Memories of my Dad written by Don
The first day I met Bill I had gone to his house to pick up Rhonie. Smoke poured out of the kitchen door as two extremely excited dogs named Reebok and Lucky came running up to check out the stranger… I remember the way he sat there at his kitchen table with his shirt off, and cigarette burning, I remember the way his diamond stud earring looked against his almost sunburned skin. But on that first meeting, the detail I will always remember the most was his eyes. I remember how he looked at me as I came walking through the door way as Rhonie introduced us. His eyes were green, and reminded me of Rhonies.
It didn’t take long to recognize he didn’t hold much back when he wanted to say something…He was bold, blunt, and you’d best just buck up around him, or you were liable to walk away with your feelers hurt. If he had something to say then he’d say it, and it was “matter of fact!” It didn’t matter who heard him either. I remember one time specifically: Rhonie and I were riding in the cab of his truck, and we had come to a stop at the first light we’d come to. Rhonie I think new what was coming, of course I had no idea. He rolled down his window, leans out a bit, and starts harassing the people in the car next to us! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! I wanted to duck! To hide my head! Really! The funnier thing is I couldn’t even tell you what it was he had said! It was certainly no language I had ever heard before! It was the first time I had heard Bills very own language. It was extremely embarrassing yet… It was hilarious! He of course got the biggest kick out of it! Needless to say I began watching for what vehicles we might be stopping next to at the next light, and scoping out the passengers to see just what I might be in for!
I remember the day I had asked him to go fishing with me, with the intent of asking him for his daughters hand. My heart pounded that morning I picked him up, not sure of how this was going to go, or if I could even bring myself to ask him. I think he could sense how nervous I was, and after I had let several quite moments pass, which would have been the perfect opportunity, he began telling me stories about the old days of hunting and fishing, and getting into trouble. He had helped me to relax, and just enjoy the day… I never did ask him for his daughters hand, or for his blessing, but somehow it was O.K., but I believe he knew why I’d taken him up that day, and even though I wussed out, we’d had an unspoken understanding that day.
Some of my favorite things to do with Bill was to go shooting out in the desert, or to do the gun shows with him. Doing the gun shows with Bill was always fun. Even though the show itself might have been the most boring show ever, we would manage to rustle something up to laugh about. The slow times seemed to provide the most entertainment. We would sit back and watch the people walk by. It never took long for him to zero in on a new target to make wise cracks or jokes about. He would regularly show us just how brave he could be with his comments, which I must say… I honestly can’t believe he never got smacked or slugged! I was always waiting for the day that he’d go too far, but somehow he’d manage to get right to the edge and then back off just in time. There were times when I was never so embarrassed! And there were times when I had never laughed so hard! That is the Bill I will always remember, both of us laughing so hard our faces were purple!
Bill was a very neat and tidy kind of person. In fact I think in many ways he was a bit obsessive compulsive… or OCD as they say… He couldn’t let certain things be left unattended to, like dishes in the sink for example. He was the only one in my home who knew how to load a dishwasher! No one else had a brain in their head when it came to loading a dishwasher! Laundry had to fall on a certain day of the week, which Rhonie loved to foul him up on when ever she figured out what day laundry day would be, and it would just foul up his whole plans for the week of sitting at home doing nothing! All laundry had to be run through the rinse cycle twice, he cleaned his room on a specific day as well. He really was quite meticulous. He had to fold his towels a certain way, you had to rinse the “scaleebus” out of the sink just so many times, and out of the shower as well. One time in fact Rhonie went down to his room on laundry day and found him turning all his socks inside out to “DE-LINT” them with a pair of nail clippers before he would put them away!
We all have funny habits, I know I certainly have mine… but I must share one of Bills that ended up being some pretty priceless entertainment at our house. Bill was known for falling asleep in front of the “BOOB TUBE.” Whenever Bill would fall asleep in front of the television, we could always watch in amazement as how he stayed in that chair! At times it was unreal! He would be swaying back and forth, so severely at times that I wondered how it was possible! It was like his butt was glued to that chair! Sometimes he’d wake himself up just slightly, open his eyes, and quickly scan the room to see if anyone was watching him, and fall asleep again in an instant! There were a handful of times where that wonder glue that held his butt in that chair just wasn’t enough, and you heard evidence of the crash rumble through the entire house! Rhonie and I would run in to make sure he was o.k., and we’d find him sitting in his chair as though nothing had happened. When we’d start to laugh a little under our breath he’d give us the most sarcastic smile showing you all his teeth! The looks on his face were priceless! Those times ended quickly however once my basement was finished and Jayson and Becky gave him a recliner, his days of falling out of the chair were through! And I have to say it was definitely a good thing too! Abby used to love sneaking downstairs to see her Poppa, crawl up on his lap and watch T.V. with him, he’d turn the channel over to the animal planet or something and they’d both lay there in that recliner and poppa would gently tickle her arm. ( and load her up on candy!) Thanks poppa!
Bill was tough as they come, he had a rough edge to him that sometimes rubbed even the closest to him the wrong way… But let me fill you in on a well kept secret- he was as big a softy as anyone else! Often times if you got up early enough, you could catch him singing to the dogs, or catch him with a tear or two during a sad show, and even more than a tear or two in emotional movies involving animals such as “Hidalgo.” Let me tell you the first time he watched that show at our house he was a wreck! But we pretended not to notice. He had a great love for animals, why he even hated to see me give nanook a lecture in front of his latest hole in my flower beds. That love for animals is where Rhonie gets it, and I have to do my best at all times to keep the number of animals in my own home down to just below zoo status!
I have so many memories of Bill I could go on and on, but one stands out from the rest, and is one I’ll remember personally for the rest of my days. We were all together at a special family event, it was the end of dinner at a restaurant, every one had just left the table leaving the two of us alone as we signed our checks. He stood up and walked behind my chair, when I felt his hand on my shoulder, I instantly scooted in my chair so that he could pass- but he never lifted his hand… I sat staring forward wondering if he was about to say something… no words were ever spoken. He tapped my shoulder a couple times, then turned and walked away. I had known Bill long enough to know that while he had the ability to tell anybody anything at anytime, (appropriate or not), that he struggled when it came to expressing his other feelings and emotions. There was another unspoken understanding there, that I heard loud and clear. That was one of those moments in my life I will never forget.
I have seen the Bill Zeller that lay beneath the layers of thick hide that he wrapped himself in. Those layers were somehow part of who he was, but inside, beneath all that tuff stuff, he was quite a caring and loving man, who wanted to see his family do well, despite the severity with which he teased us all.
Bill Zeller has left his mark on me and my life, and I will never forget him!
Don and my dad had gotten very close with us living with him for a year and him living with us for almost 6. To hear him get up and read this at my Dad's service touched my heart. I have two very great men in my life.