My son entered me in a Kansas City Star contest years ago. The contest’s subject? “The luckiest person in Kansas City.” My son, then age 6 or 7, reasoned that my health problems so threatened my life that survival signalled incredible good fortune.
I didn’t win the contest, but the Star found his entry so charming that one writer decided to profile me. My picture appeared on the front page of the FYI section next to a two-inch headline: ONE TOUGH COOKIE. For months thereafter, people stopped me at my son’s school, outside the drug store, and in the hallways of the courtouse. “Aren’t you that lady, the one who lived against all odds?” Not all odds, I told them. Just really long ones.
On a scale of Nirvania to Bosnia, I dwell in that wide swathe of land in between, where days mostly resonate with beauty but occasionally groan under the weight of an unexpected downpour. I’ve got plenty of scope for comparison. I find myself surrounded by green grass, drinking from a half-full cup, and counting my lucky stars.
My parents had no wealth and at times, our Sunday dinner consisted of one chicken divided ten ways. A box of canned goods appeared on our porch one Thanksgiving. For years, I closed my eyes and pictured my mother on her hands and knees, in the kitchen, crying over a shattered milk bottle. There would be no replacement.
I’ve struggled at times too. Jobs that didn’t materialize, a law practice that barely supported my household for years. Months of medical bills that wrecked my credit and left me shaking, crying, in the same little nook where I posed for photographer Jim Bartimus, eternally pictured in my grotto, surrounded by my angel collection and my mother’s shelf of Haviland china. And an over-arching theme: Will my health even hold?
But I’ve not known true deprivation, except from a distance. I feel that keenly; I know I have been incredibly blessed, endlessly fortunate, and sometimes just downright lucky. If luck is a lady, she has smiled on me. I know many who think luck wears the mask of an evil harlequin, cackling and chortling as she heaps cinders on their head.
So, when my doctor walks into the examining room, and asks how I am, there can be only one honest reply: I’m just fine.