Are You Feeling lucky?
I feel my health begins, with my attitude, with my willingness to set myself up to succeed. With a positive attitude, things appear balanced and in the right place. With a negative attitude, things appear unbalanced and out of place. I learned early in life that I always had a choice, about how I felt about myself, the people I knew, and the things I did.
Definition of Attitude: Manner, disposition, feeling, position, with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind. Position or posture of the body appropriate to or expressive of an action, emotion.
For me, attitude began with my father. He had this attitude he always carried with him. "Can I be that lucky?" he would ask himself. I heard him say it often, but I never really understood until, the summer of 1990, just before he died.
We had all gathered around the table for dinner at my sister's place on my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. My mother, sister and her husband, her son and his fiancé, my mother's cousin and his wife, and myself. My father was at the head of the table. He wanted to tell us a story.
Dad began his story. He said, "When I was young, I was told by someone that I had a hole in my heart and I believed them. So, I told people, 'I was born with a hole in my heart.' I told many people this, until one day someone said to me, ‘That’s impossible, you don't have a hole in your heart, you have a hole in your head.' Needless to say, I never told that story again."
"No hole in my heart, I thought to myself, can I be that lucky?"
“At the age of eighteen, I was in a bicycle club in Holland and met a girl there. Her name was Trudy. I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world. Over the next couple of years, we spent as much time together as possible and I fell in love. I wanted to marry her, but she live far away in de Hague and I lived in Amsterdam. I thought her parents would never agree to this, and she would say no anyway. I asked myself, 'Could I be that lucky, for her to say yes? Can I be that lucky, for her parents to say yes?' Well, she did say yes and so did they."
"We got married in 1940, during World War II. Things were not easy then. We desperately wanted children, but Trudy had miscarried. We kept trying and Trudy was pregnant when the Germans marched in and occupied Holland. I remember being called to the hospital when it was time for her to deliver. It had been a hard pregnancy, so I rushed to the hospital. All I wanted was Trudy and the baby to be healthy and I thought to myself, 'Could I be that lucky?' Everything was fine and we had a beautiful baby girl. We named her Cornelia Joanna. Again, I was that lucky"
"Things were getting worse with the German Occupation of Holland. I was working with the Underground Resistance Movement, so I was often in hiding. In 1944, during the beginning of the 'Hunger Winter,' I was called to the hospital because Trudy was delivering again. When I got to the hospital the nurse asked me what I wanted, a boy or girl? I told her, as long as it was healthy It did not matter. She said, 'But you must have a preference?' I said,' We have a girl now, so it would be wonderful to have a boy, but could I be that lucky?' 'You are that lucky!’ she said. My son Nico was born."
After the war ended, I dreamed of moving out of Holland, fearing someday another war would come. I didn't want my children going through what we had just experienced. It would be hard, and so, I asked myself again, 'Could I be that lucky?' In 1951 we had saved enough money to immigrate to Canada. I arrived first by airplane and three months later I was reunited with my wife and children. Again, I was that lucky."
"Slowly, I sponsored Trudy's two sisters, and their families, her brother and wife, her father, my brother and his family. We were very lucky and we were happy."
"During the early 1960s, things were hard again, there was a recession in Canada. I heard things were better in the United States, but it was difficult to emigrate without a sponsor. A few years earlier, Trudy and I spent some time in south Florida on vacation and I thought to myself. 'Could I ever be that lucky, to ever live in a place like this?'"
"In 1962, I was sponsored by a business friend, found a job in Detroit, saved enough money in one year to buy a house and moved my family from Canada to the States. Then just 10 years later Trudy and I moved to South Florida. Again I was that lucky."
"I got to retire in Florida and life here has been wonderful. Years later, my children moved here and I feel very lucky. As you all know, I now have pancreatic cancer and have only a little time left. Few of us know when we are going to die. I ask myself, 'Could I be that lucky to know?' You see, I feel lucky because I can say goodbye and I can thank all of you for sharing with me, my lucky life."
I have many great memories of my father, but that was a special moment, which put my life in perspective and now I find myself asking, "Could I be that lucky?"
My dad died that December. But, his memory and the lessons he taught me live on.