He was The One Friend I had in this family who welcomed me with open arms, a huge smile, and constant encouragement.
I miss him just as much today as I did four years ago when he went to be with God.
In his honor, I made a loaf of pumpkin bread and ate about four slices. You see, that is another thing we both shared that nobody else in this close-knit family has - a love of pumpkin bread.
I learned of his love of pumpkin bread the first winter after Mike and I married. I made a loaf and learned that Mike is not an eater of sweet breads. Mr. Billy came by one afternoon - probably delivering something for us. He eased in the driveway and slowly strolled up on the back porch to knock on the door. I greeted him with the enthusiasm I always had for him and the opportunity to spend time with him.
In the door he came and promptly sat down in one of our kitchen chairs, making himself comfortable. I offered him a glass of sweet tea and a slice of the day-old pumpkin bread. He chatted away with me for an hour or so while I was stirring up dinner. He just kept on complimenting the delicious pumpkin bread. So, I gave him another slice...or two.
He and I discussed most every topic imaginable - politics (we had similar views), family, work, sports, community happenings - you name it, we chewed on it almost as much as we did the pumpkin bread. Then, he decided he had better head up the hill toward home and Mrs. O. He made me promise not to tell her about him eating the sweet bread because she would do some fussing at him since he was diabetic and didn't need such. With a smile, I wrapped up about half the loaf and sent him out the door, anticipating that he would share it with her and she might not fuss at him.
After that, whenever I would get a yen for a taste of pumpkin bread, or most any sweet bread, for that matter, I would simply cut the loaf in half, wrap it up, and leave it on the seat of his truck. I never said a word about it but he would always find a way to thank me and give me a hug with nobody noticing. It was just something we shared and a way for me to share my love of him and his son and family.
After Pop died, I mentioned how I always shared the sweet breads with him and how I would miss him. I mentioned that half of every loaf would probably now go to waste. My mother-in-law looked quite surprised. Then, she asked me when we would share the breads. So, I explained how I would share half of each loaf with them by leaving them on the seat of his truck that he parked just outside their house. She said, "Well, that stingy old coot! He never brought the bread in and shared it with me!" Our entire family simply fell out laughing. Pop certainly had a way about him.
So, today I nibbled on a couple or three slices in his honor and shed a few tears thinking back on the memories of times we shared. I guess I will always miss him and think of him when I bake sweet breads.
Happy Birthday, Pop!