Monthly Archives: December 2013

Batman And The 2013 YMCA Christmas Run: Are We Almost Finished?

The Treasure Valley YMCA Christmas run is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  It is held annually the last Saturday before Christmas, and it heralds the nearing end of the holiday madness.  Many of the participants dress up in costumes ranging from wild to outrageous, and equally well-appointed dogs rival the costumes of their human handlers for ingenuity and spirit.

I have run the race almost every year since the kids were born, save for an ear infection one year (kids) and bronchitis another (mine).  For the first time this year I had decided that we would participate in the race with no stroller back-up.  From the early days of pushing Annabelle alone in the jogger, to later years with both kids in the double stroller, and more recently taking the stroller along “just in case,” we had never gone to the run without a wheeled companion.  After Annabelle’s successful conquering of the hilly 3.2 mile Wine Run a few months ago, I was certain that both kids could easily handle a flat 2 mile stroll, especially considering all of the fun things to look at along the way.

Desperate Hubby is suffering from what I can only guess is the flu, and he has been in bed for the better part of six days.  We are generally a pretty healthy set of parental units, so DH’s illness has been rather concerning for the children.  Batman asks me on a daily basis if this is the day that daddy is going to heaven, a question he poses solemnly and with all sincerity.  The deaths of Uncle Lonnie and Papa Bill, not to mention his beloved lab Toby have affected my sensitive little son deeply.

Because of daddy’s incapacitation we have also been forced to cancel several holiday engagements we had been looking forward to, which has also been disappointing for the kids.

A little break from the house would clearly be a good thing.

The kids and I drove to Boise pick up our race packets Friday afternoon straight from school.  They snacked on Lunchables in the back seat as we made the forty minute drive downtown, and were reasonably patient as we stood in line for the thirty or more minutes it took us to retrieve our numbers, shirts, gloves and complimentary jingle bells.

As we began the drive home snow started to fall, lightly at first and more heavily as we neared our end of the valley.  It was beautiful, and the added Christmas atmosphere created by the white flakes only served to make me more excited about the exuberance of the festivities ahead of us.

Desperate Hubby had made dire predictions of the road conditions Saturday morning, voicing his doubt that we would be able to drive to the race.  In addition, Batman had developed a slight cough, and his daddy tried to talk him into staying home for the day to rest.  Batman was having none of that, and when we awoke yesterday morning to highway-cam shots of clear roads I knew our adventure was meant to be.

Getting out of the house in a timely manner with both kids properly dressed and ready to go was a challenge, and my nerves were frayed by the time we were finally in the truck and driving.  A stop by McDonald’s for a breakfast of champions (pancakes for Annabelle, Egg McMuffin (hold the egg) for Batman, and a big cup of coffee for me) and we were on our way.

Three or four inches of snow had fallen in the valley overnight, and though the freeway was mainly wet we did pass a couple of minor accidents on our way to Boise.  The surface streets of town had not been plowed, and a gray slush covered every driving surface.  The clock on my dashboard read a chilly 19 degrees when we parked.

The kids were both being good sports, though, and as we strolled the three blocks to the starting area Batman made the most of the new snowfall, kicking his way through every drift we passed.

We arrived just in time to watch the costume contest, which was very entertaining for  the children, and right after that Santa arrived for photos.

Oh what fun.

Christmas Y Santa

Despite my warnings about his lack of waterproof gloves (he insisted on wearing the race gloves over his own little pair of cotton gloves), and his lack of waterproof footwear (Nike running shoes not generally the most moisture resistant), Batman continued to attack the piles of snow energetically.

Playing in the Snow

Annabelle wandered around, petting every dog that got within reach and enjoying watching all the funny people.

Little Runner

This was going well!  I congratulated myself on putting forth the effort to keep our nice Christmas tradition going.

Things got even more fun when we discovered that there was a real live reindeer at the start line, available for pictures too.

A Real Reindeer

We even got a nice lady in the reindeer line to take a picture of the three of us.  I am proud to show you that even though the children refused to re-wear their hats from the parade last week, I recycled one of them for another go.


Ah, this was the life.

Batman was getting a little antsy after waiting around all this while, so we wandered over toward the back of the starting line.  The race was about to start.

With the traditional “HO HO HO!  Merry Christmas!” we were off.

We were having fun now!

About halfway through the first block Batman started whining.  “Moooommmmmm! I am thirsty.  I need a drink!”  I hadn’t considered that in sub-freezing weather, walk-running through three-inch deep slush, that we would need water.  But then again, this was Batman.

“You’re just going to have to wait, Buddy.  We don’t have anything to drink right now.”

This I delivered in my cheerful “public” voice, as opposed to my “private” voice, which tends to be more strident and often considerably less patient (not to mention louder) than my public voice.  I’m sure all of you moms know what I mean by that.  It is not dissimilar to the difference between the “inside” and “outside” voice of a toddler.

The calmness of my public voice did not deter Batman from stepping it up a notch.  “I SAID I CAN’T WAIT!  I NEED A DRINK RIGHT NOW!”  We were still in heavy foot traffic at that point, surrounded by parents pushing strollers filled with snacks and thermos’s of hot cocoa, who were glaring at me as though they had just recognized me from the pictures on their local post office wall.

I stooped closely to Batman and spoke into his ear with just enough of my private voice to regain control.  “Be quiet. We don’t have anything to drink here and quit making that hideous moaning noise.  Please buddy.  We still have a long ways to go.”

“Oooohhhhhh, mom.  I am just so thirsty.  Are we almost done now?”

This actually brought a few snickers from a few of the families who hadn’t actually passed us when my son sat down abruptly in the middle of the road to make his point.  I walked over to a bush in the median, covered with three inches of pristine white snow and scooped a small amount up with my glove.  Then I walked back over to Batman and offered it to him to eat.  He sucked on the snow thirstily and resumed walking with a spring in his step.

It worked!

For about ten feet.  Then we went through the exact same conversation and motions as before.

For the next two miles.

About halfway through the race my right arm was aching with a tunnel carpel-like intensity and my hand was cramping from gripping the race-gloved appendage of my youngest child in an effort to keep him moving.  I had to switch sides and pull with my left hand instead.

Just before we finally made it to the finish line, when I was sure it couldn’t get any more excruciating, Batman actually found it within his tiny soul to step it up yet again.

His footsteps slowed to nearly a stop.  He started moaning hideously and loudly, making a noise I can only liken to the incessant turn-over sound of a car with a nearly dead battery.  This was interspersed by a constant diatribe of “I can’t go on any further.  I am thirsty.  I am tired,” over and over again for the last six blocks or so.  If it hadn’t been so slick on the street, or even if I had thought for a moment I could carry a more than fully clothed 55 pound screaming kindergartener for that distance I would have given it a try.  But he just had to walk.

With about two blocks left to go I leaned down to Batman and said “Look buddy.  We are about to get to the finish line.  You should be proud of yourself and happy that you made it!  Aren’t you happy?”  This prompted a vigorous shake of the head and a mumbled statement about hating races and never wanting to do another one.  Ever.

Right before we entered the finish line chute, we passed another family.  It looked like a dad with four kids, walking slowly along.  The eldest daughter of about fifteen was holding the hand of the youngest, who was probably four or five.  The little girl was crying loudly about being cold and not being able to walk any more.

I felt a little better knowing I was not alone.

Our pass through the chute was unremarkable.  We were all happy to discover that the Y was giving medals this year for completion, and the kids hung their symbols proudly around their neck.  Batman grabbed thirstily for the water bottle from the volunteer at the end, and drank almost the whole thing as I tried to take their finish-line photos.


Apparently he really had been thirsty.

I do feel a sense of satisfaction about completing the race, and I am happy the kids made it through unscathed.

I am even happier that it doesn’t come around again for another year.

Merry Christmas!

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas 2013: Elfed Again

I’ve had a few people ask me what happened to Sparkles, our erstwhile elf from last year’s Christmas.  “Did she return this year?” they ask.

The answer is, why yes, she did return. The Monday after Thanksgiving, after days of worry and angst by the children that she wouldn’t be coming at all because they had been pretty naughty.  Sparkles brought a note that in it detailed how she was, in fact, almost grounded by Santa this year because of the children’s bad behavior, most notably in the form of fighting to the point of inflicting bodily injury upon each other.

The note went on the explain that Sparkles really believed in the children, and she begged Santa to be allowed to return.  She just KNEW they could be good.

I thought Sparkles was perhaps being a little optimistic, but hey, I was hopeful too.

She arrived bearing a new little Christmas tree for our kitchen table, complete with decorations. She also brought a big canister of hot chocolate and two new Christmas cups like she did last year.  The icing on the cake was a Christmas tree cookie jar, filled with the little super-sweet sugar cookies my kids just love.

Xmas Elf Returns Again

The kids snarfed down a few cookies, then made a big mess all over the kitchen counter mixing up hot cocoa.  After that they got into a monumental fight over who got to put the new little Christmas tree in their room.

When the shoving started I intervened, reminding them that the note from Sparkles had clearly stated that the tree was for our dining room table, and that Sparkles had warned they were on probation already.  Did they really want to fight like that?

The scuffling grudgingly stopped.  Annabelle went into her room to change clothes, and Batman unenthusiastically hung a few of the small ornaments on the tree, refused to even consider draping the cute little red garland, then wandered off to his room to do something involving all of the tape from my office dispenser and most of the printer paper from the laser jet tray.

Ah, Sparkles had her work cut out for her this year!

The elf is a goer, though.

Despite long lists of the children’s naughty escapades she tallies on a daily basis, she keeps coming back, day after day, though I must say I feel she has lost some of her verve from last year.  She hasn’t played any tricks to speak of, but she has dutifully moved every night upon her return from that day’s reporting from the North Pole.

She’s been around in the usual places.

Xmas Dining Table

One day we found her wearing the little Christmas collar that Annabelle likes to torture her kitten with.  I mean dress her kitten up in.

Xmas in the Stocking

Of course she sat in the mecate reins.

Xmas on the Ropes

And on the little shelf that holds Annabelle’s buckles.

Xmas Elf on Trophy Shelf

And a bunch of other places as well.

She has brought a few gifts.  Like this giant (really freaking loud) reindeer that I had to move outside after about five minutes of inflation because the air pump made so much noise.


And she brought some baking supplies.  Because I do love to make me a couple pans of cupcakes.


Xmas Cupcake Supplies

I guess I should be happy she at least brought mixes.  The kids did have fun with that one.

Xmas Cupcake Decorating

And the cupcakes turned our pretty cute so I won’t complain about it.  Any more.

Xmas Finished Cupcakes

She delivered some Christmas books and tree cakes, along with new holiday blankies for each child.  Because they each have only about 42 blankies already.

Xmas Tree Cakes

She brought a copy of the movie “The Elf,” which threw the children into fits of excitement.  Sadly, our elf’s attention to detail is not what it might be, and she brought a Blue Ray version of the flick, which our archaic video technology does not support.  I told the kids to save it, for surely we would soon have a Blue Ray player.

The elf sure is fond of sitting on Santa’s lap.

Xmas Sparkles Sits on Santa

And in his arms.  If I didn’t know better……no, let’s not go there.

Xmas Standing Santa

The elf’s best return was a Miley Cyrus inspired entry, and although the kids didn’t get the reference they found it very entertaining anyway.

Xmas Miley Elf

The elf has also given us one more gift this season.  She inspired our entry into the Middleton Christmas Parade.

Annabelle has been asking all summer and through the fall when we would be in another parade.  She loves to sit up there on the pony, waving gaily to passersby.  Every kid watching any parade is drawn to Reno, since he is so cute and small and cuddly, and Annabelle enjoys sharing him with others.

I had told her some time ago that we could participate in the Middleton holiday parade, so a couple of weeks ago we started thinking about costumes.  Batman immediately insisted on walking with us along the parade route so he could throw candy.  Dressed as an elf.  He even found a pair of red dinosaur pajamas, and put them on inside out so the print was muted.  From somewhere else materialized two white gloves.  And two white socks.  He was all over it.

This was the general look he was going for.

Xmas Sparkles on Horse

I bought a few cheap felt Santa hats at Wal-Mart, and my son painstakingly cut off all the white fluff from the tip, then colored the remnants that couldn’t be cut away with a red marker.  This was all his idea.  Through trial and error I figured out how to make the hats stand up and stay on the kids’ heads in a comfortable fashion.  I would tell you how I did it but I am thinking of patenting the technique, so I can’t.

We made one extra hat, since Annabelle’s little friend from school was going to join us to walk.  Then all we needed was the rest of the costumes.

This idea evolved gradually, until a few days before the parade when I went out in search of red sweat suits – you know the kind – Hanes, or something like that.  Fleece with elastic on the bottom of the pants and a matching crew necked top.

FYI – the don’t make those anymore.  At least not in red.  In Idaho.

So I drove from store to store, spending an entire Thursday that I really didn’t have free, in search of SOMETHING that would work for costumes.  Finally, in store #12 (no, I am not exaggerating, and yes, I realize that is excessive, and I don’t know why I went to such lengths) I found red women’s pajama bottoms on sale, right next to the same color kids’ sweaters.  Both were in large sizes, which was perfect since I was planning on putting them over the kids’ coats and snow pants.

I found white gloves, two pair left, on sale at another store.  Then I set about figuring out the collar.  A yard of white fleece at the fabric store, and we were set to make us some elf outfits.  Again through trial and error, and a process involving a measuring tape, sharp scissors and a big mixing bowl, we were in business.

Batman loves few things more than to use scissors, so he got busy with the leftover fabric making scarves for all our family members.  No, he did not fall down in a snow bank and scar his face.  That was hot chocolate.  And exactly what he is measuring I am not sure.

Xmas Elf Measures

Finally we were ready.  Batman wore his outfit around the house full-time for the next two days, he was so excited about it.

I went to back to Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store and bought a large amount of sparkly ribbon and bows for the pony, along with three little jingle bells to attach to his saddle.

This is how it all turned out.


I apologize in advance, but they were so darned cute that I couldn’t stop taking pictures.  And posting them here.

Look at those little boys dressed as presents in the background.  So adorable!

Cute little Presents

Reno was resplendent.  You might think with all the bells and the bows, the chaos and confusion, he would have been amped up or at least a little nervous, but he is such a parade professional that he took it all in stride.


He did want some of Batman’s candy though.  He does love him a peppermint.

That candy sure looks good~

After nearly three hours waiting around in the cold, we finally got to start walking.  Annabelle’s friend showed up at just the right time, and we all headed out.

Pointy Hats

We had so much fun walking along the parade route.  Batman and Jelissa threw candy.  Annabelle threw candy.  When she ran out of candy she periodically put the reins over the saddle horn and waved at all the kids with both hands.  I don’t know where she got her showoffness from.


Walking Along

We ended the parade just as the sun was going down, and the roads were turning to a thin sheet of ice.  It had truly been a great day.

End of the Road

In closing, I would have to say that while I haven’t been overly impressed with Sparkle’s ability to improve my kids’ Pre-Christmas Behavior, I do certainly appreciate her parade inspiration.

Happy Monday everyone!  Remember, only nine days until Christmas!!

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | 4 Comments

Enjoying Our Own Winter Wonderland

We got our first snow of the season last week and great excitement ensued amongst our household.  Well, truthfully, Desperate Hubby wasn’t that thrilled, but I was happy.

The kids were ecstatic.

We emerged in the barely dawn light to start the long process of shoveling the driveway and walks.

Annabelle and Winston played a merry game of tag around the yard and up and down the gravel road while I worked getting the two inches or so of fluffy white powder cleared off.

Xmas First Snow Day

Winston dearly loves the snow, and he raced and raced until he was a big matted ball of snow fur.

Xmas Snow Dog

With a funny happy face.

Xmas Winston Snow Face

Batman made a little snow castle out by the pens while I was busy shoveling a path to make it easier to feed the horses.

Batman in the Snow

Even Blackie the cat got into the fun, following us around as we worked and played, her shiny black fur a stark contrast to the glistening white snow.


Such a pretty girl.

Xmas Blackie in Snow

Reno the little black pony was snow-covered and happy in his pen, chomping away on his ample breakfast.

Xmas Snowy Reno

When I was finished shoveling, the kids and I went into the house for a break.  It was a very cold 10 degrees or so outside so we needed to warm up.  DH had a nice fire roaring in the wood stove, so it didn’t take long for us to be thawed out and ready to head back out to play.

The kids were bugging me to take them sledding. We had no available hills around, and they had grown much too large for Winston to pull them in their sled.  Not to mention their back-up idea, which was for ME to pull them in the sled.

Not happening, kiddos.

Then I had a great idea.


A makeshift harness combined with homemade cardboard blinders turned Reno into the perfect little sleigh pony.

XmasToo Much Fun

We spent a happy hour (not to be confused with the other type of “happy hour,” of which I am also quite fond) jogging up and down the gravel road and around the hay fields.  Reno had not pulled anything in a few years, but he settled right into his harness and trotted along beside me like a champ.

He can be such a good pony.

Most of the time.

It was so much fun out there breathing the fresh air and feeling the sunshine on my face that I just didn’t want to quit.

Finally, though, my legs were quivering from exhaustion and my snow boots had rubbed quarter-sized sores on both ankles (I have to jog in them once a year, just to remind myself why I shouldn’t) so we adjourned to the house again to get changed and ready to go downtown to the Christmas Night Light Parade.

We dressed as warmly as we could.  The temperature hovered around 8 degrees as we drove the short distance to downtown.  A chilly wind took the temperature down to around zero or less as we stood waiting for the parade.

We were not disappointed.  It was beautiful.  Unfortunately, it was so cold that I could not take my ski gloves off to take very many pictures, but I did get a few.

Xmas Lights Parade

We toughed it out for over an hour (it’s a pretty long parade) and left a few floats before the very end.  It was just too cold to stay any longer.

The cold temperatures gave us a benefit though, as the snow stuck around to provide one more good sledding day for the kids and their friends Shawny and Sierra.

This time Grandpa Vernon drove.

Xmas Around the Pasture

He went quite a bit faster on the four-wheeler than I was able to jog with the pony, but I do believe I should get some points for old-time authenticity.

Xmas Gpa Vernon

I hope you are enjoying your winter as much as we are ours.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

He Did It His Way

Wm. M. Smith, or Papa Bill as he was known to us, passed away peacefully yesterday afternoon at about 2:00, with me and my mother-in-law, his daughter Becki, at his side.

Bill passed from this world in exactly same way that he lived in it: under his own terms.  After he suffered a massive stroke and medical tests revealed that there would be no recovery, the doctors said it would likely be a very short time before Bill left his earthly body.  He was made comfortable on the sixth floor of St. Luke’s hospital, and family near and far started the grieving process.

It was apparent after just a couple of days that Bill was in no hurry.  Though he never opened his eyes, he did recognize that we were there with him, and responded to questions with a nod or a squeeze of the hand, even an occasional spoken yes or no.  The nurses were amazed.

Day after day, the decline of his body became more evident, until a few days ago when he no longer responded to questions or showed evidence that he was aware we were in the room with him. 

I know he knew, though.

The day before yesterday, on the eighth day of our vigil, a new young doctor was on duty for rounds.  He had the perfect blend of irreverence and unambiguous respect for the situation, and I think he recognized in me a similar plainspoken sense of humor.  The young doctor stayed quite a while in the room, and we talked about how strong Papa Bill was, and how surprised everyone around the hospital was that he was still hanging on. 

The doctor said that he believed people didn’t leave their bodies until they were good and ready; it was a personal moment in life in much the same way as childbirth was.  I liked his analogy and appreciated that he was so open and relaxed in speaking about the process that we were going through.

Right before he left, the doctor told me that he had recently had a conversation with several other doctor friends, and they had talked about the longest that they had personally had a patient hang on in a circumstance such as Papa Bill’s.  His longest patient had gone seven days, he said.  The longest of any doctor in the room had been nine.

I didn’t tell the doctor this, but I knew right then that Papa Bill would be with us for at least one more day.  He was an extremely competitive man, and I knew he’d at least want to tie the record.

I was right.  Papa Bill waited not only until the next day to leave us, he waited until the same doctor was making rounds, and drew his last breath just seconds before the young man stepped into the room. 

The young doctor was silent for moment, gazing respectfully at the three of us.  He said, “I’m going to give him a minute here.  He has fooled us all week long, and I don’t want to rush him now.”  Then he said “Besides that, I’ve had patients before that I thought were gone, and just as I bent down to give a listen to their chests they took another big breath and I about pooped my pants.   I could totally see Bill doing that to me!” 

Becki and I both laughed through our tears.  It was exactly the kind of statement that Papa Bill would have really appreciated.  When the doctor pronounced officially that Bill had moved on to the next world, I told him of my thoughts the day before about the nine-day challenge he had unwittingly issued. 

The doctor laughed, and said that from all he had heard about Papa Bill he thought that was probably accurate.  And he said “Well, this is a new record for one of my patients, that’s for sure.” 

I think Papa Bill would have liked that.


Papa Bill at the age of four.  What a handsome young man!


Papa Bill in 2011; the photo I took at his apartment to include with his life story books.

Papa Bill 006

Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

A Little More About Papa Bill

It’s Sunday morning, early.  I drove in the dark in a light chilly rain to come to the hospital today, a little earlier than I have been arriving.   I promised to be home soon enough for the boys to do some duck hunting this afternoon.  Greg and the kids had been hanging out together over the long weekend a lot, and I think the little ones are missing me and getting a little restless. 

Papa Bill is pretty quiet this morning.  He is not as alert as he was yesterday during my visit, and for the first time during this process I am not absolutely certain he knows I am here. 

Yesterday (Saturday) was a pretty phenomenal day here at the hospital.  Phenomenal might seem to be a strange word, considering the circumstances, but I mean it in the purest and most respectful way.  When I arrived yesterday at about 9:00 a.m. Papa Bill had clearly been awake for a while, and he was agitated.  Though he doesn’t open his eyes, his face and breathing made it evident that he was alert, and his limbs moved restlessly on the bed.  He had kicked his covers completely off, and they were balled in a soft white tangle beside his knees.  I spoke to him and put the covers back on, then I sat down next to him and took his hand.  He quieted somewhat. 

Then he started talking.  This was a surprise, as he had not spoken to us since his stroke, and I think the doctor, as well as the family thought he would not be capable of speaking again.  His words were somewhat garbled, and I struggled to understand him. 

It sounded to me like he was speaking names. 

This was not unfamiliar to me, nor unexpected. When my grandfather passed, also in a hospital, he spoke to family members long gone, and reached his hand out toward them.  He appeared to answer questions, yes and no, when nobody in the earthly room was talking. 

Papa Bill’s behavior was so similar.  He was reaching out his hand toward the end of the bed, and though his eyes were closed it was evident he was reaching for something.  I asked him if there were people there and he said “uh huh.” 

My mother-in-law arrived not long after I had gotten Papa Bill settled, and we talked to him a little more.  He said several more words that we couldn’t understand, and said a clear “No” when asked if he had any pain. 

I believe that there were others in the room with us; people that we couldn’t see but that Papa Bill could sense.  I am convinced that near the end of life our family members come for us, they come to escort us home. It would not be a stretch to say that in fact I think they are often near us, but our everyday level of consciousness doesn’t allow us to perceive them.

Papa Bill is more deeply asleep today, and he is not talking or gesturing.  As I’ve sat with him over the past few days, I have thought a lot about him as a person, the man behind the stern façade that not everyone saw through.  I thought of the many stories I have heard about him from family members over the years.

I also remembered a few more things myself. 

When I was injured in a horseback riding accident in 2005, I ended up in the hospital for more than a week.  Papa Bill was one of the first to visit me when I got home.  He had made a trip to Costco with my mother-in-law, and brought all sorts of goodies. I remember they hauled bags of stuff into the house, but the two things I remember most were a giant glass jar of three-bean salad, which both Papa Bill and I loved.   Secondly, he had baked me a pie.  A cherry pie, frozen from the grocery section.  He was so proud of that pie, and insisted on getting me a piece of it right away.

Papa Bill came to our house two years ago for Thanksgiving when Winston was just a tiny puppy, barely six weeks old. We had only had the pup for a day, and Papa Bill sat and held that dog for his entire visit, with the exception for a few minutes out to eat.  It was an unlikely pairing, but they seemed to really connect.

Android 853

Papa Bill has a dog too.  She is a border collie mix named Sadie.  Sadie moved to live with my brother-in-law Mike when Papa Bill moved into his apartment.  Mike would bring Sadie over to the apartment to visit on occasion, and Bill always had dog treats in a bag on top of his small fridge for her.  In addition to that, he saved half of every sandwich he ordered for lunch in the cafeteria, placing it in a styrofoam container in his freezer. He called those containers “Barf Bags.”  The barf bags were saved for Sadie, and periodically Mike would pick them all up and take them home to thaw individually as a treat for the dog.  Papa Bill always said he suspected that Mike kept the best sandwiches for himself, and he might have been right.

When he still lived in his house, after his wife Sugarfoot died, Papa Bill would make a trip to Costco once a week.  There he would purchase a large beef roast, and on Sunday afternoon he would cook that roast in the crock pot.  He would season it with just a smidge of onion soup mix, and when it was done that roast would be not only Sunday dinner for Papa Bill and Sadie, but what they ate all week long until it was Sunday again and time to cook another.  He called it the “Dog Roast.”

If the phone rang at Papa Bill’s when you were there, and you were unprepared, it could be quite a shock.  I remember the first time I was there visiting, sitting in the comfortable, antique-filled living room and hearing the quiet jangle of the phone.  This, of course, was before the days of our pervasive cell service, when people communicated mostly by land line.  I barely had time to recognize the ringing as a phone when Papa Bill, who was sitting directly to my left, shouted out in an ear-splitting voice “TELEPHONE!!  TELEPHONE”!!!”  I nearly jumped out of my seat, it was so loud and unexpected.  This was not a new trick for the family, however, and they either rolled their eyes or walked away or looked kind of perturbed.  For some reason though, I found it kind of funny, and I laughed out loud.  I never heard a phone ring in the presence of Papa Bill that he didn’t announce it loudly to the world, and I laughed every time.

A child of the Great Depression, Papa Bill was frugal to a fault.  He wore his clothes until they were absolutely ready for the rag-bag, drove cars until they were more than fully depreciated, and never cared about he looked or how people perceived him. 

There was one thing Papa Bill would spend money on, though, gladly, and that was his family.  My mother-in-law, Becki, tells many a tale of Bill’s generosity when she was a young wife with little children and little money.  She told me of driving to Northern Idaho with her husband Phil, DH’s dad, and their young children,  for a visit with Bill and Sugarfoot.  For some reason they drove their old International pickup truck, and the tires on the truck were absolutely bald.  Papa Bill took one look at the state of the rubber on their wheels and told Phil to take that truck downtown and get some new tires.  Charge it to him.  He was not going to allow the young family to drive back home over Whitebird Pass with those old tires. 

Papa Bill placed a high value on education, and he believed that it changed people’s lives.  Becki decided to go back to school when her children were little to get her cosmetology license, giving her a career she could pursue at home while she looked after her young kids.  Papa Bill supported her through that endeavor, paying for her parking and uniforms, babysitters and whatever else it took to get her through the program.  A few years ago my sister-in-law was interested in going back to school to obtain her masters degree in teaching.  Becki describes a lunch she and Shelley had with Papa Bill where Shelley was talking about the research she had done on her graduate program, and though she was excited about the career benefits afforded by the advanced degree she was also trying to figure out how she would afford the cost.

Papa Bill asked how much the program tuition was, then took his wallet out and wrote a check to Shelley for the entire amount on the spot. 

That was Papa Bill.

Bill had a serious job, spending the last twenty years of his life as a Magistrate Judge in Idaho, but he still brought some humor to a pretty humorless profession.  Greg says he can remember going to visit Papa Bill and Sugarfoot in the summertime and sitting in the courtroom watching the proceedings.  His favorite phrase from Bill  to his clientele was “Well, son, I hope you brought your toothbrush with you today, because you are going to need it.”

Despite his stern demeanor, Papa Bill had a strong sense of play, and Becki told tales of expensive gifts for the children, things that were far beyond the budget of a young couple with three small kids, but toys that Papa Bill wanted to enjoy with the children.  Remote control cars and trucks, and grand battery-operated airplanes were the norm.  All of the gifts were given gladly, and enjoyed by the children alongside their grandfather, who would play with them for hours, teaching them how to operate the toys and then delighting in them as much as the youngsters did. 

When Sugarfoot was alive and the grandkids were small, she and Papa Bill would orchestrate elaborate Easter egg hunts every year.  Together, they created dozens of plastic eggs stuffed with tiny papers, each listing a different prize that was to be retrieved in the dining room after the hunt was over.  The eggs were carefully hidden around the large back yard of their south Boise home, and the kids would leave with a huge load of money and toys and candy.

Papa Bill wasn’t above a little horseplay either.  Becki tells of formal meals at the dining room table where each roll requested by children was delivered in an overhand throw by Papa Bill.  She said the adults would just cringe, but the children loved it.  Papa Bill’s mother said he got that habit from his time in the army. 

And speaking of food, Papa Bill lived for dessert.  It was his favorite part of any meal, and he wasn’t afraid to let you know it.  He loved pie, especially Marie Calendar’s Chocolate Satin Pie, and ice cream.  Really, he ate anything sweet.  He was often heard to say “Let’s get this food out of the way so we can have dessert!” before a meal even started.

Papa Bill loved nicknaming people.  After my last blog post I got a message from Bill’s niece Deb (another “by marriage” family member like me) who talked about the nicknames.  She said she never got a nickname (I didn’t either) and she never knew if that meant Bill didn’t like her enough or that he liked her too much!  He had some creative ones though, and one I am glad I never got was what he sometimes affectionately called his wife.  FOG.  For Fat Old Girl.  Yeah, Deb, maybe we didn’t miss out by not getting nicknames!

Although I have known him only a relatively short time, it is obvious how important Bill has been to this family over the years.  His generosity has opened doors in education and careers that might have never been possible without his help, and he has expanded the horizons of every youngster he came into contact with. 

What makes this even more notable is the fact that Bill, like me and Deb, is a transplant into this family.  He married Greg’s maternal grandmother when they were both forty years old and Greg’s mom and sister were teenagers.  From an outsider looking in I have to say that you would never guess that from his actions.  He has cared for this family the same as if they had been born to him, and I admire that.

As I finish this blog on Monday morning, Bill is still with us here on earth, but probably for only a short time now.  His stroke was one week ago today, and with his usual tenacity he is doing this his own way.  Godspeed, Papa Bill.

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