A few hours later at the press conference where we received the oversized check for a hundred-and-ninety-million dollars, a woman reporter asked my father if he was married. “Yes, I mean no,” he said. “I mean, I was married, but my wife is not with us any longer. She’s dead, actually.” The reporters in the small, hot room in the hotel in downtown Chicago looked at each other and were confused. One man squinted his eyes and shook his head. Standing just behind my father on the small stage, I watched him shift his feet.
“I selected, I played her numbers, you see,” he continued. “Yes. I played her numbers, the numbers she always chose. They’re my oldest son’s birthday, actually. I guess that was a very lucky day for her, the day he was born.” My father seemed to be saying this more to himself than to the reporters. “She picked the same numbers every week for nine years, and:” He stopped as if he just then realized that he was talking and cleared his throat again. No one said anything. Some reporters coughed but most wrote fast in their notepads. A TV camera light suddenly went on and I held tight to Tommy’s hand.
“When did your wife die?” a reporter asked.
“A year ago. A year ago today actually. Yes, today.”
“She’s up in heaven though,” Tommy said. “She’s up in heaven and we’re going to pay some money to get her to come back.”