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Fannie and I had a big outing to the Post Office this week. I thought ahead, and stocked up on Christmas stamps while I was there. Last year, I sent out all the cards from the boxes that had collected in the attic over the years, so I still need cards. My parents were good at making their own…

A handmade Dad card from 1959

But I wasn’t there for stamps, I was mailing a copy of Conversations with Dad, the book I wrote with my dad. I entered it in a contest. It never had much visibility. That’s my fault. But Dad and I had a great time working on it!

Some of you might remember, it all started by sharing a story on Facebook that he had told Todd and me. We had taken him to a restaurant in Riverwest, the neighborhood in Milwaukee where he up. “This was called Charlie’s back then,” he said. And soon he was talking about Wilke’s Dairy down the road, and how the milk was delivered on carts drawn by horses, which he would feed carrots to.

Fast forward, before long we outgrew FB, so I started a blog called Sundays with Dad, which led to a book. It was at the suggestion of my friend Martha who said, “The stories read like parables, you should write a book.” So there you have it. We need each other.

Dad talked, I typed, then I wrote and he reviewed. When we got into some of his designs, he was such a stickler for detail, a serious stickler!…”Did you get that? Did you get that?”…at one point, I told him he could record a story and give it to me, but he wanted nothing to do with recording. He said, “Why being with you is the best part!” My sister experienced us working together once and told me he was treating me like his secretary. He was used to dictation. He did get a little intense at times, but our conversations were priceless. 

You have no idea how much it meant to Dad at that time in his life, to connect with so many family members and old friends that he’d been out of touch with. I’d read him the comments and, honestly, I think your love helped keep him strong. And me too. I am forever grateful to you. And I know he was too. Thank you for being a part of that time of his life, and mine. You carried me through grief, it wasn’t easy. And you were there with me when he finally “went home to Jesus.” That was a wonderful gift. Writing has been my 2nd Act gift.

The book was written on a prayer. It was edifying for me to write and now it’s a treasure, especially this time of year when I miss my parents and brother deeply. Whenever I need to be reminded of tidbits of truth, lessons learned, people and parenting skills, have a good laugh or get the inspiration of Dad’s deep faith–faith which grew mine–I have the book to return to.

Here are three take away “Billisms” that stick with me: 1) always remain humble, 2) don’t forget to take the Fruits (of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23) with you wherever you go, and 3) keep growing in the Lord.

He was walking, talking proof to me that Eternity begins on earth not in heaven. My friend Nancy says, “He just kept getting sweeter.” He was intense, had a heart of gold and one heck of a creative mind.

On Day 2 of the Advent Calendar in 2019, I shared the Christmas card above, when he had the idea to stick three little kids in the feeding trough in our barn, to recreate a sense of the Manger scene.

Here are is the poem he wrote to go inside the card:

“The air is full of promise
And hope.
We return
To the humbleness of the manger
And ponder
The brilliance of the stars.
Our lives can touch the beauty
Of the holy time
If we will let the love of
God descend upon us.

—Bill Wenzler

Christmas Card 1955. The year St. Edmunds Church was completed.

Dad visiting his hyperbolic paraboloid, thin-shelled concrete roof built in ’55. Now that’s a story. He was 27. (It’s in the book.) Later, the church sat empty for years and that was a sore spot for Dad. But God! Not long before he died, it was sold, and he was invited to give a talk for the new congregation.

With Pastor Mark Garsombke after church that Sunday, just a few weeks before Dad’s last weeks.

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