I'm not the superstitious type. I've never avoided black cats, have walked under numerous ladders, don't even mind being seated in row 13 in theaters and airplanes. But I confess that I dread August 4 each year. Bad things have happened in my life on August 4 -- two cataclysmic events.
The first was in 1994 when I was carrying my then-20 month old daughter down a flight of stairs to our driveway. She heard a neighbor, twisted in my arms and began a freefall down the steps. I acted instinctively. I dove headfirst down the stairs, scooping her up along the way, and twisting to land on one leg. I broke that one in the fall and the other one during the twisting movement. I was the single mother of a toddler with two broken legs. I recall pleading with the emergency room doctor: "I can't have two broken legs. I'm a single mom." He wanted to help but had no special dispensation to offer.
I moved from that house before August 4 could roll around again. I wasn't superstitious but to borrow my favorite line from The Office, I was becoming at least a little stitious.
In the ensuing years, I became a little melancholy each time August 4 rolled around but would ride it out. Until 1999. We were on a short vacation in the hills of Virginia with another family when I used my mostly-forgotten cell phone to check home messages. More than a dozen had piled up in the 18 hours I'd been away, surely not a good sign. It was August 3 and my business partner and dear friend of 15 years, Janel Radtke, was on life support in a hospital in Nyack, New York. No one knew what had caused her to have a seizure in the night but she had suffered irreparable brain damage. We hurried home and Janel died the next day - August 4.
That was 10 years ago. My legs have mostly healed and I have learned to live in a world that is a bit darker and certainly filled with less laughter since Janel left us. August 4 is the birthday of my dear friend Laura and of President Obama. Good things have been known to happen on August 4 and I try to recall them each year as the date nears. But I admit that on that date there is a little more urgency in my voice as I tell my friends to "be well," and I try not to schedule errands or major trips. It may well be my own personal Unlucky Day or perhaps it's a reminder that we only have this one moment in time. Who knows what danger lurks around the corner or on the calendar? Perhaps once a year it is not a bad thing to be reminded of what is lost and what remains.
Be well, friends.