This column was published in the Dec. 7 edition of teh Dallas Mroning News Collin County Opinion pages.
Beginning from this moment forward, I will assume new grandfatherly duties now that my granddaughter, Riley Claire, has arrived on this earth (born on Wednesday, Nov. 29 in Kingwood, Texas, weighing 6 pounds, 12 ½ ounces and a nice 18 ¾ inches long). She comes almost to the year after an excruciatingly painful episode when her sister was stillborn last December.
And I pray that we will spend the next 100 years (I wish) catching up on all those grandfather-granddaughter things that I wished I could have started with Payton. I hope to be the best “Grandpa” to her despite a chasm of great distance between the two of us (Plano to Houston).
When we meet, we’ll spend time watching baseball games (explaining the intricacies of middle relief and the designated hitter), watch a few funny movies (without the words, “Saw” or “Chainsaw Massacre” in the title, but anything with Groucho Marx in it) and play board games (that I long ago put in the closet).
I will tell her why becoming a nun will be a positive career move at 14, when boys begin knocking on the door, and she will, no doubt, laugh at me. I’ll just play the part of some kind of bewildered old coot – Uncle Jesse in “The Dukes of Hazzard” without the horsepower in that Dodge.
We will go shopping and I’ll continue to shake my head in bewilderment about what they term as “cool” clothing. I will never understand why tattoos, tongue piercings and black satin pants with flames down the sides are thought to be “fashionable.” We will try to eat something that doesn’t contain crusts, cheese or two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame bun.
And ... I will also collect, for her, a piggy bank full of pennies ... as I have since 1992 when divorce separated me from my three children. From that point in my life, I became a major fan of the little copper Lincoln head. It’s not a useless coin to be discarded or decommissioned; for this man, each coin has special meaning.
I stop to pick up pennies off the ground and off the floor. My eye spots them like an accountant finds tax loopholes or a politician smells out a donor’s check. I dig through the folds of sofas; I comb through the floor of my car and shake out my pants pockets. Every penny is a thrill to me.
In the past, it made my two daughters happy. They loved playing with them, loading and reloading them from various banks and then depositing them in a huge multi-gallon water jug in their room. I knew that their collection would never put them through college, but, at best, I hoped my youngest, Kelsey would get her horse.
To them, each penny was a constant reminder of me, or so they told me if for no other reason than to make poor old Dad feel good. I thought of it as a nest egg. Of course, the nest wasn’t real big and it wouldn’t hatch any time soon.
It was the best I could do, considering less-than-favorable financial circumstances. Not all of us had the resources of a Donald Trump; we couldn’t always clean out Toys ‘R Us at a moment’s notice.
All too often, too many of us can only produce pennies – either from heaven or from the ground. And most little girls will hopefully think that’s as wonderful as getting a Barbie doll … or a new red Mustang … for Christmas.
I do not want to hear reports that Congress, or the U.S. Treasury, will eventually remove the penny from circulation. It has a proud heritage from the old, large units to the Indian heads to the Lincoln heads. Who in his right mind would refuse to own a “1909 S VDB” penny, worth thousands of dollars and is perhaps the most famous coin ever cast in this country?
Each penny I retrieve or collect, in some strange sense, will remind me of my son, of Riley, the grand¬daughter I won’t see as often as my heart would wish, or the daughters I couldn’t see each night before they went to sleep. And I will regularly put a few pennies on the headstone of Riley’s sister as a reminder of what might have been (as I did the day after Riley was born).
I’ll do it for the memories, because, sometimes, that’s all we grandfathers have.