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.

cute phone call

I’m at work.

My cell phone rings with the “family” ringtone.

The caller ID says its my wife.

I push the accept call button. “Hello?”

“Baaaa beee buuu shaaaee dak?”

I smile. “Hi, little guy.”

“Sooommm mek gaaab doo daaa pbbbth.”

“Oh yea?”

“Deeee baad sshuuug maag gep. ”

I expect my wife to take the phone back, since I thought she called and was letting Justin do the greeting. “Where’s Mommy? Justin, can I talk to Mommy?”

“Booo bo baaak meeg shaal ek!”

“Justin, does Mommy know you have her phone?’

Theres a sound like he’s slobbering on the phone, then in the background I hear my wifes voice: “Wha..” and then the call ends.

I wait a couple of seconds, grinning, then call back. My wife answers the phone.

“Hi, I just got a phonecall from our son.”

“Yeah the little turkey had it when I came out of the bathroom. I thought he was just playng with it at first, but then I realized he was actually talking to someone.”

“Well, i just wanted to make sure you knew he had your phone, and that it was me he called.”


“At least he didn’t call Germany or something.”

She laughs, “Yeah.”

“I love you, I’ve got to get back to work.”

“Love you too, see you tonight.”

The call ends. I’m still grinning, and I think about how much more fun a call like that will be when I can actually understand what he’s trying to tell me.