The Coin Contest

Today I’m sharing a fun memory of my Dad in honor of our annual father-daughter tradition that would have taken place today. – Liz

My Dad and I share a birthday week. We always celebrated our birthdays together. During our week, we’d have a father-daughter grilled cheese lunch. Afterwards, we’d go father-daughter Christmas shopping for everyone on our lists. Then, I’d take his Christmas gifts home and wrap them in newspaper to make it look like he wrapped them himself.

Each year before our grilled cheese lunch, we’d go to his office. When I was little, we’d go downtown early so he could work before lunch. While I was waiting, I’d color pictures to hang on the refrigerator door on his office wall.

Right before we’d leave for The Cricket for grilled cheese, we’d exchange our birthday gifts. They were never anything fancy – I’d give him a story I wrote about him at school or when I was older, I’d make him CD mixes of his favorite songs. One year, he gave me a radio alarm clock that matched his radio alarm clock because I loved waking up early and having breakfast with him. I still have the birthday card he gave me with the clock.

During our father-daughter birthday lunch, we’d always talk about who would win the coin contest. For as long as I can remember, my Dad and I would collect coins from different years. Eventually, it became a competition – who could find a coin minted in the new year first. I’m pretty sure he won every year. And he always seemed to find a nickel. He’d hide it under my pillow and say, “Aren’t you so tired? Isn’t it past your bedtime?” Just so I’d go find it and he could declare victory sooner.

At our birthday lunch in December of 1994, we raised the stakes of the coin contest – who could find a coin from every year from 1953 (the year my Dad was born) to the current year. My Dad could only use nickels. I found a 1953 penny that afternoon. Looking back, I’m pretty sure my Dad hid it in my drawer that day so I could have a head start.

That summer, I left my Dad a note on his dresser to say goodbye before I left for a swim meet. I signed the note as I always did – with my name followed by his nickname for me, A.G. On this particular note, I added, “the one who will win the 1953-1995 coin contest.” Dad hung it up in his closet and it stayed there for nearly two decades. Until it went missing.

For 19 years, I checked the date of every coin I ever saw. I kept jars of coins in my closet, organized by decades. Sometimes I’d delay laundry in college because the only quarters I had were years I needed for the contest.

A few Decembers ago, I headed downtown to meet my Dad for our grilled cheese birthday lunch. I was so excited to give him his gift. He was just as excited to give me mine. As soon as I got to his office, he gathered a few of his colleagues to watch me open my gift. He never needed an audience to give me my birthday present before. He handed it to me with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. I knew exactly what it was before I even opened it – framed nickels from 1953-2013. After 19 years, he won the coin contest. I gave him my present right after – framed coins from 1953-2013. He beat me in the coin contest by two minutes. Of course he did.

Below are pictures of the framed coins. He hand-made his (with the help of his friends with tools). It says, “I WIN! DAD XXX” (the three Xs were for my 30th birthday). But my frame had the note that he had hanging in his closet since 1995 – until it went missing – the note he thought was lost forever.

If you miss my Dad’s voice and his laugh, then you’ll enjoy the video below. I took this video of him opening my gift that year. And it’s the best reminder of how much fun we had celebrating our birthdays together.

Dad – I’ll miss you at our father-daughter grilled cheese lunch today. But I’m grateful for all the birthday lunches we had together. When I count my blessings, I count you twice. Love, Liz aka A.G. aka The One Who Lost The Coin Contest


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