Do you think about the close misses?
The near tragedy misses? The oh-so-close-to-heaven misses? The time the car almost skidded off the road, the hot one in high school you almost scored with, the chance you almost took - but didn't - that paid off, the opportunity that barely eluded you that would have meant disaster.
For example, I almost made it to Alaska once upon a time. I’d always wanted to go to Alaska, especially after reading John McPhee's "Coming Into the Country". I wanted to experience a little taste of the frozen wilderness, the waters, the mountains, the cold. And I got within a simple phone call of having a roundtrip ticket arranged for, and a place to sleep on a couch in the livingroom of a guy I’d be working beside. We’d be in Fairbanks, selling encyclopaedias at the State Fair, and would each surely make a pile of money. And I could always use the money. And afterward, I might've explored further , away from the city, or to Anchorage.
But I’d just been married a few weeks before, and my wife and I were living a good reach of the continent apart – she in Toronto, me in Seattle. And we’d made plans to be together during what happened to be Valentine’s week, which happened to be the week of the Alaska State Fair, to which I was being invited in the last hour.
At the time, it didn’t seem like so much to pass on the trip. A simple choice that could’ve gone either way, nothing earth shattering. Yet, looking back, I squirm at the casual ignorance of the younger man that was me, who failed to see what a rare opportunity was being given up.
But this happens all the time.
I’ve never witnessed a birth. And a client delivered a baby boy yesterday afternoon. I’d been with her two hours earlier, and she’d invited me to stay and watch, and I’d accepted. But then members of her family arrived, and they delayed breaking her water, and I had an appointment to go to, anyway.
I could’ve missed going without catastrophe, most likely. There’d been a bit of a mis-communication. The place we’d agreed to meet is closed Tuesday afternoons. He might not be there anyway. But then, he might. And weighing in the balance was meeting his bail conditions, and theoretically, whether or not he'd stay out of jail.
Still, I might have missed going, and caught up with him today.
I got the call from the hospital about half an hour after accepting that my client wasn’t going to show. The baby boy had come into the world about that same time, after a short and easy labour. One of the family cut the cord and helped with the afterbirth. Everything had gone well. Mama was happy and relieved.
So I missed one. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to witnessing a birth in this longish life. It may well be the closest I will ever come to being on that very first welcome committee for a New Earthling.
And, by the way, I did catch up with my other guy today, after a good visit with mom and baby.
And then something else happened. I’d decided to treat myself to an early evening movie, just to spend some time numbed out in the middle of a stressful week. But on the way, I asked myself if that was really the way I wanted to spend the next three hours of my life. Two or three alternatives bounced against each other before I decided to go to the Reference Library to do some writing. And I walk in to find myself on the tail end of a long line – the audience filing in to hear Salman Rushdie. I’d noted the date months before but had completely forgotten it.
It was SRO, but I got in, enjoyed his reading andhis great sense of humour. He shared anecdotes about his sons, and talked about integrating family and friends into his work. Lots of his thoughts about writing and about story. And I bought a copy of his "Luka and the Fire of Life", and was graced to have him sign it to my grand niece, Jaiya. The book was written for his second son, and follows "Haroun and the Sea of Stories", which was for his first.
So it’s been a happy tumble of circumstance. I missed one, then picked up a gimme on the back side. Sure, I'd trade Salman for the birth in a heartbeat. But the universe doesn't work that way, does it? You miss some, you hit some, and the world goes round and round.