I found a quarter on the road the other day as I was finishing up my run. That brings my total change found to 62 cents over the past couple weeks.
Yes, I am one of those people who pick up change wherever I find it. Parking lot, sidewalk, coin return slots, heads up, tails up... it doesn't matter, if I see it, I'll pick it up.
'Cuz you never know, you know?
Well, that's not really the reason why.
Dear Abby calls them “pennies from heaven.” The Queen Mother used to say “Oh, your father's been here.”
It started when I was a little girl maybe five or six years old. Every summer we'd drive to Valliant, Oklahoma, to visit my paternal grandmother. Gramma Ava. That was our family vacation for the year.
It was a long, long drive from our little hometown in Eastern Iowa to that little hometown in South Eastern Oklahoma. Especially back in the days before everything was four-lane highways with 65-mph speed limits. Dad was always on the lookout for road-side attractions and rest areas to break up the monotony.
All the gas stations down south had some sort of home-spun attention getter – a pen of deer, a pond, a cave, rock collections, a forest observation tower – or they could give you directions to something spectacular just up the road. These were a lot easier to find when you had to take the narrow, curvy two-lane roads through all the small towns. And I do mean all the small towns.
One time we pulled off into an unremarkable little rest area to stretch. They refer to them as “primitive” rest areas now. There was a gravel lot, picnic tables, trees, an outhouse or two. Absolutely nothing to entice a bored little girl to climb out of her nest in the backseat of a Ford LTD land barge. I was cozy, enjoying my books and snacks, curled up on the floor, resting my head on the warm hump formed by the transmission bisecting the car.
Why would I get out for a gravel parking lot or (shudder) an outhouse?
I wasn't budging, and neither was the Queen Mother.
“Hey, look at this,” Dad called from the other side of the small parking lot. “Here's a penny. And another. And an....”
He never finished “other” because I was out of that car so fast I nearly ripped the door off its hinges.
I found a penny! And another. And another.
Pretty soon my excited squeals coaxed the Queen Mother out of the car.
She started finding pennies too! And nickels and dimes! There were so many coins my pudgy little hands couldn't hold them all, so I gave them to Dad for safe keeping.
That's when Mom realized Dad was taking the change from me with one hand and tossing it on the ground in the other direction when I wasn't looking.
I'm not sure how long this went on. Just long enough to get the road kinks worked out. Long enough for us to get over our reservations about using the honest-to-goodness wooden outhouses. Long enough to settle us down until the next road-side stop.
Long enough to convince a little girl she was rich.
I was hooked. Others might turn up their noses at a penny on the sidewalk, but I knew better.
“Dad's been here,” I would say.
Right after Dad's funeral, when Mom and I were cross-eyed from writing thank you notes, we decided to take a day trip to get away from everything. We planned to get a real lunch at a real restaurant, a break from the sympathy casseroles filling the fridge.
This was when I had my first migraine. When I found out that Red Lobster didn't serve (at that time) anything other than seafood. And that I really, really don't like seafood.
And then, in the parking lot, I found a penny.
“Your Dad's been here,” Mom said.
So I like to attribute my recent windfall of found change to Dad. It is Father's Day, after all.
“Dad's been here,” Mom would say.
And I feel like I've really dropped the ball in taking care of Mom lately. She's slipping further and further away, and there's nothing I can do. So maybe this is Dad's way of letting me know he's watching over her, too.
Dad's been here.