Daddy was always an energetic and active man. We loved to play tennis together. And he played very well even into his seventies—long past the time when most people give up such a physically demanding sport. Not Dad. He never gave up... but he did finally have to quit playing.
Another way Dad stayed active was to take long walks around our small town. When I was home, we walked together for miles. Sometimes we walked four or five miles around the neighborhoods that were so familiar to us.
New sights and sounds were a rarity in our little town. Day to day, week to week, month to month, and even year to year things stayed about the same. George mowed his lawn every Tuesday. A group of businessmen drank coffee every afternoon at the drugstore. And the mailman delivered the mail every day at two o’clock, regardless of the weather. Routines were practical and predictable.
In some ways, the consistency was very comforting to me. I live in the city, and I loved coming home to find that things had not changed much. To Dad, though, it had become a little boring. So, to entertain himself as he walked his standard route around town, he looked for coins on the sidewalk and streets. It was a game he played, and when I was home we played it together. One day my eagle-eyed dad found a really nice necklace on the ground. Another time, he struck it rich by finding a ten-dollar bill. He really whooped it up over that one! It was the topic of discussion for several days. And the experience renewed his enthusiasm for keeping watch as he walked.
Occasionally, Dad found quarters or dimes or nickels. But most of the time, he found a penny or two that folks around town had accidentally dropped. It was like an Easter egg hunt to him. If you didn’t find any, it wasn’t as much fun.
The day of my father’s funeral, when the service was over, I was walking around outside. My thoughts were confused: What do I do now, Daddy? Who will watch out for me?
Suddenly, something on the ground caught the sunlight and reflected a glint up to my eye. When I looked down, a shiny copper penny was winking at me on the pavement. I bent instinctively and picked it up, just as Dad would have done.
That penny spoke to me—oh, not in a verbal way, but in such a symbolic way. It was as if Daddy had answered, “I’m still here, Sweetheart. I’m okay. I’ll always be here for you. You’re not alone. See? This penny proves it. Any time you find one, you’ll know I’m there. I’ll never really leave you. You don’t have to worry.” Since then, for several years, I’ve noticed that often when I’m nervous, upset, or fretful about something, I’ll find a penny.
When a good friend became ill, I took her to the emergency room and stayed with her through several hours of severe pain. When they finally checked her into the hospital for surgery, I ran out to do a couple of errands for her, and on the way back to the hospital I stopped at a convenience store to get some ice. I paid for the ice inside, then went to the large refrigerated unit outside to get the bag. When I reached in for the ice, centered on the top bag was a penny. How did that get there? I wondered. My mind couldn’t even conceive the contortions that would be required for a penny to fall out of someone’s pocket at that height . . . and inside a freezer. So, for me, the message was clearly from Father: “Don’t worry, Honey, everything will be all right. I’ll take care of her. She’ll be okay.”
Another time that was meaningful to me was when my brother-in-law had a heart attack. I was in a hotel in Denver on business, and there was no way for me to get a flight home. I was feeling guilty and extremely upset because I wasn’t there supporting my sister and the family. And I felt completely alone.
Finally, to work off some of my frustration, I walked down the long hotel hall to the vending machine area to get a Diet Coke—my drink of choice. And, to my surprise, on the floor in front of the soft drink machine were several pennies. It was as if Father was saying, “Gotcha covered, honey. Everything will be all right.” And I was able to relax after that, feeling reassured that my brother-in-law would be all right.
My friend and I go walking sometimes. One day we circled the same city block three times. The first time around we found some coins at the end of a driveway, and we picked them up. I thought about my dad, and my friend, who has adopted my penny philosophy over the years, thought about her mom.
The next time around the block, at the exact same driveway where we had picked up the coins, we found more coins. We were surprised, but we decided that perhaps we had simply missed these the last time. So we picked them up, laughed at our aging eyesight, and walked on. The third time around, though, when we found even more coins at the exact same driveway, we were amazed. In fact, it was a little eerie and, at the same time, comforting.
Recently I went to visit my mom. While I was there, we walked into the backyard to pick up some pecans. Mom’s out in the yard a lot, especially at the time of year when the pecans are falling. And, in truth, no one else ever goes into her backyard. So we were both amazed to find a shiny penny lying on top of a stack of bricks where Mom often sits. How did it get there? It hadn’t been there the last time Mom was in the yard. And no one else had been there. We like to think we know.
Over the years since my dad’s death, I’ve saved the pennies and coins I’ve found and put them in a special jar. I have over four hundred coins now. In my mind, that amounts to hundreds of special little visits from my father . . . or is it my Father? I’m not sure, but I’m so happy to hear from them both.
From now on, when you find a penny on the ground perhaps it can remind you, too, that your Father is always there for you, caring for you in small, special ways, watching over you, protecting you, as only a father . . . and Father . . . can.