The Gambler

Johanna Shapiro, PhD

My grandfather was born
in Rumania
He came to this country
at the age of two

because his father got himself
involved on the wrong end of
a failed revolution
to oust a despot king

When my grandfather died
he was only thirty-eight
He had a heart attack
at his office, walked home

had another heart attack
and died leaving a wife
who idolized him
for the next fifty years

and four brilliant, bewildered
children striving to meet
his prodigious expectations,
their only inheritance

My grandfather was a gambler
who bet on horses,
football, card games, raindrops
running down a window-pane

He wrote vaudeville jokes
for Jewish comedians
and bet he would become
an American success story

Grandfather almost won
that bet. But in death,
there are no more jokes.