Joe Hartin’s eighty year-old knees popped five times as he kneeled down to meet my five year-old stature. His bloodshot eyes looked massive through his prescription eyeglasses as they sized me up with a long gaze into my face. I squirmed, terribly aware of the drooping eyelids covering half his pupils while the other half bored a hole through my early childhood psyche. The eyelids fluttered while his brain worked on the next sentence to come out of his mouth.
“Well, well…you knew quite a few Bible verses. I’ll let you choose a coin for a reward. Which one would you like?”
It was 1967 and any one of the “monies” in Joe’s open, weathered hand was fascinating. “I think that’s a dime,” I thought to myself as I stared into his palm full of coins. “I think a Hershey bar is a dime. Maybe I could eat one square for twelve days if I took that coin.”
I was hesitating for too long as I thought through my options. I looked up at Joe’s face and saw him grimace, then slightly shift. He was hurting and I needed to choose.
I took a breath and said, “I’d like THAT one.” I timidly reached out and touched the biggest silver coin in his hand. I didn’t know its value; I only understood its size in relation to the others
A few too many seconds went by before a smile broke across Joe’s face. He looked up to my father who was observing the scene, then shakily stood back up. With his other hand, he carefully picked up “THAT one” and handed it to me, patted me on the head and walked away chuckling.
I still have that half-dollar in my jewelry box and I’m never going to spend it.