My grandfather loved horses and gambling more than he loved my grandmother, so he spent a lot of time at the racetrack. Which is why, from time to time, a small envelope would appear in our mail, addressed to me, bearing the elegant raised blue return address of his butcher shop. Inside, I would find a brief note or none at all; a crisp, new hundred-dollar bill; and a clipping from the Racing Form with the winning horse circled and inevitably called Big John, or John Henry, or Johnny Diablo, or some other variant of my name.
My grandfather loved horses and gambling more than he loved my grandmother, so he spent a lot of time at the racetrack.
I treasured these little missives and the inestimable fortune they contained, even though my mom always whisked the bill away immediately, to be applied to my college fund or piano lessons or the furnace repair. I liked that I received these winnings more often than my brother or sister—and not just because horses named John were more common than ones named Rick or Marcy. I liked that the money simply arrived, without my having to make my bed or earn an A or give a recital. I liked that my name alone was enough to bring my grandfather luck.
My grandfather has been gone almost forty years. Which might explain why a few years ago, when I first slipped a crisp, new hundred-dollar bill into my sister’s birthday card, she broke into tears.
Copyright © 2014, John Unger Zussman. All rights reserved.
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.