My is pretty lucky. As he approaches his 14th birthday he still has three of his grandparents and meaningful relationships with all of them.
Sadly, the one that passed away died shortly before he was born. I remember visiting his maternal grandfather in the hospital at the end of his life, bringing him images from the most recent ultrasound when his unborn grandchild was just a small spot on the film. Hence my soon-to-be born son was affectionately referred to as “Speck.” His Grandpa Herb passed away on a dreary December day and a few months later my son was born, and in an age old tradition was named in his honor—Harrison.
My son has always felt a kinship towards Herb and is more than aware of the large shoes that his namesake left behind. Herb went to Harvard on a full scholarship at the tender age of 16, then went to Yale Medical School, and spent his working life as a beloved pediatrician. As accomplished of an individual as he was, Herb was not one for material things. He left behind many scribed memories and scrapbooks from his days of service in the military, but physical mementos of his existence are scarce.
He was brought into the Korean War right out of medical school and placed waist deep into the thick of it, assigned to a military hospital in Bordeaux.
They say that war changes a man, and it seems that his tour of duty in France’s wine country changed Herb all for the better. He became a Francophile, loved European culture and became a historian of French involvement in early American history. This leads to the strange connection that he had with his grandson just last week.
Harrison was spending time at his grandmother’s home, and as most young boys like to do, was “snooping” through some of his grandfather’s long forgotten stuff. He came across a small envelope that contained some old black and white wartime photos and a silver dollar. But this wasn’t a regular silver dollar. This was something much more special and Harrison immediately knew it.
Ironically, I collected coins as a child with my own father. He would take me to an occasional coin or antique show where we would collaborate on my modest collection. Harrison has since inherited my coins and although we live in such a wired age, his Aspergersy disposition has allowed him to organize and elevate my collection to an entirely different level. He has practically memorized the Red Book, which is the bible for numismatists, and thus he couldn’t believe what he had just found in his grandfather's drawer.
Briefly, the coin was a 1900 Lafayette dollar. It was struck on the 100th anniversary of the exact day that George Washington died and features a profile of the father of our country alongside the Marquis de Lafayette. It was issued to raise money for a memorial and it is extremely rare. As amazed as he was, we were all pretty blown away by this discovery too, and it lead to much conjecture.
Where do you think Herb got it? When do you think he got it? How do you think he got it? Was it a gift or did he purchase it? As much as I have missed my father-in-law over the years, it was great to have him brought to life with such animated conjecture. My mother-in-law gave Harrison the coin well knowing that he would take very good care of it, and I think she was even moved at how the unearthing of this long forgotten token sparked hours of discussion and reminiscing about her long lost husband.
So ironically, our Mother’s Day ended up being hijacked in the most wonderful of ways—by remembering a father who was always so dear to us and in some ways still lives on in his grandson.