My dad collected dimes. Just dimes. He was not a numismatist. The coins’ value did not come by holding onto them for a long period of time and he was not selective as to which coins he kept. The value of the coins, collectively and individually, peaked every year around the same time…my mom’s birthday.
I don’t recall being as old as to be in my teen years when dad began keeping dimes from his change. He would occasionally ask if my sister or I had dimes he could buy from us. Ten dimes became a dollar bill, which was a pretty cool transformation to a kid. Instead of loose change, we had paper money. Grown up money.
As I recall, it took a few years before the secret came out. Dad gathered dimes throughout the year, pulling them from his other coins to a special holding place. Later, they were put into coin wrappers, and we got to help with that, too. “I use them to buy a birthday present for your mom,” he shared.
Looking back, it seems that he took this path when family finances were challenging. As conditions improved, dad maintained the practice though he didn’t need to find funds for presents in this loving way.
Dad was an imperfect man, as all of us are, but he loved his wife and family. There was never any doubt about that. Born early in the 20th century, having grown up in difficult conditions during difficult times, he was not an outwardly expressive guy. He communicated his love in a variety of ways, and my mom was wise enough to see love in action.
Dad was self-employed as an accountant. He put in whatever hours it took to take care of his family and his clients. During some times of the year, dad would be up by 4 in the morning, getting ready in the darkness to head to work. Mom shared that he would use a flashlight to go through the drawers in the bureau and navigate the bedroom and bathroom. She said that, despite his efforts to be quiet and to keep the darkness, he bumped into things and cast his light around. “He wakes me, but I don’t say anything. I know he is trying and is being thoughtful.”
Trying does matter, as does generosity of spirit when interpreting others’ actions.
Dad had other ways of communicating, too. I recall often how he would hold mom’s hand while in the car. I see how my hand holds my wife’s while we are going somewhere, and I see mom’s and dad’s hands.
We can’t have too many ways of saying “I love you.” Often the whispered actions are more clearly understood than the loudly proclaimed words. Try. Trying matters.