Sunday, January 01, 2006

So this was my grandfather's legacy, I thought to myself. The wooden cabinets with the sliding doors was filled with countless coin sets. Five sets for each year, all nicely stacked, dusted and placed carefully in their green and black vinyl boxes, almost all of which had the seal of the U.S. Mint stamped firmly upon their lids.

As my cousin slipped the plastic coin containers from their boxes I realized that under his shaggy, pre-teen haircut his eyes were searching for something more than the value of what lay inside. He was searching for a connection to something. To a man who, in his eyes, always seemed a little larger than life. My stomach not I realized that nothing buried in the damp messy basement would bring him any closer but when I realized that I didn't have the heart to tell him so.

So we just continued opening the boxes in silence. Five Sets. One for each of his grandchildren. Wondering how a tough jew from Brooklyn with not a cent to his name survived all the hate and bitterness, making his way though high school and college with only one dream: success. How he managed through a string of years during world war II on a destroyer gliding across the pacific ocean. How he made his way so far from home, across the greatest of planes to the rocky mountains. How he became a slum lord borrowing money and buying up run-down properties. King of trailer parks and old apartments so akin to his childhood haunts. Wondering whether, like our parents promised, his life changed when the five of us entered this world. And how everything in his life from that point after was done not to find the financial success he had so desperately craved but with the intention of make peace with whatever god he hoped was out there and ensuring that his grandchildren would grow up far away from those Brooklyn streets.

Suddenly it hit me. The coin sets meant something. They weren't his legacy, they were his message. He had come from absolutely nothing and made it so far. The coins were a reminder that a lot begins with a little. And they were a sign of hope; I know he had a hope that he hadn't made it so far for himself. He had made it for us. Just imagine what we could accomplish if the same pennies and nickels he had shined shoes for were encased in plastic, waiting stacked neatly in rectangular vinyl boxes behind the cabinet's sliding wooden door. I hope that wherever he is now, the peace he's been searching for found him.


Blogger Mo said...

"a lot begins with a little," so true.

sounds like your grandfather was a great man.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Invisible said...

often wondered how parents/grandparents could've taken the struggles as though that was the most natural thing...what did they see that made them go ahead inspite of all odds? .. feel inspired and guilty thinking about the stuff they were made of .. to think that somewhere within there is a lil of that

5:10 AM  

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