it bothered him in the least to get noticed.

Uncle Bill really enjoyed coming to the family reunions we host here every fall.  He’s one of many who once lived right here in the same old house where we live today.  He was usually the first guest to arrive on reunion Sundays, and he’d come bearing a couple of delicious dishes and a gallon of sweet orange spice tea.  Tonight I’m having a cup in his honor. 

I pray you rest in peace, Uncle Bill. We love you and we’re sure going to miss you.   

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