When I was young, about nine I think, at the annual school carnival raffle, there was a big red dog bowl I wanted to win. I kept my expectations low since the honor of winning things or landing on right number in the cake walk or not getting caught for misdeeds, went to my younger brother.
But this time I was lucky. My best friend was calling the numbers and I conveniently slipped her mine. I won the big and very red dog bowl for our brown and very small dog. I learned then that to be lucky was to be a cheat. Of course, that doesn’t explain why my younger brother came away with one of the top prizes, a watch fancy enough for my dad to wear or why my oldest son never loses a coin toss.
I think of that as the lowest rung on luck’s ladder.
I have a friend I’ve often thought of as one of the world’s luckiest. People give him things, me included. He’s the type of person who can walk up to the gate agent at the airport and say, “How about you upgrade me to first class?” and they will. He is bold and charming and has a way of making people believe they are gifted with extreme wit.
Once I thought that his horseshoe had flipped right over, that his luck was dripping away like a slow spring melt. That was the time he went to prison. But his luck hadn’t changed, only his environment. None of the horrible prison things happened to him. He got a cush job at the prison library. His unit was the newest one, the one with air conditioning and thicker mattresses. He quit smoking and lost weight. Maybe some good can come of this, I thought, maybe it’ll make him humbler. Maybe he’ll even be a liberal when he gets out. That didn’t happen.
Recently he said to me, “You know how people ask if you see the glass of water as half empty or half full? Even if the glass was only half full of water, I used to see it as overflowing. I was blinded by my optimism.” That’s an interesting idea even though it wasn’t optimism that got him into trouble. I think this falls under the category of blind luck.
After this, there are so many kinds of luck, often inexplicable, like being in the right place at the right time or not dying when you really should’ve died.
And then there’s the top rung of the luck ladder.
My son, the one who doesn’t lose a coin toss, also doesn’t sit still or pay attention in school. He was given a label, a series of 4 letters– 2 Ds, an A and an H, and this allowed him to get speed from the pharmacist. We did what many parents looking for a solution do: we encouraged his drug use. He calmed down and our lives calmed down but his eyes were still darkly shuttered most of the time. The current that fed him was anger and he thought that was who he was. He was untouchable.
Then the teacher sent an email. Our son was acting out in class and maybe his meds needed to be reevaluated. So we increased the dosage. Three days in he came home and began crying wildly. He held his head and said, “I’m so depressed.”
My God, what am I doing to my child who I love so dearly? There must be another way.
We tossed out the meds which had been dyed a murky blue. I took away the croissants and the pizza, the milk and the bread and the butter with their hidden preservatives and artificial ingredients.
Then his teacher said his behavior was still very bad and she thought he should be back on meds. “I can’t have this kind of behavior in my class,” she said. She took pictures of him tossing a kleenex in the air when they were supposed to be doing math. She showed me a poster with a face where he’d drawn on a mustache. Luckily these offenses are not punishable by death.
Sometimes sticking it out just means you have a deeper hole to crawl out of and I said to her, “It’s good he’s leaving then. Tomorrow will be his last day, after band, so he can return his horn.”
You see she hadn’t seen what I had seen with my son, when I took away the Red 40, the yellow 5 and 6, the blue number 1, the BHA, the BHT, and all the other S-H-I-T that is put in our food.
I saw my son’s soul, in all its beauty, return to his body. The darkness lifted from his eyes. The current of anger was clipped. He was light. And, if you’ve ever been witness to this, you know it is beyond luck. It is beyond prodigal. It is something before which I am silent.