Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Thirty-five dollars is the perfect amount for a man to have in his wallet. It's enough to buy a good enough meal and have a beer with it. It'll buy enough gas to get you where you're going or pay for a cab home. A twenty or less and you have to watch yourself and wonder if an ATM is close enough to wherever you are. Over $35 and you may overspend on an impulse buy. A man knows he won't blow money on a shirt or a tie when he has $35, but he also knows he can get something on sale that's nice. 
Thirty-five dollars is what the Complete and Total Loser's father had in his wallet on the day he went to a hospital for his final stay in December and is the amount in that wallet now. 
The Loser's brother saw the wallet and told the Loser to take the money. (The Loser is poor and is looking after his late parents' house until he and his brothers sell it.) 
The Loser demurred.
The wallet, which the Loser bought for his father a couple of weeks after his mother died in October (it was not a good autumn for the Loser and his family) also contains:
  • A Visa card
  • A tiny square of printed paper with the number to call an insurance agent in the event of a car accident
  • An American Express card
  • A Capitol One card
  • An Extra Care card from CVS pharmacy. You would not believe how much pharmacies were a part of the Loser's parents' lives in their final years
  • A crucifix which the Loser found literally seconds before writing the sentence you are now reading. The Loser's father didn't believe in God but liked church for its communal aspects. The crucifix is just over an inch long and worn.
  • The card you're supposed to have handy in case a parking official questions your handicapped parking placard
  • A driver's license
  • Five Forever postage stamps. Motif: The Liberty Bell
  • Three blank checks 
  • Four key chain cards, the kind you scan at supermarkets to get extra savings
  • A business card. It bears the photo the Loser used for his father's death notice in his city's newspaper. In it, his father is smiling broadly. It's a good shot. One of the Loser's brothers disapproved of it, saying that he looked Jewish, but the Loser stuck with it. Photos in which his father wasn't smiling made him look dour, a characteristic no one who knew him would associate with his affable, genial dad. His father was 91 when he died and the likelihood of him selling another house (he was a Realtor) was remote. But he kept his license up and you never know ...
  • On three small squares of paper, in with the cash, hand-written lists of phone numbers for doctors and family members. Two decades ago, you could criticize someone who didn't know his sons' phone numbers, especially if he just had three sons. Now, boomers often have two numbers in addition to their work numbers as they're reluctant to part with their landlines.
In his last years the Loser's father, though finally admitting to an at least partial retirement, never failed to go out and shop, even when he and his ailing wife had plenty of food and other supplies. The Loser chided him for such a waste of fuel and time, but he sees the purpose. America is a consumer society. I shop, therefore I am is not entirely a joke. The items in the Loser's father's wallet show intent, plans, preparation. He was out and about, a member of the public, a target of advertisers. He was somebody.
An partially exploded view of the contents of the Loser's father's wallet.

No comments:

Post a Comment