round to roll

17 08 2008

I had just finished college and was living at home saving money before our wedding the following May.  One of the pieces of furniture that we hadn’t begged, borrowed or stolen was a couch.  Sofa beds were the perfect solution for situations like ours where we anticipated some visitors and knew we’d be living in small spaces.  I remember walking through a furniture store in town and falling in love with a tan, gold and brown plaid 3 seater (give me a break it was the late 70’s)…now I was in trouble.  It was the same price as another debt that I was trying to pay off before the wedding.  How I wrestled with what to do and my dad said, “Don’t sweat it.  Money is made round to roll”.

My dad never made much more than $13 an hour by the end of his 34 years at NIPSCO.  My mom had gone to work when I was in third grade to help make ends meet…it put us all through college and I grew up knowing things were tight but we lacked nothing.  Bills never went unpaid, credit cards were non-existent, cars were owned outright – and some things if they had to be purchased “on time” it would be 90 days same as cash.  It was a priority for them to always give back a portion of their earnings to the church and that was always done willingly and lovingly. 

As far as I ever knew, he and my mom both shared the responsibility of dealing with the finances.  In these later years, their social security and pension checks would come in the mail, endorsed and he’d take them down to the bank for deposit – some in savings and some in checking.  Sometime in this last three years, I remember my mom calling me in tears saying that he had accused her of spending all his money or hiding it from him.  Looking back on that now, it was the more serious onset of the dementia.  Calls to the bank, checking out back statements – things that should have been in checking had been put into savings.  No harm – no foul.  

In this last year, arrangements have been made for direct deposit and I check accounts on line to make sure things are recorded properly.  Most bills are automatically paid and whatever might come in the mail awaits my weekly visit in a wooden holder beside the phone.  Saturday’s were “allowance” day – in my running around getting groceries, prescriptions and more – I’d be sure to have cash for both of them.  He didn’t really need much cash – just enough to get things at the Dollar Store, etc.  I don’t know what he’d spend it on – and I didn’t much care.  The man needed bills in his wallet.  Thus I earned the nickname “the boss”.

Once he’d been transfered to hospice, it was a strange feeling for me to pick up his wallet and grab out the bills when I didn’t have time to run to the bank.  I felt so low…stealing from his wallet.  Then there was the issue of his coin purse.  At least once a week he’d pull it out and show me its contents:  a few nickels, a few dimes then some very important coins:  a wooden “coin” with the profile of an Native American Indian with the saying “don’t take any wooden nickels” across the top, a 1922 silver dollar-the year he was born, a quarter with a hole through the middle (“that’s my Sunday quarter – it’s holey”) and last but not least a round tuit (for whenever you get “around to it”).

That funny little coin purse is a reflection of his life.  It’s just money and just round to roll…some issues are more important than the bottom line.  A true blue collar family that learned to live in the tension of frugality and generosity.  He’s not leaving this earth with much in his pocket but he is a wealthy man.  That couch I bought – long gone (thank God) but the lessons stuck for life. He never took money too seriously – he let it do it’s job – but always held it in an open hand.  Usually extended to someone who needed it more than he did.  And he did that well.