happy “boo”thday Billy…

31 10 2008

Eva had her last child on the day before All Saints’ Day.  Months later she would be gone.  The birth certificate says that the attending physician’s name was E.E. Evans so I’m still left with the question of the ‘E’ (only) as Billy’s middle name…after Eva?  Did she know he was her last?  After the Dr. with such an original set of initials?  

Halloween was extra special in our house given it was Billy’s “boo”thday.  I don’t remember cakes or special menus…I just remember feeling like we were extraordinary because he got to share his birthday with lots of kids who would come to our house.  Maybe he just learned early on that it wasn’t worth causing a selfish fuss to want a private celebration – but instead to embrace the day and be the giver instead.  That would be in line with his character.

There was one year that stands out from the rest in my memory.  It might have been the year of Huckleberry Hound and the horrible condensation behind the rigid, blinding, suffocating plastic mask with strings of elastic cutting into my scalp above my ears.  Before we could don our costumes, dinner MUST be eaten.  And if dinner was to be eaten, then the Family Altar or Devotions were also to be read.  I peered out the window at the darkening skies – I knew we were going to miss it all sitting here listening to some thoughts on who-knows-what.  It was a special kind of torture.

Finally we were released.  I was still too young to be out on my own so with my mother’s hand in mine, we set out.  I don’t imagine we went to more than the houses on our block but it seemed like we’d been gone forever.  Finally crossing the street to approach my own house once again, I let out a scream.

Santa stood in our doorway handing out candy.  I was devistated.  So confused.  How had I missed the preparations?  I suppose the only way to calm me down was to get close enough (I was terrified) to have my dad pull down the beard to reveal the magic. No wonder I’m so psycho.

I’d say that it had only been in the last two seasons that his love of dressing up to scare kids had been won over by the heaviness of his life.  But not too long ago – he could still be seen sitting in his favorite lawn chair, right inside their breezeway with a mop head wig, crazy hat and some other foolishness, scary sound effects blaring from the stereo – handing out candy.

Halloween will never be the same.  Some of the fun is gone.  Maybe, just maybe, what I need to do is to honor him by taking up his mantel.  It would also be selfish of me to think we are the only ones who miss him.

He has left good friends behind that shared the same birthday.  Justin’s mom, as only a life-long-school teacher can do, is the Queen of the Seasons.  She was the one who did elaborate Christmas cookies, decorate for each holiday and has sweaters to match.  (Maybe not so much now…but certainly in the 90’s).  Her busy household with a husband and two very active boys was never too much for her to find time to make a special cake that Billy and Justin would share.

It broke my heart to hear that this twenty-five year old wanted to come say good-bye to my dad when he was in hospice.  I don’t care how old you are, it was not easy way to see someone who had been very vital,  withered away.  I am sad for J that he doesn’t have a birthday buddy left.  It was a celebration that my dad talked about every year- even when he could no longer remember Justin’s name…he became “their older one”. 

Another very important family tradition must be carried out.  Who knows when it started, who started it or why…but as soon as the last note to “Happy Birthday” fades, we begin to recite:

We wish you many happy returns, 

On this the day of your birth, 

May sunshine and gladness be given, 

For God in his mercy prepared you on earth, 

For a beautiful birthday in heaven.

The changes are mine to make it fit.  I leave you with what I believe to be the earliest picture of Billy.  The writing on the back dates it to 1923 – so I imagine it to be before he celebrated his first birthday.  We miss him dearly but could never have given him a party like he’s celebrating today.