When I was about nine years old I remember Mother and Grammy and other older relatives discussing the adoption of a young man by another member of our extended family. Everyone agreed that this adoption was a very good thing for all concerned and as the years passed Billy was often in and out of our lives on a daily basis. He had a charming manner and all those who came in contact with him, loved him and I was no exception.
The years passed and as I came into young womanhood, Billy was already a handsome young man with a warm and friendly disposition. He had graduated high school and had taken a job in the local A & P Grocery Store in our small town and folks commented that this was the ideal job for him. His quick wit, handsome face and engaging smile would certainly help him rise to a managerial position in no time at all.
As time went on, and I was older, I often heard quick comments about my older cousin being made by other members of our family. Mother, when pressed to explain her comments, cast her dark brown eyes in my direction, pursed her lips and tersely replied, "Billy's Billy!" I never understood any of that cryptic statement and Mother wouldn't explain it either.
I often wondered why Billy, at the age of thirty, still lived at home with his adoptive mother and why he didn't ever seem to have a girlfriend, especially when he was so handsome and had such a good job. Every once in a while, male members would kid each other about something Billy had done or allude to his having a "different kind of lifestyle." But life doesn't wait around for anyone too long and soon I was married with a young family of my own and living in Connecticut.
From time to time, when visiting my parents with my children, I'd run into Billy in town or in the A & P Store and we'd kiss and hug and catch each other up on what had happened to us since the last time we'd seen each other. Then, I'd return to my Connecticut home and that was it until the next visit in the following year.
Somehow, as the years slid by one into another, Billy never seemed to change and his clear skin and bright eyes always seemed the same each time I saw him and I always had a "special" place in my heart for him.
Then came the time that after twenty years, my own life flew all to hell and I found myself divorced and once again living in my hometown and running the library at Ashland High School. Mother didn't believe in divorce and never one to hold her opinions to herself, told me in no uncertain terms that "we Stevens' women, stuck with our husband, come hell or high water!" The war was on. I didn't go home from that day on.
Then came the call three years later that Dad was on his deathbed and Mother had decided that perhaps I should come to see Dad before he passed. Hurt, angry and scared, I wouldn't give in to her then either and the funeral went on without me.
About a month after Dad was laid to rest, I met Billy in town and he held his arms out to me and gathered me close to his heart. We held each other for the longest moment and then I heard him say, "Toots, I know how much you loved your dad and I know how much he loved you, so I did a very naughty thing." I drew back and looked into his lovely brown eyes, "I took it upon myself to send something of you to accompany your father when he began his final journey." "What did you do Billy?" I whispered, barely able to ask the question about what he'd done for me. There was just a hint of a smile playing around his lips when he said. "Well, I took myself off to the florist and I found one magnificent yellow rose and I bought that rose and took it to Stimpson's Funeral Home. I had them put that yellow rose in your dad's hands and I signed the card in your name."
I was overcome by his sweetness and what he had done for me. "Oh Billy, I'll never be able to repay you!" Billy stepped back and looked at me and then he said, "All you Stevens' women are so stubborn and you need to get over all this and get on with life. Forgive your mother, she's old and a lot of things happened to her when she was young that you have no idea about!" He kissed me again and then he was gone.
Over the years, life took me clear around the world and back again to the beautiful State of Maine and I go home, when the memories pull my heart in that direction and I find the need to reaffirm to myself that I really am a product of Aroostook County.
This year, my granddaughter Peyton who is ten and lives in New Jersey, made the journey with me and we had a lovely visit with most of my remaining relatives there in Ashland. While reminiscing with my aunt, Billy's name came up and I quickly asked how he was. My aunt got a faraway look in her eyes and said, "You know Billy's gone now and I miss him. He was always so good to me." I was sad when I heard that Billy was no longer here and I asked her about his final years.
My aunt looked at me and then she said, "You know Billy had a very difficult time, living in our small-minded town. He should have taken himself off to a big city where he could have found someone to love him and accept him for who he was. I have never met a nicer, kinder human being." I had to agree with her.
So, Billy, no matter where you are and as far as I'm concerned, you can only have gone to one place and when you look down on me from time to time, know that in my heart, I accepted you the way you were and I can only hope that I, as a human being, can be half as wonderful as you. I will love you always.
So, now I know what Mother meant when she said, "Billy's Billy," And you know what, Billy was one hellava human being and much more of a "man" than most!
Martha Stevens-David Column Magic City
Childrens Stories include:
See also Vengeance is Mine a short mystery novel published at Magic City over 4 days.
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