Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Dave slid the slender edge of his credit card along the slot  at the check out counter, signed his name in one continuous line, and pushed the shopping cart out the doors of the grocery store and across the parking lot. He paused while I kept walking, bending over to pick up a penny.  As we approached the car he tucked the coin in his pocket and smiled.
"Pennies on the street always make me think of Fred," he said, loading the bags into the back seat.
"Really?" I responded, "How come?"

Fredrick Volcansek receives the Bronze Star from his father.
Fred is an old friend, a true friend, one with whom we can settle down into a heart to heart discussion even if we haven't seen each other for years.  He and his wife Gailyn lived next door to us at the old house.  Fred is a hard working patriot, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, whose professional history includes positions in Presidential cabinets and other interesting, emotionally and financially  taxing experiences.  Fred and Gailyn live in Clifton, Texas now, where Fred serves as the city's mayor. David, as an attorney, represented Fred through a variety of situations, some sweet and successful and others not so much.

One day Dave was walking down the sidewalk in downtown Salt lake City with Fred.  Fred bent down and picked up a stray penny. Holding it out in front of them, he told Dave that he makes himself always respect the penny.  It was his way of reminding himself that tiny little things matter, that we all begin and return to small singular things.  As they walked on, Fred said something else that has always stuck with Dave.
"You know," he said, "even when I didn't have a penny to my name, I always felt it was important to keep my shoes polished."

Whether or not it was a habit developed in the Marines, it made a statement about our friend. It spoke of self respect, of dignity, of hard work and appreciation.

My mom always used to say:
"Soap is cheap."
By that she meant, while you may not have the means to purchase fancy new clothing, or coif your hair at a salon, or have your fingernails manicured, you can still be clean, and wear clean clothes, and trim your nails.

Mom and Fred were cut from the same clean cloth.

I better understand now why David, at least once a week, carries his father's old wooden shoe shine kit out to the kitchen table.  He rubs wax on and polishes it off his church and office shoes and his work shoes. The aroma of shoe wax permeates the house for a couple hours.  I could not understand why he would go to such effort for his work shoes, the ones he wears to work in the garage and to chop down trees in the back yard. That was before he told me about Fred, and the penny, and Fred's shiny shoes.

I can see now why David's shoes last so long.  He's not just polishing them for appearances, though there is that.  He is respecting the leather that protects his feet.

And he's remembering Fred.

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