Sam heard a sudden crash of glass from the bathroom.
He rushed into the bedroom to find his wife, Sandy, in an unusual position on top of their glass-top, oak-lined coffee table. In fact, she was not on top of the coffee table at all. She was in it. And, there were shards of glass (some large, some small) scattered on the carpet around her beside their bed.
"What happened?" Sam yelled frantically.
"Help me!" demanded Sandy, ignoring Sam's question. "I'm stuck!"
She was indeed stuck. Her ample, 72-year-old buttocks, stuffed into thin, white panties underneath her ragged pink nighty, had snugly landed in the opening of the coffee table which once, just minutes ago, held a glass center piece – a beveled square which now was in dangerously sharp pieces on the bedroom carpet.
"I stepped on the coffee table to open the window," Sandy finally explained. "It's hot in here. I needed some fresh air. I'm OK. I just can't get out."
"I'll call 911,"' Sam quickly decided, quietly cussing the damn coffee table he never wanted but still survived the extensive downsizing they had recently endured during their recent move from their house into a new condo complex.
"No!" Sandy insisted. Not moving, she sat stiffly at an odd angle inside the table.
"I can't help you," Sam yelled. "I'll call Mike."
"We don't know Mike that well, Sam!"
Nice-guy Mike was the neighbor who had helped Sam and Sandy move into their new condo unit two months earlier. And, after all, Sam was only in his shorts and could hardly walk without his walker due to arthritis. His cell phone was in the living room.
"Hold on. Don't move," Sam ordered, checking all four sides of the table. "Let's just think about this for a moment."
"Come on!" Sandy yelled impatiently. "Get me out of here!"
It was then that Sam saw small drops of blood drip from Sandy's butt onto the bottom of the oak coffee table. He knew he had to do something, so he cleared the glass around the table and tried to lift Sandy out of the square opening. He couldn't do it. She was too heavy.
"I have to go to the bathroom," Sandy suddenly announced matter-of-factly, as if that didn't complicate the situation.
In desperation, Mike finally started slowly rocking the table coffee sideways, but that did not help. He then noticed the curved ends of the table and leveraged that curvature just enough so Sandy gradually rolled out of the table, slowly got to her feet and went into the bathroom.
Following her from behind, Sam saw that the seat of her panties was ripped into three distinct verticals. He gently lowered her panties from behind, but he only found small bits of glass in her fleshy posterior. The bleeding had stopped. He treated her small wounds.
He now likes to tell this story with one add-on, which is not entirely true and she cannot easily verify – that Sandy's butt still retains scares in the form of a cross from the night she crashed through the coffee table.
To this day, Sam marvels at how happenstance can sometimes determine an individual's well-being. He now recognizes, as a mature adult, that one's life is often shaped by an unanticipated and unplanned situation that can cause real harm or mean unusual luck. And, it doesn't matter whether that unanticipated situation stems from basic stupidity or just an unfortunate circumstance beyond someone's control.
Sam likes this quote because it sums up his current understanding of happenstance:
"You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from."
― Cormac McCarthy, "No Country for Old Men"
But, he also likes his version of the same quote: "You never know what bad luck your good luck has saved you from."
That reminds him of three tragic dates in his lifetime: December 7 ... September 11 ... and January 6. Lives lost but also lives spared through happenstance.
Sam's takeaway tip from this episode: Marvel at humankind’s ability to thrive through the good and bad results of happenstance
Use “My Latest Legacy Nugget” resources to share your “opening Up” comment with a family member or friend.
Here’s to elderhood and vulnerability!
Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF retired, author of “Opening Up” newsletter
“Story-guided Discussion for Finding Peace with Vulnerability”
It was the 1950s. For grade school, I attended an orthopedic (yes, segregated) grade school for kids with all types of disabilities so I could receive physical therapy for my cerebral palsy on a daily basis.
That meant staying with a week-day family in our capital city 60 miles from our home farm and taking the Greyhound bus to get home on weekends.
I ended up staying with four different week-day house parents over seven years. That gave me experience in adjusting to a range of family life styles very few kids back home had at that time.
Some 20 years later, I found myself traveling with one of my house parents on two separate People-to-People tours – one through Europe and the Soviet Union and the other through the length of Africa. That gave me another opportunity to broaden my view of life.
Let’s disregard the implications “happenstance” may have for us in terms of luck or divine guidance and concentrate just on what currently sparks good memories for us.
*When has “happenstance” changed your life in a positive way?