Monday, September 15, 2014

My Dad's Pennies

Many thanks to Kathleen Higgins-Anderson at Jersey Girl Book Reviews for a wonderful 5-star review on this last day of the Biking Uphill virtual tour hosted by Samantha March at CPL Blog Tours. In addition to the review and excerpt, Kathleen also posted the following guest post.

I heard a whisper of Dad's laughter over my right shoulder, saw the twinkle in his bright blue eyes, as I stood at the Coinstar machine pushing pennies through the tray and cringing at the racket I was causing.

I don't know how many years my dad collected pennies, but I do know that from the time I returned home after a dozen years of wandering a large, heavy glass water bottle stood in the corner of the kitchen collecting pennies. A few years later, when my daughter stood as tall as the jar, he'd put a penny in her tiny hand and guide it into the jar, listening for the plink, always making certain it never reached her mouth instead. Now my daughter is a lovely young woman of twenty-five and her Boppa has been gone since 2002.

For seven years after my father's death while my mother continued to live in the same house, the penny jar held its spot in the corner of the kitchen though few if any pennies were added to Dad's collection. After all, he had alternately referred to those pennies as his retirement fund or his vacation fund. Now he had no use for either.
During my mother's final years in dementia care, the penny jar went into a storage unit along with her other possessions. When she passed in 2013 and my siblings and I disposed of her small estate, the penny jar landed in the corner of my small writing room and there it stood forlorn and unwanted for another year and a half.

As summer comes to another close and I sort and organize in preparation for family visits and the start of a new academic year, my hours of silent writing and long bike rides coming to an end, I decide it's time to say good-bye to the penny jar.

In a task my back muscles whine about the following day, I heft the penny jar to a chair and tip it empty to the floor. The pennies fill two gallon-sized freezer bags. I settle them into a fabric grocery bag, but the weight is more than I can carry out to my car. I hear Dad reminding me of the dangers of "a lazy man's load" and make two trips to the car. In the supermarket parking lot I load the pennies into a shopping cart and head to the green Coinstar machine at the front of the store. "Out of Order." I push the cart back out to my car, cursing under my breath. At supermarket number two, I'm smarter. I walk in without Dad's pennies to check that the machine is in working order. Then back out to the car with a shopping cart to haul in my load. And there the racket begins.
As I sift through the pennies, pushing them into the machine, Dad is with me, his hand guiding my own, his calloused, arthritic fingers the last to have touched most of these coins. Tears of memory and mortality fill my eyes. I pull out three super shiny pennies for my daughter, my husband and myself, the kind Dad used to save for my daughter when she was a toddler. I reach the bottom of the second bag and push through the last of the rejected pennies my finger tips now coated in years black filth.

The machine makes its final calculation, and I laugh at the total. The monetary value, the gift my father left in the glass penny jar I empty on the eve of my sixtieth birthday comes to $60.60. I can still hear his laughter.

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