Sunday, June 20, 2004

Fathers Day and the pickle jar 

A good friend and amateur radio operator sent me this. It did indeed bring a tear to my
eye as it reminded me of my Dad who went home to be with the Lord a number of years
ago now. I think of him often but Fathers Day brings me special pause. Among his
many other talents my Dad was adept enough at auto mechanics that he could have made
a good living at it had he so chosen. He enjoyed "tinkering" with cars and during the last
years of his life he and I had a tradition of going to an antique car show at a park here in
Oakmont held each year on Fathers Day. I would take my boys along and Dad would
point out the cars that he had owned or worked on over the years. He would also tell us
about some of the quirks and engineering that went into some of the cars form the 1920s,
30s, 40s and 50s.

My brother is almost as good as my Dad was with cars, motorcycles and things
mechanical and my oldest son Ken Jr. is a real wrench bender with his current passion
being anything with the Jeep nameplate on it. Take a look at the web site he built and
maintains and you will understand. HRJA Web Site For some reason I never picked
up the talent for I am neither mechanically inclined nor have the passion for it that my
Dad and most of his brothers and two of my sons do.

When he returned home from the Second World War my Dad earned extra money fixing
radios and the new fangled television boxes that everyone was buying but had no clue
what to do with when they stopped working. He never got rich at it as he maintained
every electrical appliance, radio and TV that anyone in the family owned or belonged to
close by neighbors. I did find myself fascinated with radios and learned at a young age
that there were some large voltages moving around in the old tube radio chassis and that
capacitors held a charge long after the radio had been switch off and the plug removed
from the wall. Dad made sure when he had the back off of a television set that I knew to
keep my fingers away from that heavy wire that went from little metal box in the corner
to the picture tube. He watched over me as he let me pull an arc from that wire with a
number two lead pencil and showed me how to use a voltmeter.

For some reason Dad never had any desire to get an amateur radio license and even less
interested in talking to others over the radio. We worked side by side however when I
expressed the desire teaching me how to use a soldering iron and building Heath Kits.
Although he didn't talk much about it I think like the man in the story of the pickle jar he
was rather pleased of the fact that I did not follow him into the steel mill but rather
worked in electronics and computers. I would have been more than glad to follow him
into the carpenter shop of the Wooding Verona Tool Works where he was a level and
gauge maker until he retired.

Like my Dad Woodings Tool Works is gone now but he used to take me to work with
him at times during the summer months, something that I dare say could not happen in
today's litigious environment. I remember the lessons learned there about doing a job
right, taking pride in your work and how much fun it can be to be a boy of eight or nine
and getting to drive the overhead crane!

If you Dad is still around make sure you spend some time with him tomorrow if you can.
If he is too far away to spend the day with make sure you talk with him and let him know
how much you love him and how much he has meant to your life. Sorry, I really didn't
mean to ramble on like this I just wanted to pass along the story about the pickle jar.
Enjoy it. ----Ken


The pickle jar, as far back as I can remember, sat on the floor beside
the dresser in my parents' bedroom. When he got ready for bed, Dad would
empty his pockets and toss his coins into the jar.

As a small boy I was always fascinated at the sounds the coins made as
they were dropped into the jar. They landed with a merry jingle when the
jar was almost empty. Then the tones gradually muted to a dull thud as
the jar was filled. I used to squat on the floor in front of the jar and
admire the copper and silver circles that glinted like a pirate's
treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom window.

When the jar was filled, Dad would sit at the kitchen table and roll the
coins before taking them to the bank. Taking the coins to the bank was
always a big production. Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the
coins were placed between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck. Each
and every time, as we drove to the bank, Dad would look at me
hopefully. "Those coins are going to keep you out of the textile mill,
son. You're going to do better than me. This old mill town's not going
to hold you back."

Also, each and every time, as he slid the box of rolled coins across the
counter at the bank toward the cashier, he would grin proudly. "These
are for my son's college fund. He'll never work at the mill all his life
like me. "

We would always celebrate each deposit by stopping for an ice cream
cone. I always got chocolate. Dad always got vanilla. When the clerk at
the ice cream parlor handed Dad his change, he would show me the few
coins nestled in his palm.

"When we get home, we'll start filling the jar again." He always let me
drop the first coins into the empty jar. As they rattled around with a
brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other. "You'll get to college on
pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters," he said. "But you'll get there.
I'll see to that."

The years passed, and I finished college and took a job in another
town. Once, while visiting my parents, I used the phone in their
bedroom, and noticed that the pickle jar was gone. It had served its
purpose and had been removed. A lump rose in my throat as I stared at
the spot beside the dresser where the jar had always stood.

My dad was a man of few words, and never lectured me on the values of
determination, perseverance, and faith. The pickle jar had taught me all
these virtues far more eloquently than the most flowery of words could
have done.

When I married, I told my wife Susan about the significant part the
lowly pickle jar had played in my life as a boy. In my mind, it defined,
more than anything else, how much my dad had loved me. No matter how
rough things got at home, Dad continued to doggedly drop his coins into
the jar.

Even the summer when Dad got laid off from the mill, and Mama had to
serve dried beans several times a week, not a single dime was taken from
the jar. To the contrary, as Dad looked across the table at me, pouring
catsup over my beans to make them more palatable, he became more
determined than ever to make a way out for me.

"When you finish college, Son," he told me, his eyes glistening, "you'll
never have to eat beans again...unless you want to."

The first Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born, we spent the
holiday with my parents. After dinner, Mom and Dad sat next to each
other on the sofa, taking turns cuddling their first grandchild. Jessica
began to whimper softly, and Susan took her from Dad's arms. "She
probably needs to be changed," she said, carrying the baby into my
parents' bedroom to diaper her.

When Susan came back into the living room, there was a strange mist in
her eyes. She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand and
leading me into the room. "Look," she said softly, her eyes directing me
to a spot on the floor beside the dresser. To my amazement, there, as if
it had never been removed, stood the old pickle jar, the bottom already
covered with coins.

I walked over to the pickle jar, dug down into my pocket, and pulled out
a fistful of coins. With a gamut of emotions choking me, I dropped the
coins into the jar. I looked up and saw that Dad, carrying Jessica, had
slipped quietly into the room. Our eyes locked, and I knew he was
feeling the same emotions I felt.

Neither one of us could speak. This truly touched my heart... I know it
has yours, as well.

Sometimes we are so busy adding up our troubles that we forget to count
our blessings. Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one
small gesture you can change a person's life, for better or for worse.
God puts us all in each other's lives to impact one another in some way.

Look for God in others.

The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or touched - they must
be felt with the heart ~ Helen Keller

Happy moments, praise God. Difficult moments, seek God. Quiet moments,
worship God. Painful moments, trust God. Every moment, thank God.

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