He had these stupid dancing frogs. They had a band of their own and stood about six inches high in green plastic splendor. The red button on the side sent out a peel of music and they danced along, strumming their imaginary strings and waving their hinged jaws in time to the tunes. I loved them. I played them over and over. They sat on the shelf of their motor home, which was parked in the driveway and always a home to me when we visited. Up above the TV was a stack of movies and I watched Pretty Woman from the velvet couch and prayed my mamma wouldn’t find out. But she did. He took one look at me when I walked in that door that lead from the garage to the kitchen and said “Well didja watch Pretty Woman in there?” then gave a husky laugh as my cheeks turned color.
He was a tease, always calling your bluff and ready with a joke and a good time. His garage was full of silly and stupid signs, ones that made me giggle and made him laugh. He would raz me then pull me in and hug me tight, his 5 o’clock shadow always tickling my cheek as his big hands patted my back. Then we’d head to McDonald’s where they had their morning coffee with all the other folks from the neighborhood. Sometimes instead we would go
to Hails for Pigs-in-a-blanket or strawberry crepes, and he and daddy would always fight over the bill.
He was a rock collector, and I loved scouring through the rock garden for his latest find, always captivated by the ones with deep purple streaks and crystals poking out from their centers. And he had the biggest TV my little eyes had ever seen, which he always played Home Alone on it for me-no matter the season of our visit.
When there were puppies, I always got to play with them. When we were little, they stocked up on Cap’n Crunch because they knew it was a treat. He came to all of our weddings, no matter what the season or the weather, and he wore the same black shirt-one with a screen-printed tux. His sense of humor was one to be rivaled.
I remember asking my mom one time why he didn’t hear so well and she told me it was from firing the guns in World War II. When I was older I figured that’s where he’d picked up the habit he kept hidden so well, quietly excusing himself for a moment. I never once saw him with a cigarette, though I knew that’s where he went.
He was a stubborn old Dutchman, and he’d be the first to tell you so. But he had a big’ole heart and I loved him for it. In many ways they are more like grandparents to me than an aunt and uncle, and I will miss him fiercely.
He said goodbye to this world yesterday. I just wish I could have said goodbye back. There are so many more things that I could say, but this is the most important: I love you, Uncle Bill. We will miss you.