Save a Place at the Table

19399646_10214121200690836_1603070636057683650_nI have been fortunate in sharing friendships with some incredible individuals in my lifetime. Among them is Bill Weimer. Bill was born and raised in Detroit and lived there during the city’s glory days. His boyhood was spent in a dynamic atmosphere when his hometown seemed unstoppable. He reveled in the history of his neck of the woods and was a kind of Renaissance man with a sharp mind that eventually led him to the University of Michigan where he earned a degree in engineering. He became one of the young lions who pioneered advances in computing and ultimately was tapped to join the team of the world’s brightest minds at NASA in Houston.

Bill loved to travel and had an adventurous spirit that helped him to accept the challenge of leaving Detroit to travel south to face the unknown in a place about which he knew little. He packed his things into his car and drove the miles alone, learning a bit about all of the places through which he drove and filing away stories that would delight his listeners for years to come. He found a group of single young men wanting to save money by sharing expenses and moved into an apartment with the crew. They would become lifelong friends who walked together through good times and bad over the ensuing years, including going out together for weekend entertainment. On one of their ventures Bill met Patricia, a nurse and the woman that he would eventually marry.

Bill and Pat were a great couple. He was somewhat quiet and she was outgoing, but he always had a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. He charmed her with his intellect and his gentlemanly wisdom. He was a storyteller who always seemed to have an interesting tale to tell. Pat who was outstanding in her own right knew that she had found the man with whom she would enjoy the realization of all of her hopes and dreams. Together they settled down in Houston where they purchased a lovely home and began to build a family. Theirs was a wonderful life with a bright little boy and a beautiful daughter who shared the family intelligence. They opened their home to everyone and never seemed to forget a friend. Wherever they were was a happy place to be.

I met Bill Weimer through his wife Pat. It wasn’t long before my own husband Mike and I were spending long evenings with the two of them laughing and making pronouncements on the workings of the world. Bill had a profound way of approaching any subject and I often joked that he should host a talk show. It definitely would have been a cut above anything that has ever been seen, and I suspect that it would have been quite popular as well. He and Mike soon became great pals, enjoying each other’s company in every possible way.

I always looked forward to the times when Pat and Bill came to our home or we went to theirs. For a time we even had a tradition of spending New Years Eve together and those years became the best in all of my memories. We watched our children grow and shared milestone after milestone. We traveled to New Braunfels and New Orleans and felt as comfortable with each other as we might have been with siblings. Somehow we were the perfect fit together and I imagined how much fun we would have once we were all retired and able to do anything we wished with our time.

Pat and Bill eventually decided to move from the home that had been the scene of so much of their married life. They bought a new place in Pearland and urged us to follow suit. It wasn’t long before we were enticed to relocate and it was great fun to be only about five minutes away from them. By then we were quite comfortable with dropping in on each other without an invitation or an announcement. We had the best of times doing next to nothing other than being together.

Sadly Pat had a relapse of cancer and died not long after we had moved near them. Bill was devastated and lonely and sad. He often came to our house just to sit and talk. We never knew when the doorbell would ring and he would be standing there. At first he brought books and magazines for Mike as though he needed an excuse, but soon enough he understood that we loved his visits and he dropped all pretenses. He simply came and we welcomed him enthusiastically. After all he was not just a great friend who seemed like family, he was one of the best storytellers ever and conversations with him were always enchanting.

One day Bill showed up with a great big RV. His pride was apparent as he demonstrated every feature and boasted about the journeys that surely lay ahead. In the early days he invited us to tag along and I truly enjoyed our trips to Texas state parks. Mostly though it was good to see him feeling happy again and to detect that sly grin and mischievousness that was one of his most endearing traits. After a time he was going all over the country by himself save for the company of his cat, Miss Kitty. With each return he came to see us to report on the mishaps and fun that he had experienced. He made it all sound so wonderful that we eventually purchased a trailer of our own.

Mike and Bill exchanged stories and jokes via email and we also saw Bill at his daughter’s home when she invited us to birthday parties, Christmas celebrations and football afternoons. He was always a welcome sight whenever we saw him and as always he had so much to say. He’d tell us about a book he had read or a program he had watched and offer insights that were interesting. He was that strange combination of optimism and cynicism that made him a bit of an enigma but one certain thing is that he was always a very good man of integrity and honor. He was of the noble age when character was more important than money or possessions, and he was brimming with all of the right stuff.

During the big Houston area floods Bill and Mike kept in constant contact. We worried needlessly about each other because both of us did well, but it was still good to know that Bill was nearby if either of us had an emergency. Over the years he and Mike had often helped one another with this problem or that. They shared a mutual admiration for one another because in many ways they were so similar, both very bright men with hearts of gold. They both enjoyed a good joke and rolled their eyes at the state of politics.

Bill quietly did so many wonderful things. He worked for years at the convent at Villa de Matal helping the nuns to upgrade their information systems and histories on the computer. He traveled there once a week to provide them with his expertise and took great pride in being able to help them even though he was not a Catholic. He constantly checked on friends who were sick and took the time to visit them as often as possible. He kept himself busy with a routine that brought him new acquaintances and a sense of orderliness in his life. He had a standing breakfast order at McDonalds and walked each day at the local recreation center. He was a weekly visitor to the library and explored every side road in the area finding shortcuts to virtually any place. He loved his children and was rightfully proud of them.

Bill had grown a bit weary of late. He was plagued by a number of medical problems and many of his friends were either very sick or had died. He was facing the prospect of having to constrict his traveling days and maybe even give up his beloved RV. There was a resignation in him that we had not seen before. He often remarked that he had lived longer than anyone in his family ever had, something that seemed to both worry him and make him proud. Nonetheless he had seemed to be in fairly good shape and I imagined having many more fun filled years with him. Sadly and shockingly that was not to be. Bill Weimer died and joined his wife and many of his friends in heaven, leaving so many behind to mourn the loss of a truly great man.

There really are no words adequate to describe Bill Weimer. He was a tall lanky guy who was brilliant and funny and loving. He bettered the lives of every single person that he encountered. He had a way of making people feel special and he was always ready to stop whatever he might have been doing to sit down and just enjoy a few minutes together. His absence will indeed be felt most dearly.

Last spring Bill and his grandson Sean traveled to Michigan together. None of us thought that it would be his last hurrah but the signs were there. He became ill during the trip and had to go to an emergency room. Sean who is only a sixth grader had to speak for him and take on a role far beyond his years. He did not mind at all because he and his grandfather had bonded in a way as beautiful as the story in the movie A Trip to Bountiful. That adventure has left Sean with treasured memories that no doubt will sustain him for a lifetime. Like the rest of us he knows that his grandfather was an extraordinary man and a role model for the ages.

I’ve cried ugly tears and grieved for days now, not just for my loss but mostly for his children and grandchildren who really hoped to have more time with him. I know that there is now an emptiness that will be so hard for any of us to fill. It’s always that way with someone as wonderful as Bill Weimer. I can only hope that I will be able to comfort his family and that he is now celebrating a life well lived in heaven. He earned a saintly crown for certain and taught all of us how to grab for all the best that life has to offer. May he now rest in eternal peace and know that we truly and deeply loved him as the finest friend we might ever have hoped to have. Good night, Bill. You and Pat have lots of fun and save a place for us at thetable until we meet again.

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