So I like the lottery. Sue me. I know it keeps the poor, poor and it plays on the false hopes of people that they might hit it big. It’s still fun to play and as long as you’re not a compulsive gambler and can handle it, there’s not much harm done. Hopefully the state lottery commission helps to build some roads or something.
But the odds of winning the jackpot are infinitesimally small. So small, they are, of winning once that I can’t imagine anyone winning twice.
Which is why my Father should stop playing the lottery.
I tell this story not to embarrass him or my family. I tell it because I love my dad and nothing would ever allow me to simply write him off.
But after you read this…you just might wonder. =)
So my mother is a frequent patient in hospitals because of chronic illnesses. It’s been that way for years in our family. One night when my father was leaving for home after visiting hours had expired (he always stayed until the bitter end–sometimes they threw him out!) my mother said, “Hey! Play my lotto on the way home.” They were frequent players of the NY Lotto spending maybe $5 -10 a week. Once in a while they’d hit for four numbers and win $80 or something so things often broke even. It was fun and exciting to watch the balls spin and hope one of the numbers were yours.
My father entered the car and began the short drive home. As he passed by the local stationary store (Do they even still have these?) where he’d play his weekly ticket, he saw Rosie, the store owner beginning to shut the metal shutters on the storefront. “Ah, the hell with it,” he said. “She’s closing up, I’m not going to bother her. She’s had a long day and so have I. I’ll play next week!”
My mother had a copy of her numbers in her hospital room as well. (Because God forbid, she doesn’t!). Her eyes weren’t cooperating with her that evening–sometimes the medication played tricks with her eyes–so a nurse who came by to see her was asked if she’d check the numbers for her as the balls rolled out of the machine.
I don’t recall what my mother’s numbers were, but here’s the words of the nurse which still tells the story nicely.
“Hey Mrs. Hayes, you’ve got that first number, off to a good start!”
“Oooh, you’ve got that one too!”
“Wow, another one! You’re rolling one more and you win something!”
“Winner! You’ve got another!”
“Mrs. Hayes, you’re one away—Oh my God! If the next number is 24 (Making it up for effect) you’ve won the jackpot!”
Announcer: “And the last winning number is….twenty-four!”
Nurse: “Twenty-four! Twenty-four! You’re a freakin millionaire! Holy Cow!”
The nurse was jumping up and down and then embraced my mother. She picked up the phone and began to call my father for her. She then handed her the receiver:
Mom: “How about THAT, huh?”
Dad: “How about what, hon?”
Mom: “Didn’t you watch? We had all six numbers!”
Now at this point my father is probably hoping that the number of a divorce lawyer isn’t anywhere nearby. Because the next words out of his mouth were…
“Um…I don’t know how to say this but…I didn’t stop on the way home. So we didn’t play.”
As they say, “You gotta be in it to win it.” Which is also the cry of Fordham Basketball each year they don’t make the NCAA tourney.
So I tell my dad that he might as well start playing the ponies—because that was his chance. He insists that it can happen again and technically, it can. It’s not likely, but then again, it wasn’t likely that he’d win once either.
As all good stories go, this one has a moral to it. Dad, we love you and you’re better than any millions that we could have won. Your kind heart gave someone a few more minutes with their family and that’s how you spent your time that might–unable to wait a single minute more to be with us. When we all go to meet our maker we won’t be grumbling about the extra dollars but rather the extra time we could’ve spent with one another but didn’t. We might die without millions but my dad never made me feel like I was “less than.” I’ve taken that lesson to heart.
If memory serves, I ran to my dad that night and hugged him. We’ll probably all die in debt in our family and that’s OK by me. Because the only real debts I owe is to God and to my family.
And even with millions, I can never pay them back all I owe.