what’s in your bubble?

What is up with all these checks for $36?”asked a mystified Kathy Mays. A senior library assistant at Mt. Lebanon Public Library, where I used to work, Mays was compiling donations sent in memory of a recently deceased patron.

“Oh Kath,” I answered, “that is double chai (pronounced ‘hi’). The person who died must have been Jewish.”

I went on to explain that “chai” is the Hebrew word for “life,” and that the numeric values assigned to the Hebrew letters making up the word add up to 18. Eighteen is thus associated with life and is often used, along with double chai or triple chai—36 and 54—as a popular dollar amount for bar/bat mitzvah and wedding gifts, or donation gifts of any kind.

Clever Kathy promptly created a thank you letter incorporating an acknowledgement of the “double chai” donation. Had he heard about it, I suspect my Jewish father-in-law would have approved. Which is the segue to the heart of my saga in late March 2009.

By 2009 I was no longer married to his son but still maintained a relationship with my kids’ grandfather, or G-Pa as we called him. After retiring from his Mt. Lebanon dental practice and spending two decades in Florida, Dad had become too confused and frail to be on his own, and had moved back here to a senior living complex the previous Thanksgiving. Sadly his health rapidly went downhill, and he soon transitioned to a nursing home. I tried to visit twice a week. When a nursing home attendant asked if I was a relative, I laughed and said, “Well, I guess I am a daughter-out-law.” She laughed and said, “Oh, we get a lot of that here.”

Dad had become the self-appointed Inspector of everyone getting on and off the elevator by the nurses’ station on his floor. It was of little importance that he was by then not quite sure precisely who I, or anyone else for that matter, was. His mind assigned us all an identity and a role, keeping his sense of self and his dignity intact as best it could.

Early Saturday, March 28, the phone rang. It was my ex-husband; the home had called saying to come quickly, but alas he was still en route when Dad passed. That was a point when I felt I had to take a step back. I sent my 25-year-old son off to join his father and attend to the details.

Later that afternoon, though still feeling a bit disoriented, the household grocery situation prompted a trip to Shop ‘n Save. Passing by the customer service area, I noticed the PowerBall prize was almost up to $100 million. Oh, why not, I thought, and stood in line to order a quick pick. As I waited I sent (up?) a silent irreverent exhortation: “Now get me the winning numbers, Dad!” I made my purchase and started wheeling my way to the produce section.

I took a quick glance at the ticket as I was putting it away in my purse, and stopped cold. My eyes had fallen on the PowerBall number—18. Shaking my head in disbelief, I could only think, “Well, Dad, that’s a pretty good trick!”

As I began a delighted chuckle at such a coincidence, my eyes strayed to the five “regular” quick pick numbers.

The middle number was 36.

The final number was, yep, 54.

Yes, I am crying as I write this.  And yes, I basically doubled myself over the shopping cart handle to stay upright as my knees buckled and I thought I would faint. Message received, Dad, oh so loud and clear. From, I imagine, slightly beyond Mt. Lebanon’s “bubble.”

Whether the recent PowerBall frenzy has left me a gazillionnaire as you read this, I will still maintain that I won far more that Saturday afternoon back in 2009.