It was a sunny summer day in 1956. I was six years old and my Dad came to me and asked me how much money I had. I counted my nickels and pennies and told him 17 cents. He said that just might be enough, why don’t you go and see? Lou our neighbor across the street had a litter of Collie/Irish setter mixed breed puppies and my Dad had set it up with Lou to accept whatever I had as payment. Dad waited on the bank for me while I went across the road by myself to see the puppies. I came back with Spotty my dog for 10 joy-filled years.
I’m thinking about my Dad today because this is my second Father’s Day since he passed in May of last year. As I write today. I’m not sure if this post will have any great life lessons or have any purpose at all – other than to pay tribute to a great guy, my Dad, Tom-on-the Hill.
I do hope it will cause you to gratefully reflect today on the connection you have or had with your Dad. Like his son, my Dad was far from perfect. But I take comfort in knowing that he did the best job he knew how to do. A very strange dynamic exists between fathers and sons. As a teenager I recall being perplexed about why my friends thought my Dad was so cool. I can see our relationship much clearer now. As I listen to Harry Chapin sing Cat’s in the Cradle, much more than sadness comes up for me today. Some say we choose our parents. If that’s the case – it’s the wisest choice I’ve ever made.
I’d like you to meet my Dad, Tom-on-the Hill. Every man he met for the first time he called chief and everyone he knew, he called buddy. When he called you buddy, you felt like his buddy.
He was proud that he’d built his own home, with his own hands. The home he built is exactly one mile from Mingo Church at the highest point on the hill. In fact that’s how he identified himself on the phone. This is Tom, Tom Volkar, up on the hill.
Dad never did learn to say no. I couldn’t understand that. Growing up, time after time, I’d hear him agree to do another side plastering patch job he didn’t feel like doing. He may have said yes a lot when he wanted to say no, but over the years it was all the yeses of help to many, when they needed it most that made him the friend he was. That deep generosity of his workingman services was his strength.
He lived by this motto. If you can’t say anything good about someone – say nothing at all. He made you feel comfortable. He expressed genuine concern. And always together with Mom, in his home you felt at home.
It’s been said that the most honest measure of love is how we feel in another’s presence. By that measure my Dad was a champion.
Too often we underestimate the power of a pat on the back, a smile, a listening ear, the encouragement of a strong and loving grip, or even the smallest act of caring all of which add up to a life that in many small ways did indeed make the world a better place.
My Dad, Tom gave all those things and more. Now as I attend family gatherings and observe our family I feel truly blessed.
For the true measure of a man, of Tom-on-the-Hill, must surely be in the collective character, closeness and love of the family he created that will live on forever inspired by his gentle Spirit.