Saturday, February 24, 2007

Luck in Your Own Backyard

Three things have occupied my thoughts lately:  I'll soon be thirty, the latest stage of my life to feel like "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" seems to be passing, and I miss my grandparents.

The framed four-leaf clover in the drawing above is my rendition of the real one that has a place here on my desk. I look at it every day and think about luck and its place in my life. My grandfather used to search his backyard for four-leaf clovers for me. He would sit at the base of his thinking tree and study the grass until he spotted one. There was always a lucky clover from Papa being pressed in a book, waiting for me to claim upon my next visit. I would take each one home and carefully tape it into my Bible, the only place that seemed right for such a collection. When I had a falling-out with God while in college, I threw out the Bible--and seemingly, all the good luck it contained. If my thirties see fewer moments of such reckless stupidity than my twenties did, we should all be glad.

I have gotten through the six years without my grandparents, of course, but I can't help but think that they all would have been easier had my grandparents been here for them. When I returned home from a failed grad school venture, it was Papa's spin on the events that most helped me. "A nice girl like you, you move to a big city and they treat you like that! But you tried! People who don't make mistakes don't make anything." He died four months later, so I never got to hear his take on any of the many twists and turns that followed. I never got to ask him what he thought of luck or if he considered himself lucky. He and his family had come to America from northern Italy when he was a boy--"America! Where the streets are paved in gold!"--and his mother died a few years later. He was always sure after that that he, too, would die young. A decade later, he and my grandmother met, somehow strangers to each other in a mining village of a few hundred people. Early in their marriage, Papa contracted Black Lung and was told to put his affairs in order and make arrangements for his family. He lived to almost-90 and celebrated more than six decades of marriage. As Joe says in Force of Evil, "You can't tell about your life 'til you're all through living it." By 2001, Papa had lived long enough to know that he never could have guessed how his life would unfold or what the "better or worse" that he had vowed to be there for would actually entail. Six years and countless highs and lows later, when I think of Papa and his lucky clovers, I ache to tell him that--even if the collection is gone--I'm beginning to get it.

After Papa died, I flipped through the pages of a book I'd taken from his and Grandma's house and found a four-leaf clover pressed inside. I promptly framed it and set it next to my favorite photo of us and promised not to be as careless as before. Maybe that wasn't necessary. Maybe luck, like love, never really leaves us. But still and all, maybe Papa knew that his granddaughter would sometimes need to be reminded that, regardless of what life held for her, she would always be one of the luckiest people in the world.


kent said...

Lovely as always. I'll address turning 30. My mother claims that her 30's were her favorite time, when she felt the best about herself, not that she hasn't enjoyed the decades after that. I would say that my 20's were my most reckless and that in my 30's (only a few years left of them!) I really lucked out in love, but only because I have been more in tune with what I consider important. I think maybe I feel a little like my mother did, I've come to be more comfortable in my own skin.

You'll do just fine in your 30's, don't let a number get you down.

I expect more Wind in the Willows references too. : )

Val said...

Kent, make no mistake: I am thrilled to be turning 30! Good riddance to my 20s, don't let the door hit them on the way out, etc. :) I will keep your thoughts in-mind, and yes, it sounds like you did luck out with J.

WitW disturbed me when I read it, but that was ages ago. The crazy toad was all I remember fondly from it--Maybe I should reread it. Oh, and I liked the description of the cozy house--Badger's?--at the beginning, too. :)

Thanks again. :)

Anonymous said...

When I was your age I thought that was the greatest time to be alive. When I got to 40 I thought it was still better. And I was sure that life began at 50 when I was there. Now that 60 is a little ways away, I know that 60 is a time to which I can look forward. My friend, who got saved at 75, (ten years ago) can tell you that it was a great time to start living. And now at 85 she is just forging ahead, full speed. But as far as "Luck" is concerned: there is no such thing! All we have in this life is a series of blessings! Luck is what lazy people use to complain about why they aren't happy. And happiness isn't what you should be looking for either; happiness is only temporary. You should be seeking joy. And that only comes from seeing each day as a blessing from God - and living it to please Him first and then be content with what He leaves for you. Laura Ingalls Wilder began a book writing career at age 65! But it was her gift back to her Lord. Inspirational books are nice, but it's the truth of God's Word and your daily relationship with Him that will see you through all the times of your life.
Thanks for writing and giving us something to think about! Keep it up! :-)
Rev. Jim

Val said...

Hi, Jim. I wondered if you were still reading along. :) "But as far as 'Luck' is concerned: there is no such thing! All we have in this life is a series of blessings!" That's exactly what I was trying to express with this. :) Thank you for your thoughts.