I am not a religious man. I am at times however, envious of those who possess a deep faith, but I strongly believe that faith and religion are not mutually inclusive. I invite anyone to debate this supposition over a cool Guiness or draught wine at the Marble Bar at any time of your choosing.
It is Christmas however,a pagan holiday of light that has carried over into modern times and is deeply rooted into our consciousness. On occasion,and seemingly more often during this season, there are circumstances and occurances that are a curiosity. I know that now you are all expecting a “Scrooge- like” scenario with Edward filled with warm punch and the glow of the holiday acting a bit out of character, but I am not made that way. I believe that compassion, empathy and good will are inherent qualities of us all and not just an seasonal emotional focus nor a dogmatic imperitive from scripture. We are born with these traits naturally and must fight to keep them up front in our lives as we muddle through all the challenges and distractions that life brings on each and every day.
I do not mean to be divisive or disrespectful and I believe that any assistence that allows us all to be more agreeable, polite and charitable,no matter the origin,is a good thing.
The order of the day is Christmas, and in keeping,one gives gifts. I received one from a stranger and hope that I can “re-gift” it to you.
Now that my rant is over, I want you all to read a story that I started four years ago and completed specifically for this blog. Again it is based on actual events, albeit embellished somewhat for the telling.
This is my gift to you. Enjoy and have a peaceful holiday.
â€śThat will be twelve sixty sixâ€ť, the impossibly skinny cashier wearing an elfs hat said to the old man.
â€śOk, I have that right here. One, two, three. What was the change young man?â€ť
â€śSixty sixâ€ť the bored clerk said while the old man counted out the total in round silver coins.
â€śWhat are these?â€ť
â€śDollars,â€ť the old man said.
â€śNo kidding, really?â€ť
â€śYes indeed,â€ť the man said looking back at me and the long line of stressed holiday shoppers behind him.
â€śAwesome! Metal dollars and its just like money!â€ť.
â€śSixty, sixty five, and here is a penny. Sixty six it is!â€ť.
â€śPaper or plastic?â€ť
â€śPlastic please, I can use them as garbage bagsâ€ť, the old man said. He took his purchases and sauntered out towards the exit.
Looking at the man walking to the door I guessed him to be at least eighty. He was bent over at the waist with a protruding backbone under a too tight wind breaker. I was counting his purchases while I was waiting behind him. There were more than ten. More than what is allowed in the express lane and it pissed me off. Two days before Christmas and no one it seems has any food in their house.
Two apples, two packages of baloney, american cheese, instant coffee, hungry man dinners, at lease six of those, were on the counter. I was torn between pity for an elderly man eating such crap for his holiday meal and just wanting out of the grocery store and away from the tinny musak Christrmas carols. .
â€śIâ€™ll take those coinsâ€ť, handing a very stunned teenager a ten and two ones.
â€śSure mister, whatever. Do you have any coupons?â€ť The cashier robotcally said to me as he scanned my olives, lemons and bread. A shallow â€śMerry Christmas â€śwas said while the cashire handed me my receipt.
â€śExcuse me sir,â€ť I said catching up to the older gentelman in the entranceway of the grocery store.
â€śI donâ€™ tmean to pry, but those coins are probably valuable and if you want you can have them back.â€ť I was holding the coins out in my hand.
â€śWhyâ€ť? he said looking at me and not at the coins. â€śIt was time they got back into circulation.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t understand,â€ť I said incredulously . â€śThey never lose value. The fact is coins, some of them at least, will appreciate. I bet a few of these are worth more than their face value.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s true,true indeedâ€ť,he said,â€ťbut it was timeâ€ť. He turned away from me and started walking out of the store and into the parking lot.
â€śExcuse me,â€ť I said â€ś please wait!â€ť following right behind him rolling the silver dollars in my hand. â€ś See,one of these coins was minted in 1917. It has to have some value. Are you sure you donâ€™t want it back ?â€ť
â€śNo,â€ť he chuckled . â€śAnd not that one for certain. That was my birth year! It was a gift from a relative to my mother for good luck,.My father, you see, was in the service fighting overseas.â€ť He turned away from me and headed to a 1980â€™s Buick in the handicap space. Opening the door he placed the plastic bags on the passenger seat and started around the other side of the car.
â€śSir, sir,â€ť I stammered.
â€śYes? â€ś Turning towards me, he looked surprised to see me.
â€śIts none my business for sure, but these coins?â€ť I held them out to him and was so muddled I was not to be able to get out any more words than that.
â€śOh yes, those.â€ť He galnced at my hand. â€śI use silver dollars to buy my groceries and breakfast at the diner. I have a good many. I love to see the faces of the young people when I hand them over.â€ť He looked away and started opening the door to the driver side .
â€śWait a minute sir, why? Why silver dollars?â€ť And why, I thought to myself, am I talking to this old stranger in the parking lot of Shaws about something that is absolutely none of my business.
â€śI am sorry. I donâ€™t mean to pry but I hate to see some one taken advantage of.â€ť
â€śWho me?â€ť The old man said half in and half out of his car. â€śI donâ€™ think so young man.â€ť
He slid behind the wheel and lowered the window.
He gestured me closer and said
â€śI spent allot of time collecting those coins. I have a good many others,â€ť he said again as I leaned against the car door.
â€śI have had some of them for over seventy years. On Wednesdays and Fridays, when I go to the grocery and to the diner, I pull a few out. I always check the dates.â€ť
â€śWhy?â€ť I said mesmerized by deep green eyes under snow white eyebrows.
â€śItsâ€™ like looking back at old pictures, but I have to think harder. When I pick up a coin and the date brings me back to a place or time that jars a memory, good or bad, those are the ones I spend.â€ť
â€śShouldnâ€™t those be the ones you keep?â€ť I asked
â€śHow often do you get a chance to do something again?â€ť The man asked.
â€ś Every Wednesday and Friday my head and eyes are filled and it makes me energetic. Beside, Iâ€™m not making many new memories these days.â€ť The old car started right up with a tight and low roar .
â€śGood bye! He exclaimed, and not looking back he added a thumbs up from the lowered window.
â€śGood bye,â€ť I said watching the large car crawl to the exit and onto the side street, while still holdng the silver coins in my hand.
I looked back at the jumble of silver and black in my hand and saw that the dollar on top was minted in 1983. The year I was married.
Staring at the coin I saw so vividly in my minds eye, Claudia on that day. I remembered so clearly how beautiful she looked and how wiide she was smiling.
â€śI am going find out the name of that diner,â€ť I said to my self.