We just heard from a baby boomer, Dr. Jim Berger of Estero, Florida, with a story that’s pretty unique. It comes from his recent trip with his wife to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We don’t know what to make of it but then, neither does he. As Jim says, it’s All On A Mardi Gras Day.
That was the name on the label on the bag. But at first, I didn’t see it, because it was Sunday evening February 7th, a time of revelry and fun and foolishness at the Mardi Gras parade. We collected beads, toys, dolls, even a BacchaGator lighted wand with six different settings for light patterns. I posted a photo on Facebook of my wife, Patricia, holding it. We had more beads and treasures than we could handle in our hands, so I grabbed a stray bag off the street to bring our booty back to our room.
We returned from Mardi Gras in New Orleans on the following Wednesday. The next morning, as I set the bag on our kitchen floor in Florida, I saw the label.
The bag was from the Krewe of Bacchus, one of the groups that always marches at Mardi Gras, and it had the name of the Krewe member on it. Billy Berger.
That was my late brother’s name. Bill died in 2010. He was 60 and had struggled his whole life with Friedreick’s Ataxia, a little-known disease that destroys all motor control in one’s body.
Bill never had a normal life. He maintained his independence despite the progression of the paralysis, but never married or got to dance or do any of the physical activities that people enjoy. For the last half of his life he was in a wheelchair. He never rode on a Mardi Gras float or marched in a Second Line.
To us he was always “Bill.” But his quick wit and hilarious social commentary earned him the nickname “Billy Blunt” from one of his friends. He would have made a great comedy writer for Jon Stewart and Stewart’s Daily Show. He’d just burst out with his opinion. No censorship. And it was hilarious! It was times like that when he’d be called “Billy.”
I looked at the label again. It said, “BacchaGator. Berger, Billy.” The BacchaGator was a huge alligator float with bright lights in its jaws. The BacchaGator wand was given to me by someone on that float. That’s what Patricia was waving in the Facebook picture.
When Patricia came downstairs, I asked her to read the label. “Billy Berger?” She shot me an astonished look.
I could only say, “Well, I guess Bill was enjoying the parade, too!”
“That sends chills through me! How is this…” she asked, stumbling, “what’s this all about?”
“I don’t know, but it is strange that the bag I grabbed off the street should have my late brother’s name on it.”
Was Bill there? Billy Berger, playing without the limitations of paralysis? Everyone on the float wore a mask so I’ll never know. When I saw the label I thought of him, and wished him a joyous Mardi Gras! No one in the world deserves it more than Bill! I love you, my brother! I miss you, and wish we could play at Mardi Gras, and recognize each other again.
All On A Mardi Gras Day!