by Tom McMasters-Stone
My Mom died in 1996, and my father followed her in 2008. They are both still in the cabinet in the family room. I probably should do something about that. I am thinking about the Lighthouse in Oswego.
It was tough for the first few months after my father died. I was kind of surprised by that, as we had never been particularly close. Oddly, it was somehow startling to me, being an “orphan” at 53 years old, no longer with any direct ties to the past.
He had gone far afield from that earlier, devout blue-collar liberal who, in answer to my question at 8 years old, jokingly told me that if I was going home with them from my cousin’s I was a Democrat.
Years later, his comment, when he first saw my earring, was that he didn’t know I was a faggot. Near the end he told me he could not vote for Obama because it would start a “trend”. I laughed at both, having long before grown beyond the reach of such barbs from him.
Not long ago we were closing out his safe deposit box. There were envelopes for each of us kids, in mom’s handwriting.
Mine said “Tommy” in that familiar and much-missed script.
Inside, there was a 1976 Bicentennial 2-dollar bill. I am going to give that to my closest gay friend, Jeremy. Duh. Just think about it.
There were a few Bi-Centennial coins in there as well. We were so proud back then of such a momentous birthday for our Country and of its proud history. There is a not-so-subtle message in the tarnish that covers the coins now, over three decades later.
Lastly, there was The Quarter. A 1953 silver United States quarter, wrapped in cellophane, and taped up.
Hmmm. I was born in 1955.
What could it mean? Was she somehow not able to find a 1955 quarter? That seems unlikely. I’m the oldest, so she did not simply mix up the contents of the envelopes.
Was 1953 the year they decided to start trying to have me? I don’t think so, as they were Upstate New York Catholics in the 1950s, which meant the quest for kids commenced immediately.
Could it be the year she met the guy who might actually be my biological father, and about whom I did not learn until 1995? Dunno.
Was it a gift from one of my grandparents or my many aunts and uncles? My Godparents, perhaps? There was nothing to indicate that.
I doubt there are any sports implications, even though my beloved Yankees were in their prime that year, defeating cross-town Brooklyn in 6 games, winning their still-a-record 5th consecutive World Series.
In looking over the historical events of 1953, nothing hits home. The Korean War “ended” (yeah, right), Stalin died, and Laos escaped from French bondage, but those have no familial connections that I know about.
Well, anyway, I have added the quarter, with its newly-drilled hole, to one of the two necklaces I wear all the time- at least when my memory doesn’t fail me. It’s now a joint tenant with the beautiful copper heart my wife made for me, and with the tokens I wear to mark the passing of the significant dates since I stopped drinking.
However, the mystery remains unsolved, and will likely remain so for eternity.
Then again, even after all my wonderings, maybe The Quarter is just a quarter.