It was always in Dad’s pocket. Always.
If it was quiet in the room or the car, you could hear it falling against other change in his pocket, making a small metallic sound, like coins murmuring.
When I first saw him take it out of his pocket, I asked what it was. “It’s a silver dollar,” he said, and he looked at it lying in the palm of his hand.
“It doesn’t look like a silver dollar,” I told him. “It doesn’t have any writing on it or a President’s image.”
“It’s worn smooth from the years its been in my pocket.”
“I don’t think anyone would take it as pay for anything. They’d think you were trying to pay for something with a piece of metal.”
“I don’t expect to use it anymore to buy anything. I did once, though. I started carrying it during the Depression. I thought that no matter what happened–no matter how little money I had, I’d always have at least a dollar in my pocket.”
“For an emergency?”
“I suppose. I didn’t imagine anything specific. It was just there, in case nothing else was.”
When Dad went to shower, I picked up the coin. It wasn’t worn completely smooth. A faint outline of an image still rose up out of the silver–not distinct enough to be identified, but still there, slight but fading, like the past that caused Dad to still carry the coin in the pocket of whatever pants he was wearing.
When I look at it right now, at this moment, lying on the desk in front of me, it is 42 years since Dad died; but unlike the image on the coin, he has not faded from my memory. I can still hear the coin murmuring in his pocket, and I can still see him glancing down at it as he remembered for a moment a time when a silver dollar was the only insurance policy he could afford.