How Lucky I’ve Been
By Mac Greene
When I was a kid, I climbed everything,
Trees, fences with barbed wire, construction scaffolding.
We even climbed up to the high school roof with our bikes on our shoulders,
Riding around on top of the world.
I never fell. I never broke a bone.
When I pulled myself up a rocky ledge,
I never grabbed a sunning rattlesnake.
When we blew up firecrackers in soda cans,
I never lost an eye to aluminum shrapnel.
When I crawled hundreds of yards through storm sewers,
I never drowned.
When 20 or so kids, including my friends and brothers
Were arrested for breaking into the high school cafeteria,
The police didn’t come for me,
And I was never arrested at an anti-war demonstration.
When I swam after the dolphins, there were no sharks following them.
When I got exhausted, the tide did not pull me out to sea.
When we rented a canoe at Seneca and dragged it through the woods to the rapids of Great Falls,
We did not drown, although others did every year.
When we rented a rowboat in Florida and decided to go swimming,
Nobody lost a leg,
Although coming back we saw people feeding marshmallows to the alligators.
When my parents drove from bar to bar, careening down country roads,
Making spur of the moment U-turns on Route 301,
With us kids cowering in the back seat,
We never crashed.
When I drove drunk or high on LSD, I never crashed either.
When I smoked pot in my taxicab almost every night for five years,
I was clean on the two nights the police searched my cab.
When I raced the city bus at 30 m.p.h. on my bicycle with the lawn mower engine,
Gerry-rigged brakes and throttle, and no helmet,
I didn’t crash and suffer permanent brain damage.
When I raced down the 18th Street hill on my bicycle, still with no helmet,
It wasn’t me that hit the opening car door and was thrown to my death.
When I drove 24 hours (many times) from Sarasota, Florida to D.C.
And nodded out,
I didn’t crash and kill myself or a family of five in their station wagon.
25 years later when I drove 24 hours (many times)
From Hudson, Wisconsin to Martha’s Vineyard
And nodded out,
I didn’t crash and kill my family of six.
When I walked through inner city streets at 2 a.m., terrified,
I was never mugged.
When I left my boys alone to drive my cab all night, the apartment didn’t burn,
No one broke in, and neither boy had appendicitis.
During five years with no health insurance, none of us were ever injured or got sick.
The bear didn’t maul us when it stole our food, twice.
We didn’t step on the copperhead when we fled to the pickup.
When I drove that pickup from Utah, I did get back to D.C. with 40 cents and half a tank of gas.
When I drove that pickup to Quebec, making repairs along the way,
We ate cabbage for a week, but I got back with 18 dollars.
Alex didn’t die because the umbilical chord was wrapped around his shoulders
Instead of his neck.
After a week of frustrated labor, Alex didn’t pull the placenta out and Erica didn’t bleed to death.
Lydia didn’t die in the NICU.
Sophia didn’t die of appendicitis.
When the twins were a few months old, Erica and I put them in snugglies and went hiking.
When the path disappeared on the edge of an overgrown, crumbling cliff,
We kept on instead of backtracking, and no one fell into the river.
Ariana didn’t die of alcohol poisoning.
The scorpion that bit Alex was not poisonous.
None of us leaned against the tree in Costa Rica
Where the highly venomous Eyelash Viper was resting on the bark at shoulder height.
Traveling the world over, our plane never crashed,
And we were never kidnapped or murdered by terrorists.
None of the kids fell off the roof, not even Alex and his stoned friends.
His drunk friend didn’t drown when he fell in our pond.
Having polio at 27 months old, I still walked and hiked and wrestled and rode bikes,
And got a 4F that kept me out of Viet Nam.
Growing up with alcoholics, I became an intellectual and created an alternate dream.
Never knowing love, I learned love from my sons.
Painfully awkward and socially ignorant, I still found the love of my life.
When I was only somewhat honest about my lack of a bachelors degree,
I still got into graduate school and obtained my professional license.
I was only accepted to one graduate school, and one internship,
And I was offered only one job as an assistant professor.
A cabdriver and a hippie girl became a clinical psychologist and a pediatric endocrinologist.
Living dollar to dollar and paycheck to paycheck for most of my life,
I found myself in the top few percent of family incomes.
As an infant I slept in a drawer, because my 18 year old mother could not afford a crib.
My first memories are in a farmhouse without plumbing.
I grew up in a crowded brick bungalow.
But now I live in a great big house full of art and books, and everything we need.
With five acres of gardens and yards and woods,
Where I sit on a summer morning, looking at flowers,
Distracted by birds and cicadas, listening to the wind and the bees,
Seeing hummingbirds and butterflies,
Marveling at the golden sunshine reflecting from the pond, rippling on the tree trunks,
Writing about how lucky I’ve been.
July 9, 2007