Keep your head up

The other day I was walking in a local parking lot and I saw a dirty old penny. It was dinged up pretty good so, it had been run over a few times. Despite the fact President Lincoln’s face was turned down, I bent over and picked it up and slid it in my pants pocket.
I know, some say not to pick up a penny that is face down, for fear of bad luck. Luck, schmuck. A penny’s a penny and a penny saved is a penny earned. I pick ’em up whenever I see them. I probably pick up (tax free) a nickel’s worth of pennies a week. So, over the course of a year I make an extra $2.60. If I live to be 120, that could add up to be some serious jack.
The point of this pit of Don’t Rushmedom, however, is not my cheapness. Rather, the fact that I saw — see — pennies laying on the ground in the first place.
My dad came to watch the end of one of my football practices when I was a lad in school. He came at the point after all the scrimmaging and planning. He came and saw the last part of practice — the part where the coaches made you run your guts out. I think Clarkston Coach Wyniemko called the particular exercise ‘Cowboys.? Basically you run, hell bent for leather, in full gear around the football field on the track until the coaches feel they have inflicted enough pain.
Trust me, it’s as fun as it sounds. Thanks, Walt.
So my dad sees us chugging around the track. The little guys, the speedsters tore up the place and the big guys, the linemen, kind of chugged up the rear. That’s where Pops Rush catches a gander of his only son. Head down, sweating lots, breathing hard — not a pretty sight.
After I got home that night, Dad said, ‘I saw you running after practice tonight. Run with your head up. Always keep your head up.?
And that was it.
That has stuck with me all these years later. Was he telling me, ‘Don’t be a sissy. When you play football, always keep your eyes up where you can see.?
Or, rather was he casting some sort philosophical wide net about life? ‘Keep your head up, boy — even when the cards are stacked against you, you keep your head up high.?
I think it may have been a bit of both. He loved sports and loved playing hard, but he also tried really hard to impress other things on me. Honor, duty, respect, honesty and love, were some of the things he was about. By any monetary standard Dad was never a wealthy man . He was not good with money, as he said, ‘it burns a hole in my pocket.?
But, he was rich with his belief in himself, family and though it sounds corny, truth, justice and the American way. Gosh, I don’t know how many lectures I got about stealing, cheating and the like. I got those lectures not because I was a problem child, rather, Dad just wanted me to hear these things over and over and over a million times so I would remember them.
These things were important to him. If he was able to stick to his standards and pass them on, he could always hold his head high. Though it’s considered a sin in the Church, I guess he was a proud man.
So, here I am.
Forty blah years old, still walking with my head looking down, looking for discarded or lost change and remembering my dad’s words (but as usual, not heeding them). It’s funny, this column started about picking up pennies, and turned into a good lesson from Dad. I can hear him and see him. Even though he’s been gone for nearly six years, I can feel his love.
I say this is funny, because I just looked down at the calendar and see that Sunday is Father’s Day. Coincidence, I don’t know, but I don’t think so. He must have reached out from wherever he’s at and touched me — probably reminding me to keep my head up and to teach my boys the same values.
Thanks, Dad. I almost forgot to say, ‘Happy Father’s Day.?

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