I wrote this for Bill's dad's funeral earlier this week ~
I stand here before you today as a witness.
A witness of the family I joined 24 years ago. I’ve seen ups and downs, ins and outs - heck - I’ve participated in many. Some I was welcome in, and some I, maybe, stuck my nose in where it didn’t belong.
But, in return, I was always shown kindness by this family, and that tone was set from the beginning by both Bob and Margie.
Shortly before we were married, Bob and Margie came over to our place for supper. Margie was excited to show me the new black purse that she planned to carry for our wedding. It was very nice, big and roomy with a wide strap, actually somewhat similar to the one I was carrying at the time. We had a fun evening. Bob told stories of working at the phone company because that’s what Bob always did, and I think we played cards. They headed home, we went to sleep, and that was that.
Except the next day at work when I reached into my black purse and pulled out a set of teeth! Just imagine my scream to see them in my hand! I dropped them and called Bill bewildered as to how I got them? He’d just got off the phone with his mother, and she couldn’t find hers! We realized that the night before emboldened by a drink or two and her dentures bugging her, she took them out, and put them in my purse mistaking it for hers.
She was embarrassed when we took them back to her. She said to me, “Oh honey, I CAN’T believe I did that!”
And Bob said, “Margie, my bride, it’s okay. Stacey wouldn’t keep them!” We all laughed, and it was just the beginning of many suppers we shared with them.
I could tell Bob liked me, probably because I politely listened to the stories everyone else had already heard so many times over, BUT I could also tell he wasn’t so sure about my mothering skills when Liam was born. You see, we had cats, and he was sure I’d let them curl up on top of “the heir to the Meyer name” while he was sleeping and Liam would be smothered. He’d also admonish Bill to make Liam stop hiccupping when his little body would shudder- certain it would hurt him and be bad for his brain!
Then when Aidan came, he reminded me countless times over to take more pictures of him because, as the second born in his family during the depression when money was tight, there
were hardly any photos of him but many of his older brother Elmer. He wanted to make sure Aidan didn’t suffer the same fate.
They say our mothers accept and love us unconditionally, and our fathers represent the first social lens we’ll be viewed through. Their role is to protect us while correcting us so we’ll behave appropriately and be accepted in the world at large.
As I said, I stand here as a witness, that Bob took that role seriously. He could be harsh, very harsh and even though Bob was a genial guy, it wasn’t easy to be his child, whether you were his because he married your mother or because you were born to him.
Each of you have memories of times that cut deep. I’ve witnessed the pain you still carry that tells me it was real, it hurt, and it was hard . . . sometimes unbearably hard.
It would be a disservice to the four of you to honor him today without acknowledging your experience as his children, and the ways it’s shaped you and your lives.
Bob was a flawed human being just like all of us. He was a product of the time and events he lived through. He did the best job of being a father that he was able to, and I don’t think he ever meant to hurt you. But sometimes he did.
He expected a lot, and he expected it - if not now - a few minutes before he even knew he needed it. I think he thought that’s what Dads did. If you were at the farm, you were available to help with whatever needed to be done - whether it was to hook up a wagon, fix a tractor, milk the cows, bale hay, drive somewhere to pick up something he bought on Prime Mover last Saturday morning, help find something he misplaced, or to just pour him a cup of coffee.
My first visits to Meyer’s Ridge were filled with those requisite phone company stories he told everyone - what color wires meant what, how his buddies called him Duke because of his mad fighting skills back in the bar brawls that happened after a few drinks at the end of the workday in Chicago.
But, what I remembered the most were stories about all of you. Judi being able to cook anything her ex-husband hunted and being so devoted to her cute kids. Robbie, his devoted sidekick, while he built on to the house, and, of course, her singing talent. Cindy’s speedy barrel racing skills at the rodeo, and being able to drive tractor and make hay with the best of them. And Billy’s talent for fixing things.
And he always bragged that none of you were afraid of hard work, often holding down more than one job at a time and while raising children too.
I witnessed him dropping everything to help you whether you went in the ditch on these crazy windy, slippery back roads during winter, you and your kids needed a place to stay, you were performing a song you wrote after a tsunami, or if your child was battling a terrible illness like cancer.
Your relationship with your dad was complicated, sometimes frustrating, but it was always real. And as a witness, I saw how much you meant to him. He was hard on you, but not as hard as I’ve seen each of you be on yourself. My hope today is that you let that go of that a little bit more because you took on all the good traits of your dad and left the others behind. I’ve witnessed your devotion to your kids and other loved ones, your hard work ethic, your ability to give everything you have to whatever you’re working on, your sense of humor, your independence, and your determination to never give up.
You know, when I started dating Bill seriously, I’d overhear his phone conversations with his parents and could tell Bob always ended his turn by saying something like, “Alrighty then . . . Love you . . . Bye, Bye.”
Invariably he’d say that and then remember something else he wanted to tell Bill. There’d be another round of “Alrighty then . . . Love you . . . Bye, Bye.”
That could happen several more times until Bill was annoyed and just wanted to get off the phone and finally there’d be the last, “Alrighty then . . . or maybe, Okey, Dokey . . . Love you . . . Bye, Bye.”
I thought it a little weird because, at the time, my family just said “Bye” when we hung up. It just seemed excessive to me.
But after years of hearing this, I realized, of course, Bob would say that because he NEVER doubted his love for you -- even when you did.
So today, I stand here with everyone else, to witness Judi Lynn, Robbie, Cindy, and Bill along with their families, friends, and neighbors say his words back to him one final time,
“Alrighty then . . . Love you . . . Bye, Bye.”
Bill accepting Bob's United States flag given to his family for his service defending the country.