“Lacheiopoulieo”. That’s the beauty about the Greek language. One beautiful word that takes an ugly mouthful to explain in English.

The other beauty about being Greek is the simple interchange between annotations from male to female first names. My first name is Vasilios.The lacheiopoulieo was called Vasiliki. Vasso for short. She sold lottery tickets from the corner of the main square in Tripoli opposite the main church, Agio Vasili. St Basil.

Like all following her trade she seemed to have fallen on hard times. Dressed in somewhat old clothes, smelling of garlic, tired from selling morning to night. The sunburnt hand that held the wooden staff that slotted the tickets like some Byzantine church insignia were gnarled like an olive branch; the tickets looked like some Banana Republic currency. Or perhaps they were a reflection of the tragicomedy of Greece’s current economic state.

My father, being a gambler at heart, would always buy from her. Not just that, but he got to know her. He would use her as a communication relay for anyone with him in Tripoli, as a reference point. If he had a  change of plan he would tell Vasso and she would tell anyone that needed to know. No need to use a cellphone to communicate. Although that, like all modern conveniences, removed some flavour from life in Tripoli.

My mother was in my father’s shadow. He was taller than her, and much noisier. But Vasso knew he had died 8 000 kilometres away when we arrived in Greece 7 months later to visit with mom. She hugged mom and passed her condolences with the beauty of the Greek language. Ugly mouthfuls in English: “My sympathies. Life to us. May God embrace him.” And she gave mom a sheaf of funny money lottery tickets. Mom is always lucky, but never won the big lottery. Always a small win here and there.

But my father won the big one when he found Vasso. She was his communicator and medium in the square of Tripoli. She was his hope of winning the big one. She was evidence of much more than an attraction for a gambler. She showed that he was a risk taker, in plans and on people.

Some he won, some he lost.

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