Yesterday was my 60th birthday, and I was fortunate enough to spend it with all my family. They held a big fancy party with all the trimmings. Linda made a huge birthday meal with two turkeys, a ham for those who don’t like turkey and vegetarian dishes for those who don’t like meat. Even with 15 ravenous people, most of them rapidly growing giants, there was still plenty of leftovers for all the families to take home for a few more meals. After the meal came the presents. My daughter and her children gave me a flat screen TV for the bedroom. They said that Linda and I could watch the late-night movies we love so much in bed instead of me sprawled out in the family room in my underwear and bathrobe. I personally think a 2nd TV is about as useless as an extension phone. I mean our home phone on the kitchen wall more than meets our needs, and I don’t have one of them in the bedroom either. Since everyone knows not to call after 9:30 PM unless it’s an emergency, why would I need a bedroom telephone? I’d prefer to get up, walk down the hall and then be awake by the time I said “Hello”. My son’s family gave me an iPhone. Now I’ve never had a cell phone, but he showed me how I could watch movies on the small screen and listen to music privately with the earpiece. That might not be such a bad idea during Pastor Longword’s lengthier sermons on how the World is going to Hell in a hand basket. I guess it is a good idea to carry a phone around with me so I can dial 911 in an emergency, but I’m not sure I would ever use it for anything else. After all, can’t you just as easily call from any convenient payphone and only pay 10 cents? All these roaming charges, data rates, daytime minutes – who can figure all that stuff out? When he started talking to me about kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes, I felt like I was having another conversation with Linda’s denturist about the overbite problems with her latest set of dentures. When I thought the gift giving was over, my youngest grandson, 5-year old Timmy, whispered to me “I have a present for you too, Grandpa” and he pressed a penny into my hand. I have been giving him pennies since he was 3. “This is my favorite penny, Grandpa because it’s the first one you gave me and it has the same year on it as my birthday.” I looked at the coin and sure enough it was minted in 2006. I told Tim I would treasure it always and keep it in my wallet with his picture to remind me of him. It was only a penny, but it was the most valuable gift I received that day – that and the hug I got right after I told him he deserved another bowl of ice cream for his thoughtful gift. Tim was a premature baby and ever since I had held his perfect tiny body in the palms of my two hands, we have always had a special connection. Later that night as we all gathered to watch The Family Man on my new TV, Tim climbed on to my lap, snuggled up against my chest and fell asleep. I too fell asleep and woke up just as the movie ended. As Tim’s father gathered his sleeping son, I told John the story about the penny. John, without saying a word, reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet and handed me a penny he had stored there. The year it was minted was my birth year, 1951. I had forgotten that the tradition of my giving pennies had started with John.
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