This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 5, 2003 11:49 PM. The previous post in this blog was Iconography. The next post in this blog is On the street where you live. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2003

"Here's one you can hit, Jackie"

The last big male figure from my childhood has left us. From New Jersey comes word that my Uncle Bill has died.

Bill, married to my father's sister, was always around when I was a toddler and early grammar schooler. He and Aunt Eleanor had one child, a son, who is about my brother's age, and the three of us kids were buddies from the time the youngest could walk.

Bill, quick wit and chewed-up cigar always at the ready, would join my dad and us boys after supper for wiffle ball, and later hardball, out on the sandlot off the alley behind our house. Bill would lob in some nice fat pitches in his underhand style so that we kids could get good hits and run around the bases.

Every summer, the two families would head down the shore for two weeks, sharing a bungalow in Seaside Park. Nightly trips to the boardwalk, hours and hours getting burned on the beach or the crabbing dock on Barnegat Bay. If the crabs didn't bite, we'd go buy them, then spread out the newspapers and feast. Maybe a trip to the miniature golf course or the batting cages after supper. Card games, lots of card games, in those days.

And Bill had a great connection for tickets to the Yankee games. I will never -- ever! -- forget seeing the green grass of the Yankee Stadium outfield for the first time. It was a night game, and a kid named Bill Terry (or maybe it was Bill Stafford) pitched the Yankees to a 1-0 or 2-0 victory. The two dads and three sons cheered and watched for stray foul balls. And there were the big Sunday doubleheaders he took us to, with Mantle and Maris taking their bows before the adoring throngs as they hit 115 home runs between them one year.

When I blog here about Seaside, or the day JFK died, or riding down the Parkway with the radio on, Bill's in all those pictures. Asking for a receipt, always the receipt, at the Parkway toll booths. Reaching for it out the window of his big green Oldsmobile. Relighting an Antonio y Cleopatra for the third or fourth time.

When Bill's wife died at a heartbreakingly young age, some grownup disagreements (which I was mercifully out of the loop on) pushed him out of the frame. I didn't see him for more than 30 years, but I did catch up with him last summer at my dad's funeral.

I was so surprised to see him after all that time. I made sure to pat him on the back, and to tell him how much I now appreciated all the things he and my dad did for us boys when we were knee-high. I told him a couple of times.

That was one of the best things I've ever done.

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