We moved to River Bend Drive just over seven years ago. The lot our home was built on is bordered on the North side by a long driveway – which besides acting as the driveway to our neighbors Coleen and Manual… was also the final fire line of the Awbrey Hall Fire that burned four homes on our block to the ground in 1990.
At the entrance to that driveway, with its’ front door facing the North side of our house, is Bill’s house. Bill is Coleen’s father, and when we moved in back in December of ‘14, Bill was 87 years young.
To the random observer, myself included, outside of Bill’s grey hair and aged gait – you would have not known he was well into his eighties. Everyday Bill would be outside his home, constantly working on a project. He would slowly touch up paint around the entire exterior, meticulously manicure shrubs into a variety of shapes, and would venture out daily in his Honda CRV.
For the longest time, I was convinced Bill had a daily job he was still attending due to his driving… but as we got to know each other better, he told me those daily trips were to his favorite card room. Bill loved to gamble. He shared stories with me about his trips to Nevada, including his “farewell tour” where he said goodbye to friends down that way on his last trip through.
No dandelion, mullen, nor knapweed was safe with Bill around. He was a constant gardener, traversing his half acre with a five gallon bucket or cardboard box in hand – stooping down to pull out any intrusive plants. Even after he suffered a fall last year, he would use his walker to make his rounds for the daily weed patrol.
Bill was a Marine, and very proud of his time in the service. He shared with me that even though he had to do extra laps and exercises because of it – his refusal to smoke cigarettes in the service was what he attributed his long life to.
When Bill would see me coming or going to the river, he was always up for a chat. He shared that when he first moved to River Bend Drive, and his body was a bit more able – he too would walk the river everyday. A kindred spirit.
But what I admire most about Bill is he was an amazing neighbor. He quickly “adopted” Kaydee and Teagan as his own little grand kiddos, and would create special treat bags for them every Halloween. At Christmastime, he would come knock on our front door bearing gifts for the girls too.
And likewise, we adopted Bill in a similar fashion. Treats would be delivered each holiday, and Teagan baked him four BIIIIG cookies for his 94th birthday in August.
When Kaydee and I got home from her volleyball meet on Sunday, I noticed Bill’s house was entirely dark. Something felt different too. Anyone who has lost someone they are connected to knows that feeling when a light goes out in your room of life.
I was out shoveling snow yesterday and his daughter came out of Bill’s front door and shared with me that Bill passed on Saturday. She also shared that one of the last things Bill talked about with her was that he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to get Kaydee and Teagan a gift for Christmas this year, and wanted to make sure she would do it for him.
I will miss my neighbor, my friend, and a source of much wisdom and smiles with Bill being gone. But I’m very grateful that he was next door the past seven years to show me how to be a better person, and an amazing neighbor. And each time I see a dandelion, I’ll be reminded to Be Like Bill.