Anyway, I got thinking this week about all the great things I've posted about Bill. I don't lie, in fact I've been know to be brutally honest. A sin? I'm not sure.
In any case I've thought about how we almost idolize the dead. I started trying to think of bad things about Bill and pretty much came up empty-handed, at least for the last 30 years or so.
In the beginning, it was different. We had some fights that should have had the neighbors calling for help. Bill was older and pretty dominant. I was the baby of my family and really, really, felt I had to have the last word. At times we were combustible, even volatile. On the other hand we could steam up the windows in the car faster than anyone I ever knew. We had a passion for each other that defied reason.
While I tried to remember fights from when we were younger and times he was a total ass, all I could remember was standing in the back stairway two steps up from him so I wouldn't get a stiff neck and making-out like crazy. One terribly cold winter's night we were tearing each others clothes off in the car parked in the driveway when my mother came out in her robe and slippers.
"For heavens sake," she said. "Come inside before you freeze to death."
My mom was pretty cool like that, and she loved Bill.
He had a temper, I was stubborn to a fault. We had issues, so don't think it was all hearts and flowers between us. Bill was far bigger and stronger than me, but I wasn't afraid of him, even though he did think of me as sort of portable. More than once he flung me over his shoulder when he thought it was time to go home and I disagreed. Jerk.
He also could be a mean drunk. Give him beer and he would have a grand old time, dance with a mop and throw his last cent, possibly his car keys and his wallet into the hat they passed to keep the band playing. When he drank whiskey, preferably 'Old Grandad', he could be a mean son of a bitch.
One night after a party we went to a local bar where he got into the Grandad. Suddenly he thought some guy was coming on to me a little too strong and it being New Year's Eve and all, he didn't like the way he kissed me. Seriously, I thought the guy was a great kisser although he wasn't much to look at. See, you can never tell. Still waters run deep and all that.
We left quickly. I don't mind a good fight now and then, but bloodshed is not my thing and then there's all the apologizing when the poor bastards sober up.
We didn't really speak on the way home, but once on the porch Bill took his massive fist and punched out all six sidelights on the door like a jackhammer. I mean really, he did it so fast I couldn't say a word until he was done.
"Feel better?" I asked, tapping my foot.
"No," he replied. "It's going to cost me money and I think I lost my wallet."
"It's in my purse. Are you hurt?"
He got as far as the couch and passed out. I left him there.
Another time he got so drunk I drove him home with his legs sticking out of the back door of my best friends little Omni. It was the only way I could get him in the car and it was only from across the street. He made it to the couch on the front porch, and he was sicker than hell. The woman mixing the drinks at the graduation party damn near gave him alcohol poisoning.
I brought out a fan and plugged it in hoping that would help. The kids were actually crying.
"Mommy, is daddy going to die?" they asked.
"No, he's just going to wish he were dead," I replied. "Go on in the house. I'll take care of daddy."
After that I always asked the same question when he asked me if I wanted to go out "What are you drinking?" If it was beer, I was in. If it was whiskey, I'd pass. Around 40 he pretty much quit drinking altogether.
Oh he'd have a beer or two or maybe a cocktail, but that was it. I didn't quit, but I had the worlds greatest protector who watched me like a hawk. When he figured I'd had enough my beer would disappear to be replaced by a coffee fixed just the way I like it. That was my signal and while I might pout for a moment, I knew he was only thinking of me.
Somehow, without planning to, we'd grown up. I learned not to push his buttons and he learned how to cherish what he had. I no longer wanted to grab a step stool so I could wring his neck, and he no longer got mad enough to flip me over the hood of his car and spank me in broad daylight while I screamed for his mother to come help me. That four foot nothing woman came out of the house with a flyswatter and smacked him till he let me go. Bless her heart.
My point in all this, is that Bill was not a saint, even though no man could possibly be more loved and adored. For the last couple of years as his health began to deteriorate, I would find him sitting in his office where he was supposed to be working on a model car. He'd take my hand, his eyes sad.
"I was an ass for a good number of years," he'd say. "I'm sorry for all the times I hurt you."
"Why are you bringing this up now? We've made mistakes, and done some pretty wonderful things too. I don't think about the past. I want to treasure each and every moment we have now."
"But I hurt you," he'd say.
"I forgave you a long time ago, and to tell you the truth all the good things have pushed any bad memories away. When you truly forgive someone, you forget and I did. If I had to do it all again, go through all the bullshit to have what we've had for the last 30 years, I would. Please don't think about those days. I don't. I remember the good times and I know there isn't a man alive who could love me like you do."
Everything I told him was true, and I think that's why it's so hard for me to remember bad times now. Our life was about love, and love isn't always neat and shiny. Sometimes it's messy and painful and you wonder why you're still in it, but you hang on to it, because it's really rare.
One of my favorite memories is from when we first stated dating. I asked him if he could skate and he said sure, he was really good at it, so we went skating. I remember laughing as he struggled to stay up on hockey skates he hadn't worn in a number of years. I, on the other hand, wore my white figure skates with the little pink pom poms.
He had me on strength and speed, but I skated circles around that man and there was no way he could catch me. After a while he was out of breath from trying and I skated closer. He made a grab for me, but I laughed and eluded him.
"Sooner or later you're going to have to take those skates off, girly girl," he warned with a promise in his eyes.
I smiled and skated right into his arms. "I can't wait."
God, how I miss those days, how I miss him.