Part of the coin collection was my grandfather’s, part was my father’s, and a decent amount of it was mine. It’s gone, all gone. How can you replace a collection like that? Some of those pieces were rare and valuable, like the 1909s Indian head penny in mint condition worth 2,250 dollars. And that is just one of the rare coins I had.
My father got me started collecting coins when I was about ten. It has been one of my greatest pleasures, and I’m very proud that the collection spanned three generations.
I tried to get my son interested, but Barry junior was more athletic. He liked playing baseball and football. He was good at it too. Young Barry won many trophies in baseball for hitting the most home runs and being the team’s most-valuable player three years in a row. In addition, he made the quarterback position on the football team and led the Falcons to the state Superbowl. As a result, many colleges wanted to recruit him in his senior year. He often said he didn’t have time to go to all those stupid coin shows and auctions just to buy a penny.
Then came the car accident.
It was the night of the senior school prom, and Barry had asked me if he could borrow my car. He and his best friend, Brandon, were going to be double dating, and my car had more room. I said sure. Everything was fine until they headed to a friend’s house for an after-prom party. The light they were stopped at had just turned green, so they started through. A drunk driver was trying to outrun the police and ran the intersection slamming into Barry’s side of the car. The impact mangled Barry’s entire left side. I mean, he had a concussion. His left shoulder, forearm, elbow, and several ribs were involved.
A lung collapsed. His hips, knee, lower leg, and every bone were fractured. When I got the call, I was frantic. I nearly lost my son that night.
The doctors managed to save his life but informed me and my wife that Barry would be facing many months of surgeries and rehab. For now, however, they would have to keep him sedated because the pain would be too much to endure. I couldn’t imagine that much pain.
The months that followed were grueling, starting with an entire body cast. This was so most significant breaks could begin to knit themselves back together. Next came the surgeries. They consisted of the insertion of metal rods and the attachment of steel plates. The surgeons were rebuilding Barry’s entire left side. Sometimes, everything would stop as they waited for an infection to clear. But after a year and a half, the surgeries were done, and now it was time to move on to physical therapy. All this time, Barry was on strong painkillers to help him get through each day.
The hospital bills were mountainous. Luckily, I had good family health insurance through my company, and Barry’s best friend, Brandon, started a “Go Fund Me” page. Even our church held a fundraiser. After what seemed an eternity, and with tears in my eyes, I greeted my son as he painfully shuffled up the front walkway to our home. Barry’s doctor began trying to wean him off the more potent pain meds. But he still needed something to help him endure the physical therapy sessions.
At last, the physical therapist gave him the thumbs up, as did his primary care. Both told him that if he felt any pain, he could take extra-strength Tylenol, but Barry told me that he was sure it wouldn’t be strong enough.
So it wasn’t long before Barry started to see other physicians to get them to write him prescriptions for painkillers. He tried to use different pharmacies, but they caught on, and the doctors stopped writing him scripts.
The next thing I noticed was that his small television set was gone, and shortly after, he sold his NES playing system and games. I asked him why he sold them, and he said it hurt too much to sit and play them, so he sold them to a friend.
I later learned from his grandmother that after he visited her one day, she discovered that some of her medications were gone. One of them was the Percocet that she needed for her knees. When I confronted him, he denied having taken them. All he said was, “Maybe Grandma misplaced them. She is pretty old, you know.”
One night, as we were getting ready for bed, I asked my wife if she thought Barry might be dabbling in drugs to control the pain. She told me that she felt the same and had asked the doctor. His doctor had reassured her that, at this point, Barry’s pain should be minimal and wouldn’t require strong medication. We agreed to watch for signs of abuse to get him help.
It certainly didn’t take long, for just days later, Barry was arrested for driving under the influence and possessing opioids. Because it was his first offense, Barry received a ninety-day loss of license and was sentenced to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings. In addition, he would have to get the chair of the meetings to date and sign a meeting book to present to his parole officer. I offered him an alternative of going to a drug treatment center, but he refused, saying he would follow the court order. Once his obligation to the parole officer was satisfied, I begged Barry to keep attending meetings because it seemed to be helping. Barry agreed.
Then came the first “slip.” That’s what they call it when a person leaves the program, does drugs, and comes back again. They always promise to do better and work harder. And they do. The thing is that the program won’t work if you don’t want to quit. I believe Barry was doing the program for me, not himself. So, after a couple of more slips and broken promises, Barry was arrested again. This time he was going to jail. I told Barry that I had gotten him an excellent lawyer. He would talk to the judge and inform him that Barry was willing to go to a drug recovery center. With tears in my eyes, I begged Barry to please let me help him. All I wanted was to see him off the drugs and happy. Again he agreed.
It was hard on Barry, what with the sickness of withdrawal, The constant sessions with counselors and doctors. He was confined to a halfway house and supervised from morning to night.
Then came the day that Barry returned home. He looked great. His hair was cut, and he was clean-shaven. Barry had even put on some weight! He still used a cane, but that was okay because he was free from drugs and smiling. I hadn’t seen him smile since before the accident. I got my boy back.
Barry landed a job working from home for an online publishing company doing editing. Everything was going great! It felt like we were one happy family again. I told my wife that it had been a long since she and I had done anything together, so why don’t we plan a night out? At first, she was hesitant until I said, “We got to start trusting him sometime.” She agreed, and we planned a one-night stay in Newport. I booked a room at the Hyatt. We went to the Newport Playhouse to see a play, had a buffet lunch, and watched the cabaret they put on after the show. We had a wonderful time. But the following day, when we returned home, we could tell something bad had happened. Barry wasn’t home.
My wife and I searched the house for anything that might be missing. I found the coin book on the bed when I entered the room. Barry had ripped open all the holders and taken all the coins. I found a receipt. Barry took them to Walmart and used one of those coin exchange machines. Those machines scan your cash at face value. It doesn’t matter if they are old or new, a penny is a penny, and a nickel is a nickel. So Barry got maybe a couple of hundred bucks off a collection worth thousands.
I had to call the police and tell them that my son had stolen my coin collection and ask if they would help me find him. They asked if I would be pressing charges, and I said I would.
Three days later, a police car pulled up in front of our house. The officer explained that they had received a call from a motel manager outside of town. His housekeeper complained that she couldn’t get into Barry’s room for the last three days because the door was locked, but she could hear the T.V. playing. The manager said he knocked several times and then used his pass key to enter. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but the manager said he found your son in the bathtub. He had slit both of his wrists. However, he did leave you a note.”
I took the note with trembling hands and read it to my wife.
“Dear Mom and Dad, I’m sorry to have done this to you. You are both the best parents a guy like me could ever have. I love you both more than you’ll ever know. The problem is that I’ll never be able to kick this thing, so I’ve decided to end it now. I know you, Dad, and you’ll never quit trying, and I don’t want to keep hurting you both. So please forgive me one last time. Love Barry.”
As we collapsed into tears, the officer said, “There’s one more thing. We found this clutched in his hand.”
When I took it, I knew right away what it was. It was the 1909s penny. Barry had saved it for me.
I buried that penny with Barry. I went on to get a job as a night counselor at our local detox center. I figured there were more Barrys out there; perhaps I could save one. So when I hear that a boy is successful, I put a penny in a jar in my son’s honor. I guess I’ve started a new collection, a collection of lost souls.
P.S. To date, Barry senior has fifteen Ragu jars filled to the brim with pennies.