I didn’t write this column. It wrote itself in my head at 6:30 p.m. on 26 May 2014 as I took a shower after finishing the second part of what was to have been a two-part series on good luck, and is now a three-part series.
As I showered, with the heartfelt words of humble gratitude I had written still strong in my mind, I found myself asking myself a question I had never asked before: “If I have been so lucky all these years, why is it that now, at the end of my life, all that wonderful luck has vanished? Why am I watching Lolly slowly fade away?”
Was it because of something I had done? Was it intended to put the universe back in balance by evening out all those years of good luck? Was I the cause of Lolly’s illness?
What a lousy thought that was! If true, it was too high a price to pay for any amount of luck, no matter how good it may have been.
But then, even as I asked those questions, even as I stood there with the hot water splashing over my head, I realized the truth — a truth so simple that anyone reading this may have already guessed it.
“No, I suddenly realized. This is not a punishment, not some balancing out of the scales, not some evening up of the score. It’s the exact opposite.”
And it is. It is the greatest piece of good luck I have ever had, or ever will have. It’s so obvious. I am here at this moment, a moment when my beloved needs me more than at any other time in her life. And hey! I’m 82 years old. I could easily be gone by now, couldn’t I?
Yeah, Johnny. Something tells me that’s good luck.
Think about it. Be as hard-nosed and practical as you can. Suppose someone you loved were to become ill, and you knew that there was nothing that could be done about that illness except to give of yourself.
If you were still here to do it, would that be good luck?
I kinda sorta think so.
You know something else? There’s a reason for that good luck. I was 73 years old when Lolly first became ill, but while I may have been 73 in years, I was only in my 40s in health and fitness.
How do I know that? More than one doctor told me.
Why was I still so healthy? Because I had stayed active all my life. And why had I stayed I so active? I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s just a personality quirk. I just happen to have a natural predisposition to use the mind and body I was given, and doing it has kept me healthy.
For example, in the Air Force I was given a chance to spend weeks at a time goofing off because our National Guard outfit had no radios for us to train on. Instead, I went to the food service section and volunteered to be become a lowly cook. Later on I was offered a commission and turned it down because I preferred to be the guy doing the work instead of the one telling him to do it.
I know a little joke about that; one I know you’ll enjoy.
A lieutenant, a captain, and a major are having a heated argument. A private happens to walk by. “Private!” the major growls. “Come over here and settle this argument.”
The private salutes. The major says, “Private, the Lieutenant here says that making love is 30 percent work and 70 percent pleasure, the Captain says it’s 40 percent work and 60 percent pleasure, and I believe it’s 50 percent work and 50 percent pleasure. We’ll abide by what you say. How much of it is work, and how much pleasure?”
“Oh, that’s easy, sir. It’s 100 percent pleasure. If there were any work in it you guys would have us doing it for you.”
Anyway, I have a natural bent for hard work that has kept me moving and working all my life, has kept me using mind and muscles, has kept me doing things I certainly didn’t have to do. That’s important. Being a classroom teacher, I could easily have worked too little, eaten too much, and gone to the grave too young.
As to good luck, Lolly’s disease is genetic. It was part of her the day she was born, etched into her genes. It was her inescapable future, a fate that would have befallen her some day no matter what she, or I, or anyone else did. And. ... ?
And purely by chance I’m still alive, still here, and still able to take care of my beloved. Things could easily have been very different, but they aren’t.
That’s what I call good luck.