When we were growing up in Australia Uncles, Aunts, cousins and Grandparents were relatively unknown to me as they all lived in America.
In the early 80’s though my work took me to America quite often. On these trips it was my delight to escape to Washington on the weekends to visit my relies. Most times when I was in Washington I stayed with Bill and Denny in Bethesda.
I had such fun getting to know my new family. It was sort of strange just how much I yearned to be with them. I think all of us enjoyed comparing family resemblances and for that matter differences.
And as much as I loved my new family it was also a joy to have Uncles. ( I now had 3 Uncles Jack Williams, Chuck Egbert and of course Bill). As I have said already I grew up in Australia where my father was the main male influence in my life. Relatives were just too far way for us to really get to know. Going to America at that time of my life and latching on to an Uncle had a lot of advantages. My knowledge of their past was limited and thus what I saw was so to speak on the table right now.
Well to be brief what I am really just trying to say was meeting such a sensible and interesting man was a great privilege.
On one of my first visits somehow I was invited to play Rugby with my cousin John. Bill came along intrigued I guess about this strange game played by the Colonials and mad grid-iron players in the off-season. I got a bit of a bashing that day. I am not sure which he enjoyed most .
He showed me the Potomac walk , Sycamore Island and his great love of birds.
A reserved man perhaps inclined to avoid conflict would be my guess. But an easy man to sit down with to just graze the issues of the day or just sit and say nothing but knowing that you are enjoying each other’s company.
I enjoyed his love of history and his desire to investigate when matters arose. I once asked him about his war history and mentioned that my dad had been almost killed when his ship was sunk by the Japanese kamikaze in the Second world war. Well Bill did some research and I found out a lot more. I was interested that Bill kept in
I have seen how Bill bonded with his children in an easy manner. He loved being involved in the family activities. During one of my early visits I watched him swing from tree to tree under the watchful eye of Judy in her adventure course days. It was great have an Uncle who loved outdoor adventures.
I guess in some ways that I was the renegade when I turned up. A little too boisterous for Denny. And Bill had often to officiate on the havoc I was making. I can hear it now ‘Do you hear – now stop that’ Stern and straight-faced but eyes saying something else. I was a bit picture hungry in those days and often caught Denny unawares. Well Bill would start pointing all over again.
Yes Bill was my mentor in the US. No he wouldn’t get involved in the heavy stuff like your love life or lack thereof. But he would emerge you in activities of some sort. Each visit there would be a plan. Which Smithsonian institute would we go to. What things should I be seeing. And then much later perhaps one of my last visits we went to visit Judy and Per down at their home. One day driving down. One day with them and one day driving back. All the way down every town became interesting as we talked about its history and on the way back we visited a lot of Civil War sites. What better guide could one have then my Uncle Bill.
I wish I could have spent more time with Bill. Maybe that is one of the ironies of life. Here was a man I loved to be with and now he is gone. Thank you for your company; I will miss you.