Sunday, September 26, 2010

Or maybe I was just lucky.

A Sunday in September, 2010

The details of the world seem magnified when I am alone. I experience the world differently than I would if I were with someone else, and I feel the world experiences me differently as well. Today, a young man sat on the sidewalk rattling change in a can outside the entrance of my local drug store. I took particular note of him as I walked into the store. What happened? crossed my mind. When I exited, he said have a nice day. I stood close to him, unwrapping my new package of gum, and depositing the wrapper into a trash can. I looked him in the eye and asked would you like a piece of gum? A bright eyed oh, yeah followed. As I handed him the gum I noticed how dirty his hands were and the fine dark debris beneath his fingernails and I took care not to touch his hand while very consciously trying to play it cool and pretend I took no notice of the dirt or debris. As I walked away I felt sort of ill, completely disoriented. Why did I have to avoid his hand? This certainly wasn't the most pleasant part of my personality on display, sort of shallow really. The worst part is that I'm pretty sure I'd feel the same way if I found myself in front of that store tomorrow. Who was this guy? Why was he on the street with that can? When he accepted my offer of gum he answered identically in voice and manner to someone who could run in my socioeconomic circle, but then his hands. They seemed out of context. A block or so from the drugstore a slow moving older man wearing a straw Panama hat and a loose cardigan bent over toward the sidewalk. As I drew closer I noticed he was picking up a penny. I smiled and wished him luck, took two steps, and saw another penny. I picked up mine and he smiled and said good luck to you too. We both chuckled and I was on my way, thinking of my grandfather, and the good luck I'd always had when we'd walk together. Every time we went out for a stroll I'd find coins on the ground, often half dollar coins and silver dollars. It wasn't until Grandpa had passed away and I was much older that I realized he must have been tossing those coins on the ground when I wasn't looking. He liked making me happy. Or maybe I was just lucky.


  1. or both. (he liked to make you happy and you're lucky)

  2. That's the best kind of Grandpa; the kind that makes magic happen.

    I love half-dollar coins. I never spend them. I keep them in my pocket or purse until I lose track of them. They make me feel rich, somehow.

  3. Denise, what a wonderful story. Maybe your grandpa was with you today as you shared your gum too, showing you luck comes in all shapes and sizes. I bet the man with the can chewed that gum all day.

  4. I would have avoided his hand too.

  5. i found your post via 'what julia ate'. beginning to read your stories, admiring your photographs. it will take a while to catch up with your blog, but it is very impressive.
    'or maybe i was just lucky' it is amazing how ones eyes can zoom, toward details and closeup even from far away to see under fingernails.
    hands are such indicators, nails even more so. and often better avoided.
    what a great story.
    thank you.

  6. what amazing stories... i can relate to them both. one day i saw a guy (looked normal) but so dirty.... he was polite and kind... and i thought "how did he get to this point"? it rattled me to the core. and i gave him $$ and i was so sad i wanted to give him more... but should i?

    my dear uncle (died 5 years ago) worked at the eagle airport in colorado. he would tape $2 bills under the chairs all over the airport so that when the cleaners would come in they would find them... he was the most kind and loving man... we miss him terribly...

    thank you for your stories... i just loved them...xx

  7. I always love your writing, dear Denise. What a beautiful gift you have.

    It is a little bit like magic this writing of yours, you know? The way you can make words into sentences, and create the most compelling of images, the sharpest of feelings... I think there is a definitely a part of your grandfather still living in you. For sure.


  8. i think you're lucky.
    i am too when i visit your blog- your writing is lovely!

  9. You are not shallow. I think it's in our nature to be careful and for me-- a bit suspicious. You seem very thoughtful and sweet. Most people wouldn't have stopped at all. Have a great day! xoxo

  10. I think you did the best one could in the circumstances and offering the piece of gum was so thoughtful. I loved the story of your grandfather it sounds like happiness and luck all mixed together.

  11. the offer for the piece of gum made him feel like the luckiest man on the earth.

    luck is funny. we all have it. it's just how you look at it.

    i like this story, denise.

    oh! and i was in your fine city. next time we are meeting for a coffee. or a piece of gum. :)

  12. i love how food mixes with books and stories here. i love the idea of second-hand books left behind for the next traveller, i think i might start doing that myself! i'll have to leave romanian authors everywhere i go, to help promote my largely ignored faves :)

    my grandfather used to put gingerbread pieces or tiny chocolates under my pillow. 'so long as you behave, the good fairy will leave one each day'. he also put the pears the wind knocked down in the barn, in hay, to ripen, and i always stole them. he promtly menanced the wrath of the good fairy. it's how i caught on - i always had sweets under my pillow, even when i'd been truly obnoxious.

  13. I love this everyday life story combined with a story from the past. Beautiful!

  14. you write beautiful words. thank you for sharing this story. it really resonated with me.

  15. You happy lucky lucky happy girl you!

  16. I like your story for several reasons--but in a small space, there's an interesting tale of connections, luck and not. sweet reward of the memory of your Grandfather! no matter how open we believe ourselves to be we can be surprised at our reactions to harsh realities---I would have flinched at the look of the man's hand, too.

  17. Christine, I like that answer.

    Shae, He was the best. I love our interesting attachments to certain objects.

    Debjani, Lovely, indeed.

    Michele, I know. You are right. I need to remember how lucky I am.

    Jane, I love the idea of Grandpa being there with me.

    Tracy, It was awkward.

    michael, Thank you for stopping by.

    red ticking, It's very difficult to truly know what is most helpful. Your uncle seems to have been an amazing man. What a beautiful story.

    maria, Thank you so much. Your comment really moved me. You are so kind.

    melissa, Thank you. I feel lucky when I visit your blog too.

    redmenace, Thank you.

    alexandria, I've been pretty lucky with the men in my life.

    Leslie, It is all about perspective, isn't it? I'd love to go out for coffee and a chat with you. Just let me know when you'll next be in SF.

    dana, These are the things I contemplate. I'd love your recommendation of a Romanian author. Your grandfather seems to have been pretty fabulous. We are both lucky.

    life in yonder, Thank you.

    Lydia, So nice to hear. Thanks!

    Mary-Laure, True, so true.

    nancy, Have I ever told you how much I enjoy reading your thoughtful observations? I feel lucky.

  18. Sweet. The first thought I had about your story was compassion.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. so sweet that your grandpa made magic for you. My sister - when she was little - was fascinated by sea shells (and later became a biologist) and my dad used to hide shells under the sand, on our beach walks, for her to "find" and be in awe of nature... sweet.