Clink. Clink. Clink.
I sat criss-crossed on the carpet sorting coins on Sunday night. Pouring piles of pennies onto the floor as fresh air blew in from my open window.
Piles of ten. Add up to fifty. Over and over again.
Rain drops sneaking their way through the screen. Olive snipping at a fly buzzing above.
Clink. Clink. Clink. Metal on glass. Coins exiting a mason jar.
I took home a canning jar full of coins from my mom’s house after family dinner on Sunday. The jar had sat in my parent’s medicine cabinet for years. Pennies collecting scum and dust and pieces of lint.
Each evening, Dad would take coins out of pockets and throw them in the pile. Circles of copper waiting for a bigger purpose. Something to be saved. I don’t know what he did with his dimes, nickels, and quarters. This jar was only full of pennies.
Mom moved the jar out of her reclaimed closet a few weeks ago.
I’ve always been motivated by money. In elementary school I rose to Dad’s reading challenge – you get one dollar for every book you read from now until we go to Disney World. I read one hundred chapter books much to Dad’s surprise. He held up his end of the deal and I think I got a souvenir. Knowing me, I probably saved some of the cash. In high school I spent hours organizing holiday greeting cards for an odd acquaintance – paid by the package. Nimble fingers make for quick compounding pay outs.
This is an interesting personal trait considering I’ve spent my career working for nonprofits, writers, and small businesses. Passion pays the soul. It can also leaves zeros missing at the end of paychecks.
So yes, when Mom said I could have the cash if I took the heavy jar home, I jumped at the chance. This nerd already had rolling papers for the coins waiting to be filled.
This aint my first coin jar rodeo. I sat, I poured, and I rolled up those pennies.
Clink. Clink. Clink.
1400 pennies in all. When I finished counting, an overwhelming sadness overtook me. This would be the last interaction with Dad’s always present coin jar. The one that sat next to the Advil and aloe in the cabinet. Never again will his contributions of loose change add up to something bigger.
I held the rolls of money in my sweaty palms feeling their weight. Went to bed.
In the morning, sipping my coffee, I glanced over at the pile of paper rolls and stared. His fingerprints, his grime, his pockets, his molecules in those little cylinders. Beautiful reminders of his after-thoughts at the end of his days.
I went to the bank this afternoon and swallowed the sadness as I handed the teller my beautiful pennies in exchange for some dollar bills. She laughed a little and asked if I had a side project collecting the coins.
“Something like that,” I murmured.
I walked out the doors of the bank and pocketed the cash. I told myself it is ok to let go, once again, of the many little things. That’s what grief is. A constant letting go.
There is beauty found in the grimy copper coins, in their distinct clinking noise against glass, in their memories.
I spent the dollar bills on a craft beer with a friend tonight. An EIGHT DOLLAR craft beer. I think Dad would have liked the ale but I know he would have rolled his eyes at the price.
Beauty in beer, in letting go, in acknowledging the sadness. In the saying of thank you, Dad, for keeping your coins. In realizing I can still say, “Dad, this one’s on you.”