"God is love," I would say. "Dog is love," Bill would suggest. Today, read about my invisible editor, who passed away suddenly. We didn't always agree, but otherwise got along grammar-warily. Photo of my dog Smokey and his mama, Brez.
présenter ses hommages = to pay one's respects
en hommage de reconnaissance = as a token of gratitude
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
William Myers has passed away. You may not have known him but, if you have a minute, I'll tell you about the man who taught me "mom" is spelled with a lower case "m" (...sometimes, anyway).
This was but one of our disagreements. But who was I to argue with the Grammar King? Mostly, I kept opinions to myself, firing off a quick Thanks! Edits all in now! each time Bill responded to my newsletters. And he responded to every single one of them since signing on, sometime in 2006.
One day I noticed the cc line in Bill's emails. Who were all those people to whom (yes, to whom, Bill would say) Bill was copying his edits of my newsletter? Some sort of editorial team?
Soon I got a letter from another blogger. "Hey," he said, "how do you know Bill? Just wondering, cuz this guy just started correcting my posts!"
I recognized the blogger's address from the cc line of those edits Bill was sending me.
Soon after, my own address stood out in the cc line. This time the edits were directed to Anu Garg! Oh no! I didn't want The Wordsmith to associate me with the grammar police and The Accidental Grammar Posse. (Posse? I began to assume the other "cc's" were random writers in cyberspace, all of us rounded up to witness the latest grammar assault! The streak of light connecting our "dots" (or misplaced commas) was a certain Willam Myers. Who was this man?
In the 8 years since Bill began crossing my t's, I gathered bits and pieces of his colorful personality. I wish I could share them all, but here are just a few:
Openminded for one!
It was odd (and finally amusing) how Bill would end his proper English grammar corrections with a string of street slang or rap. (I should search my inbox for an example of Bill's colorful lingo, but given there are 1000s of emails from him, the task would be overwhelming!)
1000s of emails from Bill
Bill, I gathered, was a compulsive correspondant and internet surfer. He collected email addresses to such an extent that I once heard an isolated French wine farmer ask: Who eez zis 'Beel'? The vigneron in question was briefly mentioned in one of my stories. But he was not overlooked by Bill, who tracked him down and nearly cc'd him--along with the rest of us!
Bill corrected my grammar with a slap-of-the hand voice: "No, Dummy! It's 'its' not 'it's'! he would scold, in 16pt and in red or purple or green (and not "red, or purple, or green"--notice the commas. Bill would have!)
In His Own Words
"I'm a lapsed Catholic & retired lawyer."
In a recent email to my mom (small "m")--another character he'd tracked down and cc'd--Bill wrote, "I have long had a big thing for homeless animals. I have rescued & been honored & blessed by: Angie, Lacey, Honey, Snowflake and Kabuke...."
Apparently, when Bill wasn't rescuing apostrophes, he turned his attention to misplaced cats and dogs.
That recent email to Mom (capital "m" this time) was, little did we know, his last to her. It included a long rant about the scandalous and exhorbitant price of medication. Bill was desperate to share some price-saving tips: "It will surely reward your dear husband," Bill wrote, "to investigate the deals at Robinhood Family Pharmacy..."
Mom thanked Bill for his note, so touched that he would think of her. Next, she added:
"You have been such a BIG influence on Kristi and her writing all of these years, I do hope you know how much you are appreciated."
How serendipitous Mom's note would be. In it, she managed to thank Bill for me, as I would not get the chance to....
John, a close friend of Bill's wrote to me. "I wanted to let you know that Bill Myers has died. I know he so enjoyed his correspondence with you and that it gave him much pleasure as he was increasingly confined. Thank you so much for you kindness."
I recognized John's email from the mile-long cc lines on Bill's earlier notes. I realized, then, not all of the grammar posse were strangers.... Some were very dear to Bill.
* * *
Walking my dog through the forest, a tear streams down my face for a stranger I met in cyberspace. It was too late, now, to thank him properly. (Thank God Mom had followed her instincts, praising him affectionately!)
Smokey tugged at his leash, pulling me forward along the path. How odd it was to be so touched by someone you'd never touched. Through watery eyes I looked around at the blurry forest when suddenly the tree bark came into focus... and then my dear dog's glossy coat, and then the ground beneath my feet. I once read a book about God. And the words come back to me now, in a new light, a light shining on the objects all around me:
I am the bark... I am the fur... I am the pebbles...
As I listened to the voice in my head define God, I pulled a piece of perforated tissue out of my pocket, to wipe my eyes.
I am the tears... I am the toilet paper that dries them...
I laughed at the voice, which spoke the truth, with humor. It told me, finally, who Bill was. Like each and everyone of us, he is love.
Looking around now, at the tree bark, my dog's fur, the goosebumps on my body, I see it all so differently. I take a deep breath and breathe out to a deeper calm. Life goes on and on.
A photo Bill would have appreciated
And another (of Smokey)
And another, of the blogger he helped for all those years. We had in common a love of language and animals. Thank you, Bill, for helping me cross my t's. When you don't write back today, I'm going to notice. Then I'll go out and notice the bark, Smokey's fur, and the pebbles beneath our feet.
To respond to this post, click here. Edits welcome, too....
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi