… on gentle reminders


A gentle reminder…

Tap on the shoulder…

A whisper of a memory…

Or that freaky scene in Poltergeist where Carol-Anne turns from the television and ominously announces that freaky ghosts are here… or back.


Lately, as we’ve been going through the house here, getting it ready for its market debut, the Old Yankee Man has seemed a bit more present. No… I haven’t seen him. But with each discovery of something he left behind I find myself smiling and nodding… even rolling my eyes at certain memories, because – like the Rum Tum Tugger in T.S. Elliot’s poem (and the play, Cats) – an Old Yankee Man “will do, as he do do, and there’s no doing anything about it.”

Various items I’m finding have me feel like he’s looking over my shoulder – happy not haunt-y – chuckling along with me, the way he often did when I caught him in some sort of strange logic. He’d never … ever … admit he did something wrong, or confusing. Usually he’d just stomp away if someone pointed out any error he made in the physical or logical.

But, if it was just us, he’d often chuckle. And I would too.

Case in point. I found his garage door opener in the back of a drawer the other day.

It’s labeled in red sharpie… ‘L’ for the left door and ‘R’ for the right so he could open the door from his kitchen. Because he never had the remote control in his car – it was always on his kitchen counter – this meant he never ever closed the garage door after backing his car out of it. He just waited until he drove back in… come rain or snow or sleet or hail.

Well… he was a mailman. Perhaps it was related.

Anyway, no one else could ever open his garage correctly the first time. This is because he labeled his garage door opener, not from the perspective of facing the garage, but from facing away from the garage.


I also came across JoHn’s birth certificate.


Because Grampa had a laminating machine.

Any time he came across anything laminate-able that he thought we needed to keep…

A kid mentioned in a sports article…

Or band article…

Or the local paper’s list of kids who made the honor roll for any and all academic terms…

Times four academic terms each year

Times three kids

Times twelve years.

All laminated.

His skill with scissors was never good, and got worse as he aged. It was not unusual to find that he’d clipped a margin too closely, cutting off a letter here or there.

My mother’s laminated obituary, which he handed me quietly and reverently early one morning, is missing her whole name.

And, oh, the newspaper clippings.

I remember watching JoHn accepting newspaper clippings that the Old Yankee Man had rushed down the hall to hand him, certain that they would have big impacts on his son’s business. And, because the Old Yankee Man tended to generalize everyone’s job – John ‘worked in energy’ – the articles could, pretty much, be about anything.

New battery storage cell companies, oil prices, solar power… someone arrested for a DUI who happened to work at National Grid… He’d bring them directly to JoHn (yes, even if JoHn was on a conference call… he’d walk up, all kinds of excited, and JoHn would have to mute his call).

JoHn never did tell him that an article wasn’t relevant, or that he could get what he needed from the internet.

Because Old Yankee Men have to contribute, and we have to let them.

We would just quietly dispose of the superfluous articles, careful to hide them in bags or beneath things in the trash (the Old Yankee Man took out the garbage, and was known to do a bit of dumpster diving, even in our own garage).

But some things, we kept.

Everything laminated, of course.

And then…

I came across a few envelopes this morning in an upstairs desk drawer – small white and manilla ones, each with the Old Yankee Man’s completely identifiable scrawl.




It didn’t take me but ten seconds of wonder to realize… Ah, yes. The quarters.

The Old Yankee Man had the tendency to decide what we all collected. And, at some point, he decided we should collect coins. Well… not all of us actually. Just the boy people in our family.

Apparently, coins are most comfortable with both X and Y chromosomes… which makes them inclusive chromosome-ally but rather exclusive human-ly. I’m sure there’s a study.

Anyway, coins.

Over the years, JoHn would get oodles of silver dollars and half dollars – each in a small white or manilla envelope, labeled accurately (if messily). They would be given along with the instruction to put them away because one day they would be worth a fortune (we always had to calculate the ‘fortune’ using Grampa’s depression-era algorithm lest we be tempted to borrow against our future windfall).

And then – In 1997 – the U.S. Mint did an act thingie and announced they were creating commemorative quarters for all 50 states!

Grampa was in heaven.

To be fair, this release of the state quarters turned out to be the most successful numismatic* program in history.


Everyone in the family – well, every boy – got a folder, and their first quarter.

And then the second when it came out.

And third.

And forth, seventeenth, twentieth, forty-second, and probably fiftieth.

Not being super skilled in coin organization, most never made it into JoHn’s folder.

To be honest, I’ll bet some were spent or lost or swallowed by dogs (or kids).

So, this morning I came across a few of the envelopes.

Michigan, Florida, and Kentucky were empty and I just put them back (I kind of like having Grampa’s handwriting hanging around). And then I picked up one that clearly had a couple of coins in it and opened it up. The coins were in my hand before I looked at the envelope.


Of all the coins in all the drawers in all the world, these two nested in mine.


Sure enough, I felt that gentle reminder, tap on my shoulder, whisper of a memory, freaky poltergeist stuff.

And I smiled and nodded…

And chuckled.

The Old Yankee Man keeps on givin’…

I think I’ll keep this collection.

Thanks for readin’.

*numismatic refers to the study or collection of currency (look at that, you are now wicked smaht!)

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