Story Submitted by Georgette De Salvo
After my father died, my mother called my sister and me into their old bedroom. My dad’s big lacquered jewelry box was on my parent’s bed – where he kept his personal things. Together, we were going to go through it. Let me just say that we all loved my father dearly, and he was totally a stand-up guy-a responsible, loving father and husband-so we really didn’t expect any big surprises. What we did find was loose change, jewelry, various papers, a thick white sealed envelope and a big pile of losing OTB tickets. My father loved to gamble. He played the horses and bet on football. In NY we had off-track betting, or OTB. One could bet on horse races without having to be at the track. There were OTB storefronts in all the neighborhoods, and my dad, like my uncles, and all of their friends, headed down to OTB on Saturday mornings to study the race sheet and hang out with their cronies. This was acceptable because my dad only bet with his allowance. My mom handled all the money for the household, including paying the bills. She permitted my father an allowance every paycheck, which was for him to spend as he pleased. My dad never complained about this system, and I think he enjoyed this system. My dad wasn’t gambling with the mortgage payment or the electric bill money. It wasn’t a lot, but it gave him freedom, and my mother didn’t even bat an eyelash about it. She knew gambling was what he enjoyed; it was his hobby. The funny thing is my dad really wasn’t a lucky guy. Quite the opposite, he had a reputation for losing, and losing big. I can remember one time a jockey fell off a horse mid-race, and of course that was the horse my dad bet on-disqualified. Another time my father’s horse was in the lead, but suddenly he dropped dead right before the finish line. This would play out in front of our eyes. On Saturdays they televised the 9th race on TV, called “Live from Aqueduct Racetrack”. My mom would pull the portable TV on the rolling stand into the kitchen so we could watch the race at dinner time. That morning, my dad would be studying the racing sheet, and if he was at a loss for a bet, he’d ask me or my sister to pick a horse. We learned how to read a racing sheet early on as a rite of passage, all the cousins knew how. The televised races were so exciting–we’d all be screaming and urging his horses on. Then if he lost, he’d be in a bad mood. My mom, sister and I mostly thought his losses were funny. We were a giddy crew to begin with and he was a dead serious kind of guy. It was tough being the only man in our house, with two giggly girls and a mom who was just as bad. Plus, he was a NY Giants fan – not the best team in football by far. Watching the games, he would swear a blue streak, throw his Giants doll at the TV, rip up his betting tickets, and say he would never bet again. But he did! He would bet on everything, but he never bet against the Giants, he just couldn’t. They were his team, and betting against them would be inconceivable. See, my dad had eternal hope. Hope that the next time, he’d hit it big. He’d pick that trifecta, the Giants would make the playoffs, even win the Superbowl. My dad lived his life with the emotions of anticipation and expectation leading the way. Hope. My dad was a wonderful father. He passed on the excitation of live horseracing; the love of football; he made me a diehard Giants fan, but mostly he gave me the greatest gift, that of hope. For me, there always is a chance I will be lucky, I will choose correctly, things will work out. And when we went through his jewelry box that night, we came across all those losing old OTB tickets that he had saved. We also found a big, thick, sealed white envelope. My mom looked at us and joked tearfully that now we discover he had a secret wife and family. I knew we wouldn’t have to worry. I had everlasting hope in my dad. And that envelope, it was stuffed with cash, over $1,000. We knew he went out a winner!