Tales from the Berkshire Country store: Ira’s story

Ira's Story
Ira's Story
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Everyone has a story to tell, but I’m fortunate enough to have met a man with a wonderful tale who was kind enough to share his story with me. On the surface it seems a simple story but, what lies beneath is a tale of love, dedication and family. Meet Ira Friedman, an 80 something-year-old man who visits our store daily to pick up a copy of his New York Daily News Newspaper which he reads religiously. Every time he enters our store, he enters with a smile and addresses not only myself but every one of my employees by their first names. He always goes the extra mile just to say hello. While he is hard of hearing (and that’s an understatement), I find him easier to relate to than most, perhaps its because he reminds me of my own grandfather. He is kind and has a gentle glow about him that makes me smile every time I see his silver Hyundai Sonata pull up to the building. Somewhere along the way Ira and I became friends. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting his beautiful wife Natalie. Seeing them together I can sense that they both know what the meaning of true love is which is why I relate to them as I did my own grandparents when they were alive. It’s obvious from the very beginning, that they share a very strong connection. Now back to his story. After months of observing the same routine, where Ira enters, retrieves his Daily News and comes to our register, I begin to notice that when Ira pays for his newspaper (usually with exact change which he pulls from his pants pocket) he pushes aside a metal washer (pictured above) and continues to count the correct change for his paper. He then puts the remaining change and the washer back in his pocket and heads out the door. One day, curiosity was killing me and I asked Ira what the significance of the washer was; and I couldn’t be happier that I did. His response all but brought a tear to my eye. I hope you will all find the same tenderness in his story as I do. It goes as follows: When Ira was 14 years-old his father gave him an 1888 Silver Dollar. The significance of the Silver Dollar was that it was minted the year that Ira’s Father Ben was born and it was in mint condition. Now at 14, I like to think that I would’ve appreciated a gift like this, hopefully taking the time to have it put behind glass and keeping it safe for as long as I lived so that one day I might pass it on to my kids, or maybe even my grandkids. It seems that Ira took another approach. While money always makes a good gift for any 14 year-old, this monetary gift was different than most and found its way into Ira’s heart, and his pocket for what has been somewhere in the neighborhood of the last 70 years. Some might even call it a lucky charm, after all since obtaining this trinket he met his beautiful wife of 61 years, lives in beautiful Cornwall with his son, and still gets out of the house every day for his daily paper. What more could a man ask for? As you can imagine Ira and his silver dollar have seen many things while traveling this earth together, but that’s a story for another day. After all this time spent in his pocket, the once “mint condition” silver dollar has been reduced to looking “to the naked eye” like a metal washer from the Home Depot nuts and bolts isle. Ira tells me it’s a result of the 70 years it spent in his pocket rubbing against all the things that one might expect a pocket to contain. Not unlike the story my father once told me of how a shiny glass bottle was thrown into the ocean, full of sand and rocks turns up, after years of tumbling around on the ocean floor on a beach somewhere. While it’s no longer as shiny as it once was, it’s every bit as beautiful. No more rough edges, and just a small reminder of what it once was. And through it all, Ira and his coin are still together. Now I’m speaking as a guy who’s lost three wallets, two sets of car keys, and more money at the casino in my 31 years on this planet than I care to think about. But not Ira, he has cherished this token of his fathers love and carries it proudly with him wherever he goes. If nothing else, I think his story reminds me to cherish the small things in life. Happiness is wherever you choose to find it, you just need to know where to look. For Ira, its as simple as looking in his pants pocket…

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Ryan Craig is the owner of The Berkshire Country Store located at 6 Station Pl, Norfolk, CT 06058 in Norfolk, Connecticut.