BOSTON. — Boston -- Dear Dad,
I am not sure how to get this letter to you, given that your status is that of the departed, but I would be remiss if I did not pass on what I guess is good news. It seems that despite your having passed on in January, you have ''made it through the first Two Stages of the Sweepstakes sponsored by Reader's Digest,'' according to the Citizens State Bank of Clara City, as in Minnesota.
A fellow named Paul C. Forstrom, vice president of special accounts, sent you a letter with this news. He says you've got a shot at winning the $5 million grand prize, which is doled out in annual $167,000 payments, and not only that, but you would be treated to a special luncheon in your honor at Reader's Digest World Headquarters, Pleasantville, New York.
Maybe I shouldn't even be mentioning the free lunch, because I know that you used to spend a lot of time thinking about what to eat and where to eat. So you should feel better, I should tell you I'm sure the folks in Pleasantville cannot match Ma's meatballs and lima beans, her fish chowder, her chicken soup. So, if you have been reunited with Ma up there, and she is allowed to make, say, some of that chopped liver or a little pot roast, you are not going to be missing much in Pleasantville.
The money, of course, is another kettle of flunken. For a guy who was known to play the number once in a while, even the small prize of a ''Sweepstakes Watch'' (approximate retail value of $89) is nothing to scoff at.
According to some very, very small print at the bottom of Mr. Forstrom's letter, the odds of winning the grand prize are one in 197,100,000. You might have a better chance at the watch, with odds of one in 3,390. The paragraph does not note what the odds are if you are no longer alive, but I would guess they go up a bit.
Anyway, for what it's worth, if you are still interested, ''Minnesota'' Forstrom writes that if invested wisely, $5 million ''could ensure a 'worry-free' life for the Lupo family.'' Whoops! They're a little late with that one.
In addition to the big money, you also could win a new car. Well, the first ticket is for a Chevy Cavalier plus $89,700, but when I rubbed the shmootz off the little silver box, the word was ''No.'' The same happened with the Buick Century plus $183,400. But -- and here I almost was tempted to suggest you hold your breath, but I'll avoid that redundancy -- when I rubbed the box for the Cadillac Seville plus $264,000, it came up ''Yes.''
Dad, I think we are on a roll here.
The second letter explains how you got so lucky.
''Names from all 50 states were computer screened and processed on our IBM 3090 Mainframe Computer,'' it notes. ''Using a strict computer selection process, the majority of those names were rejected and won't receive Sweepstakes entries. However, the name -- M-R. M-A-X-W-E-L-L- L-U-P-O -- has passed that selection procedure and at the time of this writing appears on that crucial list.''
And, would you believe, not only do you stand to make a buck by having managed to survive this strict computer selection process even though departed, but you also have a chance to subscribe to the very magazine that's sponsoring the sweepstakes. You don't have to subscribe, of course, to win. Nor, apparently, do you have to be alive.
You can imagine that I am in a quandary, what with your daughter-in-law telling me to fake your name on the entry forms.
What do I do? See if you can spot Isaac Bashevis Singer up there and ask him about life after death and just how flexible that is. Then, one way or the other, Dad, send me a sign. You must respond by December 21. Love to Ma, my in-laws and all the other good folk there.
Your son, Alan.
Alan Lupo is a Boston Globe columnist.