Saturday, May 9, 2009

Deuces and Treys

My father never had any money. He grew up in the streets on the wrong side of town. In his younger days, he was a Blackjack dealer in roadhouses. He liked to say, "I never gambled. I worked for the house."

But he didn't want that kind of life for his kids. He said to me, "Go to college, become an engineer and make five thousand a year."

But when the time came to go, there was a question of some up-front money that was needed. Tuition at Vanderbilt University in 1957 was $600 a year. It was in this connection that I found myself on campus, with my father, in the office of James Buford, the Registrar of the University. We sat across a large desk from him. My father seemed a little uncomfortable. For once in his life, he was on the wrong side of the table.

But he started out talking about what a good student I was and how I carried a paper route too, morning and afternoon. Buford listened politely with a pleasant smile, and when the subject of possible scholarships came up, he leaned forward and said to me, "Son, I think you'd better hang on to that paper route."

We thanked him for his time and left. I wondered what my father would say, but he didn't say anything. Not then, or on the way home.

So I kept my paper route and paid my bills. The tuition went up every year I was there. When I graduated, it was $900. All I did, the whole time, was study and throw papers. When I came out, I had over a thousand saved up.

Then I got married, had children and, for the next 40 years, I didn't save a nickel. But it was fine. I got as much money as I needed.

Now, for the past five years, I've been retired, but still working full-time. We're saving a lot of money now. Look at the chart. That's me.

I figured out, the other day, that I have made no money at all from my investments over the past five years. What I have is entirely from savings. I'd have been better off buying five-year CD's.

I don't know what my father would think about all this. He's no longer available for comment.

But I do know one thing: if there's a Heaven, then James Buford is in it, sitting at a Blackjack table, while my father deals him deuces and treys all day.

1 comment:

Larry Blumen said...

My wife liked this blog, but she said, "James Buford might not like it so much."

I said, "Why not? I posited the existence of Heaven and then placed him in it. The fact that it's my father's Heaven shouldn't matter to him. Maybe, now that he's There, he likes getting deuces and treys all day."

To which, my wife had no reply.