The luck o' the Irish @Helen DePrima and @Liz Flaherty

by Helen DePrima

March 17 – luck of the Irish. My birthday. Sad to tell, my mother never awoke from anesthesia, as much a victim of World War II as any Gold Star man or woman. Her regular doctor was away serving his country, leaving older colleagues, sometimes with outdated skills, to hold the home front.

Having a large extended family to raise me, committee style, was my good luck. My mother’s kin gave me food, shelter, and limitless love, while my father spent every Sunday with me. He taught me to fish and shoot and handle a canoe; he paid for things not in my grandparents’ budget, like summer camp and violin lessons. He also took me along on his numerous business trips; by the time I was ten or so, he had risen through the ranks of the L&N Railroad to rate a private car, a rare treat in itself. Along with sitting on the rear platform watching the rails spool out behind the train, I absorbed how my dad treated every railroad employee, from the porters and waiters to the company president, with the same courtesy and respect. His example taught me that there’s no such thing as a lowly job, a lesson that stood me well as I cleaned houses, picked grapes, and worked the mothers’ shift at MacDonald’s.

I guess we’ve all had both good and bad luck in our lives, but I feel fortunate now in my 70’s to have reasonable good health and no financial worries. I’ve met wonderful people along the way and enjoyed the thrill of sail planes and salt-water sailing, of hiking the high country and facing down a cantankerous mama cow nose-to-nose with my horse. And with more luck, I’ll keep on adventuring.

by Liz Flaherty



 Helen suggested we write about luck this month because St. Patrick’s day will be upon us in just a couple of days and we’ve all heard about the luck o’ the Irish. Being Irish—although not quite as Irish as my last name indicates—you’d think I’d be comfortable with that. And I am.
Except that I'm not sure how I feel about that word. Luck.
I do remember in my sullen adolescent days feeling as if everyone but me was lucky. During that twelve or so years between eleven and sixteen my mother may have mentioned once or twice or a hundred times that we make our own luck and it was time I got started.
          The roommate and I have been married forever. We like it that way--except for the days we don’t. People tell us a lot about how lucky we are. And we are. But we work at it. It wasn’t a situation that we spun a wheel and landed on.  
          My boys were athletes in high school. They heard a lot about luck, too. As an admittedly biased parent, I thought it had more to do with skill and hard work, but what did I know?
          But then there’s the fact that I don’t buy lottery tickets. Not only because I’m cheap but because I’m…yeah, not lucky. I’ve played Bingo at every Catholic church picnic I’ve ever attended—my last name should tell you there have been several of those—but have never won a game. Not. A. Single. One. I’m good at Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit, but I never win either one. I never bother saving raffle tickets (the ones I buy at those church picnics) because I know the winning number is the person who bought their ticket right after me.
But then…
          I survived not only my own adolescence--so did my mother—but our kids’ teenage years as well. I’m pretty sure I said, “You make your own luck, so get started,” a thousand times through the growing-up years of our three. But they did a great job with the growing up. They amaze me as adults.
          And then there’s the roommate. It’s okay with me if people think it’s been luck. If that’s what it takes (along with that work I mentioned) to stay in our particular dance, I’ll buy a ticket for that.
          I loved high sports and watching our kids participate in them. One of them has knees that still talk to him about basketball. His brother has a shoulder that reminds him of throwing a football. But as good as the memories are, that’s all they are. Their real lives are their wives and families and where they are now. I think that’s a lucky thing.
          Of course, there’s still the tickets and game thing. I’ll probably never win and I’m okay with that. The fun is in the playing, right?
Happy St. Patrick’s day, everyone. I wish you all the luck o’ the Irish.


Comments

  1. What a wonderful post, Helen and Liz! You both connect real luck to the love and comfort of families and that is so true. I always tell people that I have no luck when it comes to winning prizes, games or money. But I’ve won the sweepstakes when it comes to parents, children, husband, friends and second careers. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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    1. Hi Janice! I think too few stop to count their blessings, as you do, rather than their grievances. Top o' the morning to you.

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    2. I won that same sweepstakes, Janice, and I'm really happy about it! :-)

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  2. I am thankful that I too grew up in a loving family. My mom wasn't as lucky--at first. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Mom was just eight months old. She lived with her grandparents until she was 11 when my grandfather remarried and was able to have her with him again. Great post, Helen and Liz! I love St. Patrick's Day.

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    1. Hi Leigh -- top o' the morning to you. You're so right -- loving families are the best kind of luck. I miss my Kentucky cousins, living here in New Hampshire. Holidays aren't the same without a big clan gathering.

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    2. Hi, Leigh. We all have stories in our histories, don't we? I'm fond of St. Patrick's Day, too.

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  3. There's nothing quite so satisfying as making our own luck!

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    1. One of the things I count as great luck is growing up in a time with so little to fear. Yes, the threat of the Cold War hung over us, but we roamed the neighborhood and woods without our parents wondering every second if we were safe. The biggest danger my cousins and I faced was getting throw from our horses.

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    2. Oh, I agree with that, Helen. Even my kids grew up without fear, but it's a different world now. I hope things come around the way they often do.

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  4. Great post! Luck is a tricky thing. I like what Helen said, make your own luck. Happy St. Paddy's day!

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    1. Good morning, LeAnne! My stance is: believe only in good luck.

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    2. It is tricky, isn't it? And not to be counted on. :-)

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  5. I have my shamrocks up. I think some people are really lucky when it comes to things like lottery and bingo and drawings. Usually luck comes from a lot of hard work. Great post. Happy St. Pat's to everyone.

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    1. I love shamrocks. Duane and I play Farkle, and it's amazing how our luck goes back and forth. It's dice, for heaven's sake--not a game of skill--but we'll trade winning streaks like nobody's business!

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  6. Ladies, fantastic post! I really enjoyed this peek into your lives and pasts. Helen, it sounds like your dad was a wonderful man, as well as the rest of your family. I often feel sorry for kids these days who don't get to grow up wandering the back forty :) And Liz, I'm also more of a believer in realizing the results of hard work than random luck. As Oprah puts it, "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity."

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    1. Good morning, Carol! My dad worked very hard, often on the road and always under pressure; railroading is a tough business whether you're laying track or routing freight cross-country. Saturdays were his, but Sundays were always mine. He sure made his own luck. He started with the L&N in the mail room, earned his high school diploma at night, and retired as the executive vice-president -- a real Horatio Alger story.

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    2. Hi, Carol. I envy Helen those train rides. I'd still love to ride one across the country, but I want the whole private room thing, so it'll probably never happen!

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    3. Liz, we've gone from coast to coast via Amtrak, and the best part is talking with total strangers in the dining car. We've met millionaires and Mennonites, engineers and teachers and travel writers who prefer real travel to being shot across the country in a metal cigar tube.

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  7. I lost my mother at a young age too, yet had a happy childhood. I sometimes think things balance out. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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    1. I have lots of photos of my mother, so I can picture how she looked. Even better, my dad saved all her letters to him in the service, starting with the one telling him she was pregnant. Through her own words, I learned what a special person she was, always concerned for others, with never a complaint about her own problems.

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    2. What a gift that was, Helen.

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  8. Helen, how absolutely awesome to be on so many train adventures! You need to somehow incorporate this into a book. I'd buy it. If you already did, please tell me the name.

    Liz, I love Bingo. Once, I was one number short of a $500 bingo. It was early on. The announcer must have called 20 YES 20 more numbers before someone else won. Me, I sit beside Cathy McDavid whenever RWA has raffles. She wins, and sometimes she gives me a ticket so I can win. Ask her how many baskets she won at a National conference many moons ago. Cathy?

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    1. Hi Pam! I haven't used my railroad travels in any of my books, but the Cameron's Pride series incorporates many of my ranching experiences, as does my indie The High Road Home. I also hope to take readers sailing with me in some future book.

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    2. Well, that settles it--I want to sit next to Cathy, too! :-)

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  9. I love these posts and the stories and "overview" of a life you each tell. I wonder sometimes if we say we're lucky when underlying that is gratitude, that we're really grateful for these experiences we describe as luck. Even we've had a hand in making our own luck, doesn't it still feel like good fortunate when all turns out as we hoped?

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    1. Self-made or heaven-sent, good fortune always deserves grateful recognition. And of course, all luck is relative. One of my grandmother's pet sayings (she had a considerable collection) was that "comparison is odious." I disagree; I'm delighted with pain-free days, but on not-so-good ones -- I've should work for the Weather Channel -- I'm tell myself at least I'm getting around without a wheelchair.

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    2. You bring up a really interesting point, Virginia. I am so very grateful--and not always at the time something happens. Even the "bad luck" things often have learning or strength-adding things that go with them.

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  10. I feel lucky to be here with all of you. Great post.

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    1. Thanks, Beth. It’s a great place, isn’t it?

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