Those words have helped me throughout the most difficult periods of my life. I am not the luckiest person in the world. My life is like a roller coaster a constant series of ups and downs, but with more valleys than peaks. I long for a time when friends ask, “What’s up?” and I can honestly answer, “not much” Something is always up, and it’s not always good.
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck had a cousin, Gladstone Gander, who was so lucky he didn’t even have to work; money would fall into his hands whenever needed. If he tripped, he’d get up holding a winning lottery ticket.
I am the anti-Gander.
For example: When I first got my driver’s license, I didn’t have my own car, so my parents let me borrow theirs. The fools.
Three times in six months their cars got smashed. Each time, I wasn’t nowhere near the car.
The first time, I parked in the street in front of a friend’s house. Soon the doorbell rang and a neighbor asked who owned the brown station wagon because she’d backed into it. At least she owned up to it.
A few weeks later I went to a nearby mall and parked the car far away from the busy areas of the lot; I was afraid someone would hit it. So of course I came out of the mall to find the driver’s side caved in. No one left a note confessing to the crime.
Then my mom let me use her Gremlin to go to work at a pet hospital where I scrubbed floors and performed other exciting duties. The vet who owned the place stopped in for a few moments and left for the day. When I went to go home, the car — the sole vehicle in the clinic parking lot — had been crunched on the driver’s side.
Some years later, after I’d married and settled in Norwalk, a new car we’d ordered arrived late Friday afternoon; t was supposed to have been ready the following Monday, when our insurance began. Idiots that we were, we got the car that Friday. What could happen if we just brought it home? What could happen, did happen: $1,500+ of uninsured damage.
Last week I had my car in the shop to have some front-end damage repaired. I got a rental and figured it would take two to three days for the work to be done. Instead it took eight. I drove the rental to-and-from work. I hit no one and no one hit me. However, I made two trips to the grocery store and evidently on one of those visits someone grazed the front bumper, scuffing the paint and damaging the grille, because the damage was there when I returned the car. Guess who has to pay for it?
And it’s not just cars.
About 10 years ago, I really fell for a gal I’d known for some time. We started going out and made plans for an awesome adventure together. I was going to meet her in Israel, from where we’d explore five or six European countries, ending in Greece. I’d never left the continent and began dreaming of our romantic trip together. I got my passport and was about to buy my plane ticket when my kidneys failed. I never got to go; to rub salt in the wound, she met someone on that trip and they’re now married with two kids.
I could literally write a column a week for a year and never run out of examples of mishaps not of my own making. Recently I bought tickets to a couple of concerts. One group cancelled their tour two weeks later. I was unable to attend the other show because a payroll error left me short of cash.
I’m having another trying time right now. Welcome to your new life, I was told when I got my kidney transplant. What I wasn’t told was that I’ll have to work the rest of that new life to pay for my medicines. The anti-rejection medicines I need to stay alive cost me more than $700 a month when I include Medicare and SilverScript prescription premiums. And that’s with my private insurance to pick up the slack.
Friends tell me they don’t know how I make it. Or how I keep on plugging along when so much goes wrong. Readers have complimented me on the positive attitude I have toward all my medical woes.
The truth is, it gets damn hard sometimes to keep a positive attitude when it seems like every step forward is countered by the ground crumbling beneath you.
And that’s where the quote at the beginning of this column comes in. “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet”
How, in all honesty, can I possibly feel sorry for myself when all I have to do is read the news, any day, to find countless people who are going through far, far worse? How could I possibly give up when there are so many others who persevere despite problems that make mine seem nonexistent?
I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a bed to sleep in. I have people who love me and people who I love. What more do I need? How bad can my problems be?
Imagine being parent to a child who has been kidnapped, raped and discarded like trash. Imagine seeing rubble where your house once stood, destroyed by a tornado, flood or wildfire. Imagine being in a foreign land, thousands of miles from home, as bullets whiz past your head and tear off the face of your companion. Imagine learning your child has been the victim of a school shooting. Imagine losing your job and ultimately becoming homeless through no fault of your own. Imagine trying to survive night after night of sub-zero weather with little more than a coat or blanket.
We all have problems, or at least, think we do. But really, what we face are challenges.
Thank God most of us don’t have real problems.
I’d rather have no shoes than no feet.