Forty-nine years ago, my parents married in a white, steepled church in South Texas named after Saint Joseph. It has since burned down, and a monument stands in its place, but that church was where my father presented to my mom the 13 arras—coins, dimes in this case—a long-standing wedding tradition in the Mexican culture. These coins represent Christ and his 12 apostles and are blessed by the priest before the groom presents them to the bride.
“Why didn’t we ever know?” I asked. It was the night in March after we buried my dad. We were back in my parents’ house in the Verdi area, off Farm Road 1784 near Pleasanton, when my mother told my siblings and me about the dimes for the very first time.
“I guess I hadn’t thought about them until now,” my mother answered. “I didn’t think I would miss them so much, but now that your father’s gone …” She trailed off in tears.
“What happened to them?” I asked.
My mother couldn’t say for sure how the coins disappeared, but after we had grown and moved out of the house, she spent much of her time babysitting, and she suspected that one of the children, for whom the dimes were nothing more than spare change for candy and soda, might have taken them.
“I would do anything to have them back. Anything.”
A heavy silence fell, each of us with our own private sorrow.
“I’m tired. I think I’ll go to bed,” she said, and we watched her climb the stairs like so many years before, but this time alone.
The next day, my mom and younger sister began the difficult task of putting away Dad’s things, when a glint in the closet caught my sister’s eye. She scooped up the dime and hurried to find Mom.
“Look what I found.”
But Mom had her own surprise. “Me too,” she said.
She then revealed the dime that she had discovered in the shower that morning.
Neither of them was sure what to think of it, so they kept their speculations to themselves—until the third dime was recovered.
The others soon followed: one behind the toilet, one on top of the bookshelf, another in the junk drawer and another in Dad’s toolbox. By the time I returned from town early that evening, they had found 11 dimes, each in a most peculiar place.
“Do you think it’s a sign?” My sister needed a sign to know Dad was OK.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“You think he put the dimes there for us to find?” my mom asked.
“No, I mean I don’t think he put them there literally, but he must want us to be aware. I think he’s guiding us to them,” I said.
“So what do we do now?” my mom wondered.
“Just do whatever you planned on doing next,” I answered.
“Well, you’re staying here tonight, right?”
“Then I have to put some clean sheets on the bed.”
“No, I’ll do it,” my sister volunteered.
“I’ll help you.” I joined her, and we headed toward the spare room.
I lifted the mattress so she could fit the sheet around the corner, but instead she reached down for something else.
“Oh, my God.”
“What is it?”
She revealed her find.
“Where did you get that?”
“Under the frame.”
I just stared at it. “That’s 12.”
We rushed to the other room to tell mom.
She smiled. “He wants me to have them back, doesn’t he?”
I said, “Yeah, he does.”
Concern swept over her face. “What if we don’t find another one?”
“The night’s not over, Mom.”
Then she gathered the 12 dimes and wrapped them in a silk handkerchief. She lifted a concealed drawer that only opened when the top of her dresser was unlatched. She was about to put the coins in it when she froze.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She suddenly retrieved a dime from the back corner of the drawer and wept. We were stunned.
The 13th dime joined the other 12 in the handkerchief, and she placed them safely in the drawer, her family heirloom restored.
The coins were as emblematic 49 years ago as they were that day: They are given to the bride as a symbol of the unquestionable trust and confidence the groom has in her, and by accepting them, the bride pronounces her unconditional trust and confidence in her groom.
Dad was telling her that he had the trust and confidence that she could move through the heartache and pain. This gave Mom the strength she needed. He also gave my sister the sign that she was so desperately seeking, and perhaps she’s at peace from the experience. As for my other sister and brother, I can’t say for sure. They are probably finding their own way to cope with Dad’s death.
And me? Well, I seem to find dimes everywhere now … and not just in a cluster of change, but alone and in random places.
“Hey, Pops,” I say out loud and hold back a tear. Then I drop the silver in my pocket and continue my path, knowing that Dad is never too far away.
Rudy Luna is a writer in Salt Lake City. He’s still finding dimes.