a birthday for billy

22 08 2008

When the committee began talking about things that might be important for us to put our hands on in these last days – one of the biggies was my dad’s Bible. There is book shelf with a full 36″ of Bibles of all sorts, sizes, colors and styles…but not THE Bible. The one we were all thinking about was the one that we grew up seeing him carry to church. We all knew what it looked like, smelled like, felt like but it wasn’t to be found. But those deemed by the fates to be purveyors of trinkets REALLY know how to look. I walked to the shelf this morning and within less than 5 minutes I found where it was stashed.

In his distinctive block print – his name…William E (only) McNiece. Do you know what E (only) means? It is just an ‘E’…no dot behind it because it is not short for anything…just plain old ‘E’.When he would sign important papers he’d write the “E (only)” so there was no mistake. Does that E stand for everything, everlovin’, even-tempered, even-keeled or every-man…just an E. What is it in our human nature that doesn’t GET simplicity…the simpler something is – the more explanation it requires…”Your middle initial?”…”E – but just E – E only – it’s not short for anything…it’s just an E.”

Carefully I bend back the fragile sheet – this was a gift from his fiancee who was to become his bride eleven short weeks later on the day after her 21st birthday. They’d met during the Holiday season of 1945 at Christmas caroling party…and somehow his hand found hers and both were snuggled away from the freezing temps in the warm pocket of his Navy issue pea coat. He was in the process of being honorably discharged after his three plus years of service in the Asian Pacific Theater – his discharge would be official by the end of the first week of the new year.

“You should have seen him when he was courting,” she reminiced.  They dated about a year – beach parties with friends, church events – their relationship progressed and she received her diamond engagement ring on the evening of July 3rd.  The 4th was celebrated by going to a parade then into Wrigley Field for a double header Cubs against the St. Louis Cardinals.  I remember her saying that she spent the whole time just staring at the sparkles on her finger.  

Sixty years of marriage.  A household that was marked by love – gentleness – quiet strength. The sundial that stands in their front yard – a great reminder of what it takes to stick to the business of making 60 years work or 6 months for that matter.  Sundials don’t work unless their starting point is true north…and I think they figured which way was their north.

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