I love my Uncle Bill. He is one of my biggest fans and has encouraged me to be the best I can be ever since I was a little girl. I also know he will see this post as my Uncle Bill reads my blog every day. He leaves comments, he cheers me on, and really, he is just the best uncle a girl could have. Everyone needs an Uncle Bill.
William Gomberg is the brother of my maternal grandfather, my Zaidy. That makes him my great-uncle. And yes, he is a great uncle. He, along with my Zaidy and their two sisters, grew up in Montreal in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Uncle Bill eventually made his way to New York City. He spent most of his adult life in New York then moved back to Montreal, where he lives today with his incredible wife, Susan.
But today’s blog is not about my Uncle Bill’s life. Today I am writing about my personal relationship with him and the positive and strong influences he has had on my life.
The first memory I have is his big, bushy beard. I don’t like facial hair (that may be for another blog post), and I used to tell him that he couldn’t give me those wet sloppy kisses he always loved to give his nieces and nephews simply because he had a beard. But he couldn’t help hugging and kissing his beloved nieces and nephews and always managed to convince me that his big, bushy beard wasn’t scary at all.
My brother, sister and I always looked forward, as children, to a visit from Uncle Bill. One reason, and I won’t mince words – he always came with a gift or took us out and let us choose a gift. Some of my favourite dolls and stuffed toys, which I have to this day, are from my Uncle Bill. But it was more than the gifts – he spent quality time with us. We felt he really wanted to be with us, talking, playing or reading books.
Uncle Bill taught me how to dance. Back in June 1981, when I was just 4 years old (almost 5!), our whole family travelled to our cousin’s wedding in the United States. Uncle Bill was my date, and though I didn’t like his bushy beard, I danced with him. I stood on his feet, he carried me, and he gave me the kind of special attention every child craves. I admit that I don’t remember much about the wedding (sorry Judy and Ira!) but I do remember my moments there with my Uncle Bill.
Knives. He gave me my first knife, a beautiful Swiss Army knife, when I was 12 years old, for my Bat Mitzvah. Little did I know that it was to be only the first knife of many from him. Did you know that knife sharpening is an art? Did you know just how sharp a blade can be? Spend a few minutes (and bring your knives) to my Uncle Bill, and he will teach you. It will change your life.
Books, newspapers, magazines, and now websites. My Uncle Bill ingests and soaks up knowledge like no one else I know. While today, at age 87, he may have physical challenges, his appetite to read, learn and educate others has not slowed down. It wouldn’t be a normal week if I didn’t receive a few tidbits of knowledge, via many web links, from my Uncle Bill. Do you want to know about the best knives available today? How about the history of the Jews of Lithuania? Or maybe you want to know about left handed baseball players who hit 30 or more home runs in a season? Are you into politics and want to learn more about the current situation in the United States? Ask Uncle Bill. He has a link, or a book, for that.
Just mention an interest or a new hobby to Uncle Bill, and you can see that his wheels are turning. How can he help you embrace your hobby? This summer we visited Uncle Bill in Montreal just after Matthew and I went to Chicago. Matthew sat with Uncle Bill and excitedly shared every detail about his recent experience and his love of baseball. To ensure Matthew is properly educated about some of the baseball greats, a few weeks later packages arrived for Matthew from Uncle Bill. First was a book about Satchel Paige, then another arrived about Jackie Robinson, then one on Ty Cobb.
Matthew was overjoyed to receive a special gift like this. He was amazed that his great-great uncle listened so attentively to him and was thoughtful to send him these books. Few children have a great-great uncle, and even fewer have the opportunity to sit down, face to face and have an insightful conversation with him. At age ten, Uncle Bill has already influenced Matthew’s life.
I could write thousands of words about my Uncle Bill, but I hope all of you understand just how special he is. If you have – or if you had – an uncle like this you understand what I mean.
Uncle Bill, thank you for being who you are and what you are. I know you are reading this whole blog post because I count on you to read every time I post. Keep doing what you do, big, bushy beard and all.