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What are the odds?

We’ve all had it happen — that coincidence that is so uncanny it makes us believers in … what? Pre-destination? Chance? Luck? God’s Plan?

Hard to say, but I’ve had a few that made me stand up and take notice. For example: the chance that I would be born in the same hospital, the Boston Lying-In, as my mother – well not so surprising, really. But I married a man from Rochester and before we had children we lived in San Diego, Cambridge, Connecticut and back to Massachusetts. Our first child was born in Boston at – you guessed it – the same hospital. And while I do think that’s surprising, I think it’s downright amazing that our first grandchild was the fourth generation born in the same hospital, especially after her mother’s being raised in Pennsylvania.

They’ve now changed the name from the Lying-In (which I guess got named because that’s what you did after you got there) to the world-famous Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

But it’s still the same baby birthing place.

And one more thing about those Boston births: my mother was her parents firstborn, I was firstborn (and only), my daughter was my firstborn, and so too is my granddaughter.

Equally strange, though is my late husband’s story. Being born in Rochester, in the same hospital as his father, was a small echo of my story. But the fact that our son was born in that same Rochester hospital begins to beg the coincidence. That and being second-born sons.

Well, I think I’ve come to the realization that life’s coincidences are just that, eerie little happenstances that mostly make us smile, and shake our heads. Like what happened 14 years ago.

When I first met dear Richard who lived 70 miles away, we talked on the phone a lot. He knew I was Tom’s widow and I knew he had been divorced. One night we were chatting about families and he asked my maiden name. Naturally, with a moniker like O’Brien everyone assumes I’m Irish. And although there are times I fervently wish I were from the Ould Sod, ’tisn’t so. I’m an Orangeman. I wound up telling Richard that I was half Scottish and the rest English and Dutch. There was a big silence on the other end of the phone. Finally, he said, “Really?’ and I heard him chuckle. I asked, what’s so funny about that? Then he told me he was Scottish, English and Dutch. We did laugh about it.

But later in the conversation he asked me when my birthday was. Not ready at that time to confess the year, I told him, “October 26th. When’s yours?”

And he said his was November 25th. I inhaled deeply and didn’t say anything. After probably 10 seconds of silence he said, “Are you there.”

Quietly I whispered, “Yes.”

“Are you OK?”

“Yes. But there’s a big coincidence,” I whispered. “That was Tom’s birthday.” Now it was his turn to be silent.

Finally, he quietly said, “Hoo boy.” We were both sort of blown away and didn’t have much else to say that night. That coincidence was one to ponder.

And, as it turns out, it is a little tricky. November 25th is always during Thanksgiving week so our family is always together. And as fond as my children are of my dear Richard, it is still their dad’s birthday. It’s impossible to ignore though when the lit candles come into the dining room, whether they are on a birthday cake or leftover pumpkin pie. It has been hard to sing the song without conflicting thoughts bouncing from the memory bank to the present …and back.

At one point, before we were married, Richard offered to just skip his birthday. “It’s not important,” he said. I almost cried.

“Absolutely not,” I proclaimed. “Everyone’s birthday is important.”

We’ve managed each year to slip/slide around it, but we finally made a plan that works.

We will make a toast to Tom tomorrow – “To happy yesteryears.” We’ll share our memory smiles and clear the air.

Then we go forward with a joyful toast to Richard – “To our happy days today and your Happiest Birthday.”

It’s a whole week of gratitude – for our family’s happiness, for our togetherness, for our good lives and for another great year. We are blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com

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