“CLEARLY, MARY, WE ARE NOT LUCKY!”, wailed my sister Sue in her best Dirty Harry voice, whipping around to grab my shirt collar and give me stink eye. After a second, and getting over the shock of the statement, we fell into a heap of laughter. Nonetheless, as I think back, perhaps she may have had a point. We were after all, trudging down an Iowa country road away from my stalled 1982 Plymouth Horizon and all I wanted to do was get to my mom’s farm for some TLC.
It was end of June 1996 and four days earlier, my husband, of nineteen years, had died of a massive heart attack. I was now a widow with two teenage children, a crappy car and a pile of medical bills.
Bob’s death was only the start of that ill-fated weekend. There had been a teen suicide in our neighborhood, a friend’s son and husband killed in a trucking accident, my sister, Sharon, struck a little girl with her car, (fortunately not injuring her) and my down-syndrome brother, Eddie, had middle-of-the-night emergency surgery. Moreover, my niece was to get married on that Saturday and two young men drowned in the river at the park where she was to be married. This pushed my irreverent family over the edge. No one will admit who conjured up visions of bodies popping up in the nearby stream during the ceremony and to be fair, it wasn’t their fault that they started laughing inappropriately during the ceremony. We are Irish after all and our main coping skill for handling grief is humor.
Which brings me back to the scene of three middle-aged, fluffy women walking single-file down the road, with a stray Irish Setter who had escaped his electric fence. My sister, Sue had tethered the dog to a purse strap to ensure “we didn’t kill the dog on our watch.” As we trekked down the road, the weather was perfect, a blue sky, bright sun and a soft breeze, I mused “Aren’t we lucky it’s not raining?” which prompted my exasperated sister to declare, “Clearly Mary, we are not lucky!” I don’t think she appreciated my Pollyanna outlook.
Minutes later we were picked up by a good Samaritan. When we finally reached Mother’s farmhouse with our story of a dead car, the stray dog we named Lucky and our rescuer in tow, my mother exclaimed, “Aren’t you lucky your brothers are here and can fix your car?” Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I realized, I had inherited the Irish lucky gene from my mother, which is: The Irish aren’t really lucky, we just think we are!
So whatever life throws your direction, here is my Irish blessing for you.