I love to contemplate concepts like luck and fate. As widely understood, luck is random, a chance throw of the dice, if you will. Fate, on the other hand, is something predetermined or unavoidable, one’s lot in life. To my way of thinking, the two aren’t quite so distinct.
In the fall of 1976, my family had what would, by any definition, be considered a string of bad luck. We lived in the Detroit area, and my dad worked for General Motors. The late 70s were a rough time for the auto industry, and my dad had just come off of a layoff. Never flush to begin with, family finances were tight.
My older sister, sixteen at the time, started a grease fire (accidentally, of course). While putting out the fire, my dad suffered third-degree burns up and down his legs and arms. The result was another leave from work, extensive damage to our kitchen, as well as a flurry of medical bills. Not good. We were a one-income household (of two adults and three kids). Not to mention that my dad was severely injured.
General Motors had a policy at the time that a sick leave of more than a month required a full physical examination. As a result of this work-up which included X-rays, a large shadow was discovered surrounding my father’s heart. Within hours of reading those scans, my father was wheeled into surgery for an aortic aneurysm. In layman’s terms, it’s a blockage of the major artery carrying blood from the heart to the vital organs. An aorta is normally the size of a finger; his had swelled to the size of a grapefruit. We were told that without finding an anomaly on the X-ray, he had maybe a week before it ruptured. And the rupture would have most definitely killed him.
How’s that for a three-sixty swing on perspective?
What we’d considered bad luck became, within minutes, fortunate and opportune. And most people who heard of the coincidence used words like “blessing in disguise” and “providence.”
I am a big believer in fate. Those who have read my novel STORK know it plays a large role (is practically a secondary character, for that matter). I’m not so sure that anything in our lives are random. Perhaps it’s my psyche’s way of accepting those things I can’t change, but I like to think things happen for a reason.
The years following my father’s surgery weren’t easy, and, sadly, he only lived another two and a half years. Nonetheless, I know, despite more health issues, he felt fortunate to have had more time with his family.
Luck, like so many things, can shift and reshape before our eyes. Is it random? Or a close cousin of destiny? I don’t pretend to have any answers. I know my sister once took the blame for our fire; she later claimed credit.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way.