(Right now, I’m focusing on my memoirist work that I’ll call, simply, “Pictures of Tommy” -- mostly about my psychotic brother and his legacy. It touches on my personal fears, too. . . .)
Just as some people believe in destiny and others not at all, the world is sometimes divided into those who believe in luck, and those who do not. Based on five decades plus of lifelong observation -- keen at certain moments -- I’ve had my share of all kinds of luck. I believe: 1. some people are lucky, and some are not, 2. You can try to make your luck, but there’s a basic pattern you can’t buck, and 3. Circumstances, personality, and hard work usually meet in a nexus that some call luck -- but if that crucial element of REAL luck doesn’t figuratively kiss that happy triumvirate, fuggedaboutit. You’re unlucky.
My brother, Tom, seemed to be one of the unlucky ones. He was mentally, then physically, sick. On top of that, he was awkward socially, athletically, and circumstantially. Sure, he had a family who loved him but we also didn’t understand him and some of us were scared of him. Did he have the endearing personality to stand out and be chosen for some of life’s choicer turns? Did he have the necessary talent to be recognized for his guitar playing and music? In all honesty, no -- and no.
In most ways, Tom was the unluckiest person I knew. But, luckily (!), he knew that God loved him and he clung to that belief almost all of his life. True to his name, Thomas, he had moments of doubt. But a big part of every conversation went like this:
“You know, Laurie, I have some troubles, but I’ve made peace with my God. Or, he’s made peace with me. We’re all right.”
“That’s good, Tom. I’m glad to hear that. I’m sure that God is glad to hear that. Lord knows, you haven’t had it easy in this life.”
“We-l-l-l, that all depends on how you look at it--“
“So, you’re keeping your eye on the donut, you mean?” I was remembering one of our father’s favorite little sayings: “As you go along in life, my friend, and try to reach your goal/Keep your eye upon the donut, and not upon the hole.”
“What’s this about donuts? Are you trying to make me hungry? All I’ve had today was a lousy slice of pizza, and it wasn’t even that good. Did you know I can’t have sugar any more? I’m diabetic. I have to drink diet soda. That’s pretty horrible.”
“Oh, man. Just your luck, huh?”
“Laurie, what do you mean, just my luck?” In seconds, Tommy’s mood turned. Around this time, I figured maybe he had some kind of affective disorder, maybe something bipolar because he got angry so fast, seemingly out of nowhere. I’d been around that kind of person before. I wanted to get off the phone -- quick.
“Uh, nothing. And the donut thing was just something dad used to say. . .” With my unlucky brother, you not only had to pick your battles, you had to pick your figures of speech quite gingerly.