Change

by Mark Tascone

 

A short while ago, I stopped at my favorite convenience store to pick up my usual soft drink. It’s always been ninety-nine cents out the door and I had this routine down. Hand the cashier a dollar, leave the penny on the counter and I was on my way. There was only one problem. The price of the drink had gone up by a dime, and all I had was folding money. This could only mean one thing change. Oh Lord how I hate change. I feigned a small smile as she loaded up my hand and made my way to the parking lot. Why did the price have to go up, why didn’t it stay the same? When I reached my messy old work van, it was obvious there was no place to put the little rattlers. I decided to pour them onto the passenger seat and deal with this situation later. When I opened  my fingers, I noticed something. It was an old quarter, a real quarter, the kind I grew up with. For some reason, I felt compelled to check the date. Oh my God, 1971.               

In the Summer of 1971, a young family of six prepared to become a young family of five. We had watched a wife and mother battle cancer over the past two years and the end was drawing near.The last family vacation had been taken, all the prayers said, and in the warmth of a late July afternoon, the war was over. The world did not hesitate to accommodate our grief, it just kept spinning. It was merciful really. There was so much on the horizon that had to be done. We had to pull together, we had to go forward. When you are thrown into the fire, the choices are but two melt or become tempered. To this day I am thankful that we all chose the latter. When her earthly reality ended, my mother had never used a hand held calculator, never knew the outcome of the Vietnam war, and certainly never even dreamed of a little thing called the internet. It was a different world then and in my hand was a relic from that time.

I was hooked now. The next coin I encountered was a tarnished penny. The date was 1982. On a cold rainy November evening of that very same year, I found myself in a crash course on the Cesarean section procedure. My wife’s long labor had stopped progressing, and If I wanted to be present for the delivery, I had to be educated. To this day I can’t remember a thing that was said. I was too busy invoking the heavens. I had learned a decade earlier not to ask for outcome, it was better to pray for strength. For some unknown reason on that magical evening, I was granted both. When I got back to the birthing room, the nurse was smiling. The labor was moving forward. It would be a natural delivery. At twenty five, I had no business being married let alone starting a family and yet there I was. I remember staring out the hospital window into the cold wet darkness, cradling my precious first born in my arms. The road going forward was a giant frightening question mark, but this much I knew. School was in session now and my place in the Universe had been altered forever.      

The dates on the remaining coins were less significant, but if I thought hard enough, one of life’s special moments could be attached to each. My mind was racing now. What future coin would bear witness to my passing? What events would I never see, what things would I never know? At that moment, the strangest thing happened. What should have been panic turned to calm, and I just sat in that van and smiled for the longest time.

If you find yourself out and about with some minutes to kill, force yourself to visit the nearest convenience store. Find an item that costs just over a dollar and hand the cashier two. Embrace the coins that are placed in your hand and take the time to rummage through. See for yourself how the dates on those little time markers help to define life’s moments as you’ve navigated this world. When the task is over, I think you’ll agree. With a healthy respect and reverence for the past and an open mind toward the future unknown, each of us will find it so much easier to accept . . .CHANGE.   

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