Remembering My One True Brother

Feb 24 2012

Tracy Monteforte’s thoughts

Several years ago I read a book called Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Bruchard. When the author found himself kicking his way out of his crashed car 200 feet down a cliff, not sure if he was alive, dead or dying, a question cried out, “Have I lived? Have I loved, have I mattered?” When faced with our own mortality it’s a fair question.

Looking now at all of you here who have come to show your love and pay your respect for our beloved Tom, it’s abundantly clear…Tom lived, Tom loved and Tom mattered! He loved his family, his friends and his work and he bent over backwards to help others.

In my eyes Tom was a champion.

Tom came into my life when I was 10. My big sister Lisa was 14 and fell head-over-heals for Tom. I remember how impressed I was by him. He was so huge and strong, yet gentle. I remember him carrying me on his shoulders, the big brother I’d always wanted but never had…

Tom, was my one true brother.

My favorite sport was swimming and I practically lived in my pool. To my delight, Tom was on a swim team and swam like champion. My friends and I used to stand back in awe as Tom dove in our pool and engulfed the entire length of the pool in just two of his beautiful butterfly strokes. We used to tease him and say he half emptied the pool when he dove in.

Tom was so strong. One time he actually lifted the entire front of his Carmingea sports car completely off the ground. I used to brag about him to all my friends. He was some kind of super hero!

When I was in Jr High School we had these teen canteen dances and sometimes we had live bands. On one such occasion, I was having the time of my life, dancing like crazy and I look up and there’s Tom on the stage playing his harmonica! I couldn’t believe it! What couldn’t this guy do?! I danced my way to the stage and beamed at him and he smiled and winked. He made me feel so special.

Tom always loved music and especially the blues. We had a lot of fun at Blues by the Bay in Eureka.  He was a great dancer too. We’d go on cruises and other fun trips and I always looked forward to a chance to dance with him . For such a big guy he was so darn graceful! He also danced with my daughter Olivia on her 16th birthday to 16 candles. They adored each other. It was a very sweet moment.

Olivia always said her Uncle Tom was the “teasiest”.  He was so funny,  really quick witted. He didn’t talk a lot but when he did it was worth hearing. And he was smart too. When we played games as a family Tom most often won.

For my 40th birthday Lisa & Tom had come up to help Pat give me a surprise birthday party. As part of the ruse Tom had told me he was coming to help Pat with our “gopher problem” and I actually believed him!

We had this little “House band” and at the party Tom took over Pat’s drums and was really getting into the groove for a long while. Our friend said, “Wow Tom. How long have you been playing the drums?” and totally deadpan Tom replies, “about two hours!” He was just like that…always so quick witted.

One of my funniest memories of Tom was when we were in Acapulco at the infamous Sr. Frogs. One of the traditions there is for patrons to dance on the table tops. I jumped up on our table of about 40  and danced my way down the middle. I was having the time of my life and I look back and there’s Tom dancing up on the wide window …a window with no screen or glass and a 20 foot drop to the sea below just grinning from   ear- to- ear wearing a multi-colored clown’s wig! It was hilarious and I felt like, yep, Tom’s got my back!

Lisa came out of the ladies room and saw Tom up there and about had a heart attack. Tom had no idea how far down that drop actually was!

The thing most precious and admirable thing about Tom was his love for Lisa. Eight years through adolescence and young adulthood and 41 years total he worshiped the ground she walked on and loved her unconditionally. His love will live far beyond the 41 years. It’s that eternal kind of love.

Together they were the best of parents to John-Paul and Aunt and Uncle to my children. Tom always had a great way with children. He could take a crying baby, drape it over his big shoulder and it would be asleep in minutes. Kids trusted him, they felt safe and protected. I always knew my kids would come home from at stay a Tom’s very cleaned, combed and clipped.  He was religious about the Sunday grooming session!

Tom was selfless. He was always the first to volunteer to go to the store. Seems like every holiday he’d have to run out for whipping cream. And often he didn’t get to enjoy dessert time because he’d get a call that the power was out and he had to go to work. He always went without complaint knowing that families were sitting in the dark and he could help. In recent years we used to tease him and ask which one of his work buddies was calling to get him out of another family dinner!

We live up in the redwoods on the Northern CA coast. Tom loved coming up to visit and to get out of the Sacramento summer heat. He would be disappointed if we had sunny days on his visit as he craved the cool fog on his face. He loved going to the beach and walking for miles maybe flying a kite, playing with his dog, Bonnie. When I look at the redwoods trees now I feel Tom there. The redwoods thrive on fog and so did Tom when he came to visit. He couldn’t get enough of it. The redwoods and Tom, both so strong and tall and vital. The gentle giants. I bet all of us can think of a symbol of Tom. Something you knew about him or shared with him. It’s a comfort knowing he is in all those things, that we are still connected.

Tom lived and died with the heart of a champion. In those final days Tom fought the hard fight. He endured 10 days without food or water but his strong heart kept on beating. Having been there with him I honestly believe he was selflessly hanging on for all of us…like a champion.   I’d like to share a few stanzas of a poem I sent had sent to Tom in a card. It’s called
The Champion

When you’re out there on the edge
and the odds you face are life and death
you’ve got to have the heart of a champion

When your time is running out
and everybody sees you’re going down
you’ve got to have a heart of a champion

When your back’s against the wall
and your rival thinks you’re gonna fall
you’ve got to have a heart of a champion

Come on now, listen,
I have been through thick and thin and every vice
standing in the winner’s circle has its price
I have learned to fight the good fight to the end
and if I had to I would do it all again
And when the sun goes down I won’t fear the night
I will keep my head towards the sky
knowing that the lord is on my side

When you’re out there on the edge
and the odds you face are life and death
you got to have a heart of a champion

Yes, Tom, you are a champion and you did live, you did love and you DO MATTER. Forever…

I love you, Tom, my one true brother…

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