Terrie (Millen)Robbins, Published June 21 2009
Dad, his coins still magicalI grew up fishing with my dad, Joe Millen. During those warm afternoons, when the fish weren’t bitin’, he’d go into Vergas, Pelican Rapids and other small Minnesota towns and buy $100 worth of pennies. We’d sit out by the lake, at the picnic table, and for hours examine each one. I knew many of the good ones, but if I didn’t, I’d call out the date and he’d say, “No good,” or “It’s a keeper.” Similar to the boat talk about walleyes. Some might say it was a labor of love. No, it was all love. He died 19 years ago.
My mom, sister, brother and I all have parts of the coin collection that he lovingly put together. None of us collect; it’s just nice to have a piece of him around. We all miss him.
A while back we realized that we needed to sell the collection and give the money to our 93-year-old mother for a little poker money and to help with the monthly costs for her assisted-living complex.
My dad still works in mysterious ways.
My husband and I were having some work done on the house. I enjoyed talking to the tuckpointer every morning about the progress, the rain and lots of topics that go well with a cup of coffee. During those times I’d found out about his family, hobbies and what kind of great son and father he is.
He sold his Corvette to buy his family a pontoon boat for his dad’s lake home so they can all fish and ski together. He’s buying his dad’s house here in St. Louis because his dad announced plans to live year-round at the lake. The depressed market won’t give his dad top dollar, so he will.
He and his wife are looking to move their daughters into public schools from private ... and myriad other insights into his family, character and life.
One morning we got to talking about eBay and selling things there. He said it’s really easy and after a couple auctions, it’s a piece of cake.
Two days later we start. I open the box and, of course, the memories fly into the room. I cry and start telling Dad stories. As I tell all the Dad stories, he tells me about my father’s coins. The background on why the 1922 weak D has a crack on the back side. Why the 1942 strikeovers happened and that Dad was a good collector to get them. Why the Culver City Morgan silver dollars are good. And on and on.
I wanted a couple of coins ... to remember ... and to know that my dad touched them. I got the 1913 penny from my collection (his birth year) and a Liberty quarter with Mom’s date (1916). And one 1865 2-cent piece. It makes me laugh to think that Dad is “giving me his two-cents’ worth!” So, a good day. Laughing, remembering, crying and crying a little more at the end of it when my husband asked if I wanted to keep the collection and we’d write the check to Mom. “No, no, I’m OK. It’s Dad’s legacy that he’s taking care of her.
He was in the kitchen with me all morning and now he’s up there grinning, maybe having a shot and a beer and toasting to himself for pulling this off!”
There are children who bury their fathers. Some scatter ashes. We scattered his cherished coin collection for others to love as he did. His spirit and pennies are still magical.
Robbins, St. Louis, Mo., grew up in Moorhead, and is former general manager, STLtoday.com and vice president of marketing, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Joe Millen worked at Needham Packing Co., West Fargo.