The Quarter

The last few weeks have been tough. Illness swept through our house right before Christmas, leaving our plans unfulfilled for the third year in a row and disappointment stalked our children. However, everything with regards to the holiday turned out great. We were isolated but happy and we all recovered fairly quickly, thanks to modern medicine. It would be easy to say that my heavy heart was due to circumstances but after sitting with it for a few weeks, I can now clearly see that my melancholy has one but one primary cause; I miss my cat Spike.

Spike was with me for 25 years. 25 Christmases. 25 New Years. 25 Birthdays. Everything that has happened to me over the last 25 years, Spike was there with me. This year, he was not and that hit me in a way I did not expect. Grief crept into me and worked through me this holiday season as it was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t see that little blur of orange fur constantly plotting to destroy my Christmas decorations.

Although, I was once very religious, dogma and organized religious thought I have since abandoned. I prefer to focus my energy on the present and connecting with others. Death seldom disturbs me because I have made my peace and stride to live a lifetime each day. My meditation and reflection practices have allowed me to grow in every sense of the word, so why waste time with semantics on the hereafter?

The dreams started a few weeks ago, shortly after Christmas. At first, I’d wake up thinking I heard Spike’s meow. Then I found myself waking up longing to hear it. Grief of his passing was balled up in me so tight, it took a few occurrences of extreme longing to see my cat again, for me to realize how much his death impacted me.

Then one night Spike came to me in a vivid dream and talked to me. He told me that he was enjoying his bodiless form and that he could now freely travel through dimensions, space, and time. He said that all cats can see into other dimensions, realities, and timelines but that he liked his existence with me so much that he never tried until he was in his “free form”. Then he asked me if I was going to get another cat?

When I awoke, I wept. Then I wondered if I was going crazy. Maybe I am, but I’m comforted by the questioning of my sanity, as only crazy people think they are normal. I talked to my husband and told him what I was experiencing. We talked about getting another cat and decided to leave it to the universe, knowing that another cat could never replace Spike.

Knowing something and accepting it are not mutually exclusive. I knew I was alcoholic eight years before I could accept my alcoholism enough to actually quit drinking. Knowing Spike was gone was much easier than accepting I’d never hold that little fur ball again. I allowed the grief to move though me and shared my pain with others. I even made a special Christmas ornament with Spike’s picture on it.

Two nights ago, I had another vivid dream about Spike. It was so abstract, yet real, that I lack the words to describe the impression it left on me. In the morning when I woke, I meditated, reflected, and did all the things I know how to do to keep in prime spiritual condition. But I found no comfort. So, I turned to something, I had long since abandoned, I tried praying.

My prayer was directly to Spike. And I use the term “Prayer” loosely because really I was just talking to him with an immense amount of faith that he could hear me. I told him how much I miss him and that I was a bit confused by his presence in my dream. I was driving as this conversation was occurring and I just let the words flow. My prayer ended with something that surprised me, it ended with a plea to confirm in a concrete fashion what he had told me in my dream, that he was in free form, travelling through dimensions, space, and time.

An hour after my prayer, I went to the store. I’m going to recall in great detail the events to illustrate not only my awareness but the strangeness of the event that occurred.

2:30pm, I parked my car in front of Aldi’s. I was very aware of the time because I still had to get dinner situated before getting the kids at 4:30pm. Aldi’s is less than a mile from my house. I parked and did a mental checklist to make sure I had a quarter and bags. I opened the change bin that we keep in the car and grabbed a random quarter. As I got out of the car, with the quarter in my hand, it caught my eye.

The quarter looked different than a regular quarter. The metal looked different. Not much different but enough to command my attention. I walked to the sidewalk towards the entrance and stopped to investigate the quarter more closely. It was from 1978. I pondered how this little piece of metal was older than me and wondered if the mixture of copper and nickel was different back then.

When I arrived at the cart exchange, which was the sole purpose of having the quarter, I paused. I felt strangely attached to the quarter and didn’t want to lose it. My fear quickly dissolved when I investigated the cart and validated that my quarter was merely a place holder and that I would be returned my same quarter.

With cart in hand, I entered Aldi’s. I spent about ten minutes in produce and then quickly went through the other four aisles, just to take a quick look and grab some frozen cabbage. I felt very calm in the store and questioned to myself why I didn’t shop there with any regularity? I was keenly aware of my fellow shoppers, especially the young woman who was with her daughter who was wearing snow pants in the store. They both looked so happy and were enjoying their shopping experience very much.

There was one person ahead of me at check out, who moved very quickly. There was one older man behind me who was carrying a few items in his hands. I was about to tell him he could go ahead but the cashier was already speedily passing my items through check out, which only took a few minutes at most. I paid with my credit card, as the only money I had was the quarter in my cart.

After I had paid for my groceries, I went to the side to quickly bag my groceries. I remember feeling very good about the four bags of fruits and vegetables that I had just bought for a fraction of the price I normally would pay. My attention shifted quickly to the woman with the daughter in snow pants as she said very loudly, “we did it” and high fived her daughter. The man that was behind me in the checkout was gone. As I prepared to go out the door, I stopped and watched the woman and her daughter for a moment and felt very happy. Whatever was going on in their life, it didn’t matter. They had a cart full of food and each other.

When I got outside, the sun looked lower than I expected. I packed my bags in my car and turned to return the cart. As I walked towards the cart exchange, I was thinking about how the quarter was forty-five years old and how much has changed in the last forty-five years. I wondered if in forty-five years from now, the young girl in snow pants would recall the joyful trip to Aldi’s with her mother.

My quiet, happy, musings came to screeching halt when I retrieved my quarter from the cart. The quarter was from 2017. I was utterly speechless. I had been with my cart the entire time and there was no way that my quarter was switched. I was one thousand percent sure that I had a quarter from 1978 in my hand when I got the cart and now I was holding a quarter from 2017. I stood staring at the quarter in the same spot I had first noticed it was from 1978.

Once I was sitting safely in my car, I muttered to myself about the quarter. I checked my pockets thinking that perhaps I randomly had another quarter in my pocket, despite not having used cash with any regularity since 2021. Then I noticed the time. It was 4pm. There was absolutely no way that I had been in Aldi’s for ninety minutes. I started to panic. Did I have a stroke? Is this what a nervous breakdown feels like? I didn’t feel stressed at all, in fact, I had been feeling rather calm. But how did what felt like a twenty-minute trip to the grocery store turn into ninety minutes? I was utterly confused.

As I sat in the car, I wondered if I was even ok to drive. I took a moment to do mental body scan and determined that physically I felt fine. But I could not let go of my 1978 quarter. I had not imagined it, but where did it go?

I opened the change bin in the car and took out another quarter. It was from 2001. Then I saw one last quarter in the back of the bin, and I picked it up. It was the quarter from 1978. I was strangely reassured and immediately my thoughts went back to the prayer I had said in the car earlier that day. The quarter was my concrete reassurance that this reality is not the only one. In essence, this quarter was the answer to my prayer to my dead cat.

This isn’t my first choice to be writing about my profound experience with a quarter in reference to my time travelling, dimension bending, deceased cat. But I often feel that what I write isn’t really mine anyways. I am simply the means to an end to get words to paper. Sometimes, I’m as surprised as the reader to what comes out when I write.

When I came home, I told my husband about my experience. He agreed that there is no way in any reality that I would willingly spend ninety minutes in any store, especially not Aldi’s. I checked my frozen cabbage, and it was still frozen rock solid, which it wouldn’t have been had I actually spent ninety minutes in the store. Yet here I was.

My husband lovingly listened as I told him my thoughts about switching timelines. In one timeline, I grabbed the quarter from 1978 and in the other timeline I grabbed the quarter from 2017. I’m not sure how but I was rather certain that something not of this reality occurred and the quarter was meant to be a reassurance.

There are many theories on the different dimensions and timelines. One thing that all these theories have in common, at least as far as I’m aware, is that decision making creates new possibilities. The more unprobeable the decision made is, the more likely it is to create a new timeline. Basically, in the fourth dimension, everything is seen. The past, the future, and all the possibilities. However, the randomness of probability is unseen, therefore, nothing in any reality is set in stone.

Spike overcame so much in his life. When he was eight years old, I was told he wouldn’t live but another six months. I left the vet’s office with a heavy heart and plethora of prescriptions, including a special food. Spike hated his special food and the medicine. It made him throw up and it didn’t take long for him to refuse food and water all together. I remember holding him and sobbing because I wasn’t ready for him to go yet.

Then I had the idea to abandon logic and to stop all treatments. I bought him the cheap can food that the vet had explicitly told me not to feed him and gave it to him. He ate with glee. I decided right then, that whenever Spike wanted to give up on life, I would simply try something different.

The mantra of “try something different” kept Spike alive for 17 more years. After a few years, the vet stopped giving advice for me to ignore and started telling me to keep doing what I was doing, which was changing things up whenever Spike seemed to be down.

A few years ago, I updated the mantra to “What Would Spike Do?” Whenever I felt stuck in life, I would remember Spike’s example of how simply changing something, anything, can make a huge difference. It was this mantra that led me to pray to Spike that day in the car. In some manner, it was this same logic that led me to Aldi’s in the first place. Whenever life starts to feel small, change something, and it will start to grow.

It’s 3am on a Tuesday. I awoke an hour ago with a strong desire to write this. Perhaps, all this is grief-stricken madness that will only become clear with time. But as I sit here, I feel peace. And in this peaceful state, I can now clearly remember switching carts once I was checked out, so not to interrupt the cashier’s speedy flow.

Turns out I had two quarters from 1978 in my car, which is not a rare possibility. Sure, it’s more fun to think that Spike jumped through a time portal which caused a quarter to spark a flurry of abstract hypotheses but sometimes reality is just as boring as it seems.

However, the fact that some peace has been found and the blanket of grief has been lifted is perhaps the only proof I need that faith in something being possible is all that is required to change a perspective therefore changing our own reality.

Today, I will remember that this life isn’t set in stone. My destiny may be heavily suggested but is not unchangeable. I will embrace the lessons Spike has taught me, both in life and in death. I will remember to embrace the possibilities of life and strive not to get stuck. I will take the risk of making uncalculated decisions when my world starts to feel small, and I remember the day that randomness and a quarter changed my reality.

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