Blonde, almost white hair, this little blue eyed boy always Billy Martin, never just Billy, finally asleep on the couch at 3am while his Dad, Pat and I and whoever else is over talk and drink and laugh and joke about everything in the world that is meaningful to us. His Mom, Ute has long since gone to bed, she has lots to do tomorrow. But Pat and Billy Martin and I can stay up all night if we want to. And we do.
Billy Martin with us as we teach him to drink beer and eat hot sauced food in our favorite Mex Cafes or search out the poets in North Beach Cafes. He must be about 5 or 6 and he is part of us. It’s no wonder he grew up to be all the things I’ve been reading that you, his friends have said, warm, witty, generous and “smart as a whip.” Must have something to do with the salsa we consumed so often or the late hours listening to us blog before there was an internet. We blogged in person, laughing, touching, loving. First at the pumpkin colored house in Marinwood and later, in the moss roofed cottage in Mill Valley.
I can remember clearly, Billy’s face in a photo that Pat took for a series of postcards, this one to show racial harmony, sitting on a curb next to a boy of his age, maybe 4 years old. Billy Martin, fair, blonde and the boy, his friend for a while, shadow black, innocent and sharing a moment of childhood grace.
The world was graced by Billy Martin for such a short while. It is our loss that he is no longer with us except in memory. I only knew him as a boy since I was out of contact with his family for some time. I regret that I spent so little time with him and will not have the opportunity to do so now and I am saddened knowing that he will not have the experiences of a long life filled with joys and sorrows. It was many years later that I married and had a child but when we were together, Billy Martin was my son too.
Poet, A. E. Housman said it thus:
To An Athlete Dying Young
The time you won your town the raceWe chaired you through the market-place;Man and boy stood cheering by,And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,Shoulder-high we bring you home,And set you at your threshold down,Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes awayFrom fields where glory does not stayAnd early though the laurel growsIt withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shutCannot see the record cut,And silence sounds no worse than cheersAfter earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the routOf lads that wore their honours out,Runners whom renown outranAnd the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,The fleet foot on the sill of shade,And hold to the low lintel upThe still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled headWill flock to gaze the strengthless dead,And find unwithered on its curlsThe garland briefer than a girl’s.