A Lucky Moment
I was 17, alone in New York City. Summer jobs there paid well so I rode with 35 other college students traveling as a caravan to have an adventure and make money for my limited college budget.
Oh, and it gave me someplace to go besides home—since there was fear and abuse to be dealt with there.
I loved the pulse of the Big Apple. Having grown up in the country, a big city held excitement and promise. I relished my work as an “autotypist-receptionist” in a nonprofit. Our modern typewriter would type the same letter over and over, stopping just long enough for me to fill in the names and addresses.
Quite a gadget for over 50 years ago! When the whole idea of computers, etc. was only a speck in the eyes of true genuine nerds of the future we were on the cutting edge of progress by sending out mass but personalized communications.
I cherished the independence of living in an affordable young lady’s residence—bit like a college dorm with tiny bedrooms and a shared living and dining room. Having breakfast and supper prepared for me was also a pure delight.
So one of my favorite excursions was going all the way to the end of the subway line and back. What a thrill! I had heard you could go 180 miles on one subway token so I went for it. Also, I absolutely loved the museums and the cavernous library, stopping to admire the lions each time I visited there.
Toward the end of the summer I had relished my whole NY experience. I even attended an outside amphitheater concert to see Van Cliburn make magic of 88 piano keys, found my way to historic buildings, frequented Chinatown developing a lifelong love of Chinese food while studying Chinese, found calmness in the Little Church Around the Corner, and rested in the beauty of parks.
I especially loved watching an old guy in my favorite Chinese restaurant race the cash register with an abacus and yes, he always won with his deft fingers and confident grin.
Then one day I suddenly fell ill, horribly ill. I somehow made it to a hospital. (There was no 911 then so I was on my own.) Thank goodness I had an insurance card from my parents so they let me in the ER. I watched in horror as they refused to let several uninsured yet desperate people in the door. I cried as I found one had died during the night on the hospital doorstep.
As paperwork was being completed I took a turn for the worse, seeming to lose consciousness.
Someone rolled me into a tiny room, and the drama began to unfold. I couldn’t talk or move, but as I regained consciousness, no-one realized I was watching in a fuzzy fog of lonely awareness.
Several urgent voices began to work on me. Then someone said, “Good, here’s the doctor.”
There was a quiet spell, and I was hopeful as I wondered what was happening to me as he examined me at length.
Then he leaned up close to my face and uttered the awful words, “Mother of God, she doesn’t have a chance!”
I will never be able to erase the sight blazoned on my heart of a white coat with a cross dangling close to my face, coupled with the ominous words of no hope. Yet, I suddenly had some vague intention of proving him wrong, since only I realized I was conscious. I had been through times which could have stamped out hope in my childhood, so I had developed a habit of hope.
I did consider the dreadful import of his words, then came to a clear decision as the adrenaline focused my mind. I was not going to let go and die then and there. I understood that I knew something the medical staff did not know—I was conscious and aware, and wanted to know what life held in store for me.
A strange determination came over me. I still could not communicate, but I had a general notion of the words “critical condition.” Somehow I calmly reached the conclusion that I had a job to do: My task was to stay alive, an assignment I knew only I could pursue, since they seemed to have partially given up on me.
Although I had no deep emotion or fear at the time, my resolve came like the carress of a cooling breeze on a hot day.
It took almost a month in the hospital, and several weeks thereafter, but I kept my commitment to myself. I didn’t make it back to college that fall due to long process of regaining my health. However I returned to my midwestern college by the second semester, more determined than ever to make something of myself, and to follow my calling to become a teacher.
From this view after over four decades of teaching, I am forever grateful for the lucky moment I had when I looked up and glimpsed that white coat, and heard those shocking words. I am so glad I added my vote to the medical efforts being made, and chose to stay alive! And what a long and lovely life I have had thus far.
Who knows what Lucky Moments lie ahead?