Once or twice a year, I became incredibly hopeful about my finances. This was when the Power Ball jackpot reached at least 200 million dollars--the prize amount was prominently displayed on the large billboard over the interstate near my house. Similarly hopeful folks began to line up to buy tickets at local gas stations and convenience stores, and the news ran nightly updates about how large the pot had grown.
Though my grandpa devotedly played the lottery in all its forms--not just Power Ball but also Pick 3, Pick 4, and various scratch-offs--I never really played. Every Sunday evening when I spoke to him on the phone he would update me on how he had done in the lottery the previous week. Usually he had a couple of Power Ball number or, on especially lucky weeks, had won $5 on a scratch-off ticket. "I'm still working on that million dollars," he would tell me, "and when I win you'll never have to work again." I would laugh and usually tease him about how he was certainly taking his sweet time winning this million dollars. "One day, hon," he would assure me, "one day." Even though I wasn't a player, I always felt like I had a chance of winning because he was playing on behalf of the family.
In the winter of 2004 when the Power Ball reached 300 million, I broke down and bought a ticket; Chris and I both bought one. I believed firmly that we should each buy our own ticket and that only one per person should be purchased. I felt that one special ticket was much luckier than some bulk amount of tickets. I also liked choosing my numbers myself: specifically ones involving 2's, 4's, and 8's. I felt that I was more likely to win if each number was carefully chosen with intention and meaning, the way one might choose apples for a special pie, or a greeting card with just the right words for the occasion.
Chris and I got our tickets and sat in the living room waiting for the 10:59pm drawing before the nightly news. I had never before been so certain of winning, and in anticipation I mentally and verbally spent my money. "I want to go to Fiji," I gushed, and stay in one of those huts on stilts over the water with a glass table top that I can open and feed the fish." I went on. "I will pay off my credit cards and buy a cockatoo and a jet ski. I'll spend time in Germany and Italy and France, and I'll go to Norway to see a fjord." Chris listened as I rattled off my selfish desires, and then I went on to plan how much money I would give to each of my family members and close friends. Then he cut me off.
"You're telling me you would give out money?" he asked. I was startled out of my reverie.
"Of course," I answered. "My grandpa and I've always planned who to give our money to if we won."
He shook his head is disbelief. "You'd GIVE money away?" he reiterated incredulously.
I was surprised that he was so surprised, "Yes," I answered again. And then something dawned on me. "Wait. You wouldn't?"
"No!" he answered without hesitation. "It would be MY money."
I couldn't hide me shock. "You wouldn't give any money to your mom? or your grandma? or your brother? What about me?" He relented that he would buy gifts for people; he would make sure I had something if I needed it and he would buy our birds golden cages, but that he wouldn't give away any money. It would be his. Period.
I felt a growing sense of alarm rising in me. I kept insisting that it wasn't possible for him to be so selfish with so much money and really? He wouldn't give any to me? I began to reassess the millions of dollars I had mentally allotted for him. He stood firm. He also didn't believe that I would actually go through with giving any money away were I to win.
"But, but," I sputtered, "my grandpa and I ALWAYS talk about who we'd share our money with!"
"I think everybody SAYS they would share their money, because they won't actually win and it doesn't really matter. I'm just being honest."
By this point I was angry.
"Why are you getting so upset?" Chris asked in bewilderment. "It's not like it matters. It's not like we're going to win. You're getting mad at me for something that's not even going to happen!" I insisted it was the principle that was disturbing to me, and that I still couldn't believe he wouldn't share.
This conversation has come back to me many times over the years. Part of me feels like there is at least one moment in every long relationship during which you look at your partner and don't recognize them. Another part of me wonders...was this it? Was this the turning point at which we began a descent into irreconcilability? Could I have stopped it? Should I have pretended to agree with him?
I often wonder if he remembers this conversation, and if he still feels the same way. I wonder if and how aging and wisdom have affected his reflections on us, if at all. I wonder if and how I am described to other people he encounters. Does he blame me? Does he refer to me as batshit crazy? Does he thank his lucky stars I am no longer near? Does he make allowances for us having met so young and for trying to navigate a relationship when we had no idea what we were doing? Does he neglect to mention me at all? Does he regret leaving without saying goodbye? Does he hope he never lays eyes on me again?