Friday, December 19, 2008

Life and Good Fortune

As I begin this, my 75th year, I am aware of good fortune, and the role that fortune--perhaps luck, or simply happenstance, plays in our lives. I have often thought back to that period growing up in New York City, in a family known more for its dysfunction than anything else. When my Mother decided, on her meager income, to save money during The War, and to use that money to buy a house in the suburbs--more like "the country"--our lives changed in unpredictable ways. For my brother, it meant packing up and leaving one of the city's premier high schools, Stuyvesant, and finishing his high schooling in a small town upstate, Spring Valley. For me, it meant shifting my life from the streets of New York City, to a fairly rural life in a community with a small lake, a small population, and relatively placid schools. I cannot know what my life would have been like had we stayed in midtown Manhattan. It might have been radically different.
I also remember sitting in our porch, thinking about college, looking wistfully at a catalog I had received from Stanford University, with pictures of palm trees and tiled roof buildings--exotica. I still remember having no doubt about college--none. Yet, we had no money. There was no money, yet my brother had gone off to work and college, paying his own way. I imagined I would do the same thing. Instead, my sister and her husband helped. But I think back, wondering what my life might have been had I decided that we could not afford college and gone instead to work, or perhaps into the service. Life would have been very different.
And then there's India. I was getting really tired of the Defence Industry, and traveling hither and yon to various military contractors and installations, working to make better systems to blow up the world. Then someone told me that we had won a contract to work in India on a USAID project. I thought for a few minutes, then made a call on a pay phone (remember those?) to my wife back in San Francisco (I was in San Bernadino at the time). I said, "Hey, honey, how'd you like to go live in India for a year?" She thought for a minute and replied, "Sure, hon, why not?" So off we went, on the adventure of a lifetime--one that still, to this day, amazes people, not least, us.
So, as we continue on our adventures--life is after all, a GRAND ADVENTURE--I am always aware of fortune and happenstance, and decisions made that change one's course in life. Some work better than others, but they are all part of the game of life. They weren't preordained. They were made by me, with a little help from my best friend--my wife of 53+ years.
Nice. Grand really.
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