No one ever called me “Junior.”

But since I was named after Dad, for years family and friends who sought to distinguish us called us Bill and Billy, or even Big Bill and Little Bill.

I privately took a kid’s delight in the connection between us that our names cemented.

That tie, the name we share, ensured a closeness that I felt went beyond a typical father-son, teacher-student rapport.

Nevertheless, Dad was an able, amazing instructor. Through quiet examples or amusing expressions, Dad taught me:

• humility and a sense of justice,

• patience and a sense of humor,

• to trust first and ignore snap judgments,

• a love of life that always included all animals and strangers as well as pets and pals,

• a firm foundation for faith and family,

• an uncomplaining, uncompromising work ethic,

• an appreciation for reading and comedy,

• a curveball and a knuckler when the fastball just wasn’t there, and

• to appreciate pianists as varied as Van Cliburn and Fats Waller while gritting my teeth through 10 years of piano lessons.

For good or not, I find myself mimicking his knack for avoiding boredom but staying busier “than a cranberry merchant,” as my folks used to say. In retirement, Dad taught himself piano, woodworking, furniture refinishing, and clock repair, and he did genealogy that traced the family from a favorite uncle, the motorcyclist he called David Dale, to Robert De Dene in England before the time of William the Conqueror.

His philosophy was “Enjoy life – with lots of humor.”

Three years after he passed away, my appreciation for him and personal sentimentality help span the years. I still seem to hear his usual greeting for my brother or me – “Podna” – as a reassuring whisper. I still feel his tender hand on my shoulder, his funny words in my head, his warm heart in my soul.

I’m still learning lessons from him, too, although now my kid’s voice sounds something like his and my height has almost approached his.

Realistically, I still have some distance to go before I’ll be as good a human being as he was.

Still, being a namesake affirms that it might be attainable, and it encourages me to accept and embrace the challenge – along with the tie that binds us.

I vividly recall one visit at my parents’ home when they were busy and I answered their phone and heard the caller ask, “Bill?”

I sighed and smiled and said, “No, no. This is Billy.”

Bill Knight has been a reporter, editor and columnist for more than 50 years. Also an author, Knight is a journalism professor emeritus from WIU, where he taught for more than 20 years. Contact him at bill.knight@hotmail.com; for archives, go to https://mayflyproductions.blogspot.com/.