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What's in YOUR Wallet?
by Amy Kenneley

Women need their purses, whether a giant totebag to carry everything for a safari expedition, or a teeny, glittery, evening one holding only a lipstick and a credit card.

But men! They manage with a little piece of folded and stitched leather. Not tied to straps and handles, they slip their wallet into their suit jacket and off they go to face the world.

Or men like Himself, who always carried his wallet in the back right pocket of his pants. Every other year for Christmas, he would get a new wallet-the same black leather bifold. I always had hopes he would clean out the clutter as he shifted from old to new, but he didn't.

Instead, he crammed everything back in, and throughout the year would add more things, until the new wallet in silhouette began to look more like a "U" than an "I". The wear and tear of rising and sitting and driving and pulling out the wallet two or three times a day took its toll. All the back right pockets of his pants conformed in a sag to the "U" shape.

What made his wallet so heavy and stuffed? I didn't know, because it was sacrosanct. No one touched Dad's wallet. It was the one piece of privacy he held on to.

So when the Irish wake for Himself was over and everyone had left, I put his wallet into the top dresser drawer, and there it lay for going on 5 years. The other day, around his birthday, I brought it out, setting each item inside on the dining room table.

His driver's license was first, of course, with a somewhat glum looking face to it, and right behind it, his proof of car insurance. "The roads are bad," I can still hear him say.

The credit card was behind that, and oh, how he hated to "get in debt" with it. Then the things he belonged to: His IBEW Local #38 Retiree card, His East Side Irish-American Club card, the Mayo Society, the Western Reserve Historical Society. There was his AARP card, too, but he seldom remembered to use it. He hardly used the grocery store card either; he preferred to follow me with a shopping cart, trundling the aisles and browsing the canned herring and other smelly items he would slip nonchalantly into the cart as we went along.

His American Legion member card was there, and they still send him "renew your membership" memos. I suppose I should do something about that.

Next to his Library card is a list of book titles he was going to order from his "Private Librarian" who could navigate the library computer system when he refused to try it.

He must have been optimistic when he wrote down his lottery numbers on the back of a prayer to St. Jude.

There was a plastic-enclosed death notice for his grandmother from a newspaper, with "In Loving Memory Of" across the top. She had died when he was at sea.

And then the medical cards he acquired: His Union Eye Care card, Prescription drug card, Medical I.D. insurance and Medicare card. He had carried a folded notebook paper printed in his own hand, listing his medications-12 in all. There was a smaller piece of paper with his instructions before a hospital procedure.

Lastly the photos, 17 of them, of children and grandchildren at various ages, and one of a much younger me. The edges were all worn and bent, having been examined and shown and replaced many, many times.

There was nothing here revealing a different person than the one I knew. The cautious, hopeful gambler with a saintly assist, the loving grandson who missed his grandmother's funeral, the proud union member who had "put in his time", the man who had cherished his heritage and his family. It was the tiniest peek into a person's life, enclosed between black leather.

What wasn't there? Well, money. He used to joke about his four-word will: I Spent It All! We always laughed, but it turned out to be true. He did spend it all: on family, on friends, on memories, on caring, on things in which he believed.

A man of few words, he didn't linger over much with a Thanksgiving grace. But I think he lived it-I found it in his wallet.

I suppose someday someone will draw conclusions about my life in the same way-and in yours, too.

So this Thanksgiving ask yourself-What's in MY Wallet?

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