Packages from Texas

My uncle Billy has always been fond of sending me “interesting” items in the mail. Many of them were of questionable legality in the state of California. For my 18th birthday, he sent me a sword, (along with a scroll with a quirky short story he wrote.) As a graduation present, I received a crossbow. Some of the other items he sent me over the years were a throwing star, padded nun chucks, and a sling-shot (with fore-arm brace). I’m sure you can see a re-occurring theme here.

He didn’t just send me weapons. He also sent what could be described as trinkets which he crafted himself, or strange odds and ends. A copper tea service as a wedding gift, A hand carved piece of wood he referred to as a “toad poker”, a trick pen that zapped you when you pressed the button on the back to extend the writing tip, a wooden fish with a clothespin glued to it, (for holding mail, or recipe cards, or something similar – at least that’s what I did with it.)

I could always tell when a Package from Texas arrived. The scent of tobacco permeated everything inside, and seeped out of the package and into the air. I can walk into my mom’s house a few days before Christmas and be able to say “You got a package from Texas, didn’t you?” just from the smell. I still have things out in our storage area from him which still carry the faint essence of tobacco even now, years later.

I find that I have a fondness for those Packages from Texas, even if I can’t find a place in our home for the items he’s sent. I’ve gotten rid of the weapons (except for the sword, which is peace-bound) and many of the trinkets as well. The items I have kept, I may never find a use for – other than to serve as a reminder to me of the unique individual my uncle was. I’m glad that I’ve kept these, since I doubt that I will ever receive another Package from Texas.

My uncle has not been in the best of health for a long time. He neglected his own health while caring for my grandfather, who’s battle with Alzheimer’s took a heavy toll on my uncle. I think he took it the hardest when my grandfather passed away.

My knowledge of the details are sketchy at the moment, but as I understand it, uncle Billy was scheduled for surgery yesterday. There were complications brought on by pneumonia, and he stopped breathing some time this morning. He is currently on life support, but there appears to be no higher brain function. (I believe the term is “Persistent Vegetative State”) The decision about whether or not he is taken off life support rests with my aunt. And I will support her decision in either case.

Uncle Billy was an amazing man. We have always had a connection that was hard to explain. When he came to California to visit, my sister and I would play hooky from school and spend the day with him at the Academy of Sciences, or the Oakland museum, or Lawrence Hall of Science. When I was freaked out about starting high-school, he knew. He called me a couple of weeks before classes started to remind me that I had nothing to worry about. He showed up for my wedding after initially declining, and I was not the least bit surprised when did. I was so certain he’d show up that I kept him on the seating chart even after we got his R.S.V.P. He was the first extended family member that I called to announce my son’s birth, and Justin shares his middle name.

I love you Unca’ Billy, and I’m going to miss you.

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Robert Belknap has been writing online sporadically since 2001. See the colophon for more details.

10 thoughts on “Packages from Texas”

  1. He’s a cool guy. I remember going to see one of the Star Trek movies with him and your other uncle. Good times.

  2. There are oranges in your mom’s backyard that still to this day fear that sword, and pass on stories to their younger generations about the great cleaving circa 1995!

    I’m sorry to hear about your uncle, its great that you have vivid memories to remember him by.

  3. This is to thank my wonderful son for writing such a great artical of my younger brother. I too will miss the packages from Texas. Thanks to all of you that knew Bill or knew of him. Bill left us at approximately 4:oopm Texas time on Tuesday Dec 27th. He is now free and dancing with Dolphins or playing with Faries as you read this. Thank you all.
    Dragonfly (aka hooloovoo’s mom)

  4. My thoughts are with you, Hool, and your wife and to Hooloovoo’s mom. May you remember the best of times with such an interesting man.


  5. wow… I guess it’s taken me a long time to get to read this blog… I remember playing hookey (I think there may have been a trip to Grand Theater to see Indiana Jones or Back to The Future that turned into 101 Dalmations… sorry, by the way…) I love Unca’ Billy, and think about him often. I think I’m the lucky one to have such a great roll model.. (however, I wont be sending Justin weapons, you know, on account of being afraid of what Mom and Jen might do…) Love you, Troll Boy!

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