When my father was eighty years old and mellowing, he decided to win the Publishers
Clearing House Sweepstakes. Since he was well-off financially, he said, “If I win the
ten million dollars, I’ll give it to you son, and your family will be set for life.” Of course,
I viewed this as a good plan. After all, it didn’t cost anything to enter and it was something
to keep the old man occupied. They sent a letter each month asking if he wanted to subscribe
to magazines, but they made it clear that no subscriptions were required to remain part of
the lottery. Then, one month he received a glossy, color brochure depicting various species
of hummingbirds. It gave him the opportunity to order a life size, hand-painted, glass statuette
of the creature frozen in time, hovering over some colorful tropical flower, sucking its nectar.
Since they were only fifty dollars, he thought it might be a good present for my wife who
liked birds. And, at no extra cost, they would ship one every month and charge it to his
credit card. He could stop at any time and return any statuette that he did not wish to keep.
So he signed up and every month he would receive a new figurine of a hummingbird,
Red-billed streamertail, Black-breasted Hillstar, Blue-mantled thornbill and Brazilian Ruby.
It was comforting that my wife liked the birds and he also thought it might increase his
chances of winning the sweepstakes since he didn’t order any magazines. Plus, these statues,
according to the brochure, were collector’s items. The birds arrived every month for almost two
years, the Buff-thighed Puffleg, Cinnamon-throated hermit, Golden-bellied starfrontlet,
Green-crowned plovercrest, and Purple-bibbed whitetip. Each one came in a Styrofoam box,
accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and a card explaining the bird and its habits.
He gave one to my wife on her birthday, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther
King Day, the Fourth of July, Flag Day, or just for the hell of it because he had come to visit. He
bought two dozen of the figurines before finding out that he was not a winner of the lottery. After
reading an article in Southern Living that said there were over 300 species of hummingbirds, he
regretfully told my wife he was quitting the sweepstakes and that her
collection would have to be limited to twenty-four. I still have those hummingbirds and I look
at them now and then and think of my dad. I don’t really care about the figurines and all the
species that my wife memorized so carefully so my father would not think his efforts were
wasted. The hummingbirds just make me remember that my dad, a man I hated for the longest
time, once spent two years trying to win me ten million dollars so I could be set for life.
(Image Credit: Flickr)