I’ve had a struggle the past few days with a tooth that’s gone bad and is throbbing with pain. I’m facing a huge dental bill that will wipe out my entire health savings account.
This was making me feel poor and helpless and old, though I am not any of those things. I was just in pain, feeling sorry for myself and very vulnerable.
I was not in the mood to read the drivel of email before my 8 a.m. team call, so I decided to sort pennies. I thought it would be cool to see what’s just laying around the house.
I took the lid off of the teacup where we throw loose change, and was astonished by the coin just sitting right on top in the middle:
Yep, a 1943 steel wheat penny. Not in great shape, but it was so obvious that I cannot believe I hadn’t noticed it.
My dad was in England in 1943, in the middle of World War II, and he is always the first person I think of when WWII comes up. So it was like he’d flipped me a coin, right at the top of the heap so I wouldn’t miss it. “Thanks Dad,” I said, grinning.
I dumped the jar onto the table, and started putting the quarters, dimes and nickels back in. Along the way I found two coins that I didn’t even know existed: a Jefferson dollar, and a beautiful Jefferson nickel from the Westward Journey Nickel Series:
Then I was left with a pile of pennies, about 100 I guess.
I was still admiring that 1943 steel penny when I picked up the first penny from the pile.
It was a 2010.
Yesterday I asked my Dad to drop a 2010 penny in my path – and two came along immediately. But I’d given him a specific date, August 11, his birthday, when I expected to find that 2010.
Still, I smiled at the coincidence of a 2010 being the first one from the pile. I reached for another.
It was a 2010.
I got a chill, at that. Until I asked for a 2010 penny from Dad, I’d only found two 2010s out of hundreds of pennies I had sorted.
I carefully set the second 2010 alongside the first. And picked up a third.
It was a 2010.
Now I was weeping, with Dad at my shoulder, his reassuring presence, and I felt the full force of how much I miss him. That was so Dad: patiently putting one coin after another in front of me, to be sure I could not possibly rule out that this was him.
I could hear his voice trying to tell me: “I would never leave my little girl undefended. Or poor.”
Eventually, I wiped my tears and drew again. I got a 2009, another one that’s been very rare in my sorting (it was something of a collector’s item because of the four different reverse designs). This was the one with Lincoln reading.
I laughed and said, “Thanks Dad.” The image of reading reminded me of Mom, and I said, “Hey Mom, haven’t heard from you – you need to get in the game.”
I drew a 2007 penny – the year of her death.
And then another one.
In the next ten pennies I got a third 2007. In the next set, two more 2010s. And then a fourth 2007. And another 2009. All this out of a small pile of random coins that had been sitting in a jar, waiting for me.
I sat and looked at those three piles: 5 from 2010, 4 from 2007, two from 2009. I thought about the spirits of my mom and dad, out there in the universe, having a good time, taking care of things, taking care of me.
I felt better than I have all week.
We can talk about math, and statistical probability, and coincidence. We can talk about reason and logic and laws of science. We can talk about anything you like.
But I know what I know.