Day 86: Billy

1 Jul

Today is my youngest cousin’s birthday. Billy was born the year after I graduated from high school, and while I was around for his first few years, I left the east coast before he was ten years old and so I only saw him on those occasions when I returned home for a visit.

About 17 years ago, I was home for a family gathering and learned that my uncle was seriously ill. As soon as I had a chance, I phoned him to ask how he was and to see when I could visit him. My uncle told me that he had cancer and that he did not want me to see him but preferred that I “remember him as he was.”

Shortly after that phone call, Billy called. He asked if I knew that Uncle Ritchie was dying. I told him that I had just spoken to him and that he told me not to visit him. There was a short pause and then Billy said, “And you’re going to listen to that shit?” I thought, “Well, that’s what Uncle Ritchie said” but then I knew that I had to go and visit my uncle one more time.

My sister, Janice, drove with me to his house. My Aunt Donna let us in and brought us to my uncle’s room. Uncle Ritchie was drowsy but perked up when we entered the room. He seemed far away and started talking about a date he had been on many years before. It was a moment before I realized that he thought that I was my mother – and he was reliving a memory from many years past. After a short time, he seemed to realize that it was me, and not my Mom, that he was speaking to. He teared up (I think we all did actually) and said, “You look just like your Mom.” I suppose I did resemble my Mother when she was my age. And while I was relieved that my Uncle finally knew who I was – I also very glad that I was able to let him relive a happy memory when he needed it.

Two days ago, I sent my cousin Billy a Brownie Pie (via Priority Mail) for his birthday. I wanted to thank him for encouraging me to do what was so very important. I am truly grateful that I got to spend that special time with Uncle Ritchie, and I know that he appreciated it as well. Cousin, I hope your birthday was tremendous!

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3 Responses to “Day 86: Billy”

  1. Jen Powell July 1, 2011 at 8:38 PM #

    Karen, this is absolutely amazing!! I’m calling him into the room to read what you posted…I personally want to thank you….you are inspiring. I hope we get to see you guys soon! Love, Jen

  2. Robert Powell July 17, 2011 at 5:56 AM #

    I have to say that I am very glad that you did get that opportunity to see my dad before he passed, no matter what he tried to say beforehand. His pride in his appearance had him trying to turn people away at the end and as you are showing, that was not what is important.
    Visits from family and friends were great lifts to his spirits and his just stubborn will to live was absolutely tied to his spirit. Thank you so much for this great memory. 🙂

    • pieadaygiveaway July 17, 2011 at 8:49 AM #

      Bobby, I am glad that I didn’t listen to his words and followed Billy’s advice… it was really so important to visit with him. I’m glad that you saw the post! My best to you and Missy!

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