Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Coincidence or Fate?

Over time I’ve heard a lot of people say that there’s no such thing as coincidence. They believe that those things which many of us view as remarkable concurrent events—and label ‘coincidence’—are truly tiny little acts of God, or angels, or some oblique universal force that come together to make life more interesting, more fulfilling, to prove their existence, or just to make us smile.

I tend to be in the other camp—the one that says stuff just happens, and whether it’s chance, luck, a fluke or a twist of fate, there are no marionette strings causing the overlapping, quirky happenstances that I still view as coincidences. Still…

Once in a while a whole passel of things take place that—well, let’s just say they get my attention.

For example:

About two weeks ago I was recounting an anecdote from my days working for the comptroller at Ft. Leonard Wood, circa 1975. A key player in the story was our unit secretary, Beth um… Beth… Drat! I couldn’t think of her last name for all the nuts in Congress. To test my memory, I started recalling the names of all the other members of our office, and was pleased that I could come up with all the other analysts, the boss, HIS boss, and several other people I knew in the building. I could even name the personnel people, the Commanding Officer, and his secretary. These little tests tend to reassure me that I’ve not joined the wait list for the Alzheimer’s unit at the nursing home. Yet.

But still it was just Beth _____. Merrill Camp, Jim Burch, Bob West, Connie Welch, and so on and so forth, but nothing I tried would summon up Beth’s last name. Okay, 1975 was 37 years ago, so I cut myself some slack (and a blouse to go with them [sorry, sewing jokes will pop up from time to time]) and let it go.

The very next morning I was reading an article in my newspaper (remember, I AM the dinosaur/subscriber) when there it was: Jay Skaggs was mentioned in the context of his role as a state legislator. Skaggs. As in Beth Skaggs. I was tickled to get the retrieval cue, but it did feel a little eerie. How often do you encounter the name ‘Skaggs’ in the paper?

Just days after that, I was reviewing overdue notices in my official capacity as a volunteer in a school library. I came across the book title “Owen and Other Stories.” It caught my eye, because a family member had recently named their baby Jacob Owen. You don’t see the name Owen all that much, so I made myself a note to look at the book in our public library, thinking that if it was a cool book, I would send it to our Jacob Owen for his personal collection. The author is Kevin Henkes; I had never heard of him.  “Owen” is indeed a cool book.

The very next day I opened my e-mail account (the private one I use only for professional contacts, so there are fewer than ten e-mails a day, not the hundreds that come in on my personal address) and clicked on a link to a blog post by someone in the Missouri Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Yep, it was about this wonderful artist/author/illustrator Kevin Henkes. Cue the Twilight Zone theme music.

Item three: Last night I was simultaneously watching my Tivo’ed episode of Smash, and reading an article I had clipped from Vanity Fair. The article was an interview with Julia Roberts and Mike Nichols, and I had read most of it the previous evening. This Smash episode brought in a new character, the daughter of the broadway producer. This young woman looked more like Meryl Streep than Meryl Streep, but not the daughter who is sometimes featured on “The Good Wife”. This one was younger, but unmistakably Streep-bred. When the show ended I flipped it back to the beginning to catch the ‘guest star credits’. Sure enough, Grace Gummer’s name appeared. (Streep is married to sculptor Donald Gummer, and the kids, oh, you get it.) I thought how cool it was to see another of her daughters entering the milieu.

See what I mean?

Then I returned to my article to wrap up the Julia and Mike story, and in the very next paragraph Julia recounts a conversation she had had with Grace Gummer about her mother’s fame, and how she dealt with it. Crazy coincidence? Perhaps.

This morning I was thinking about how my ankle problem is called subluxing maxillary tendinitis. It has bothered me because I think of ‘maxillary’ as relating to the jaw, and I had no idea what ‘subluxing’ meant. I opened my e-mail account (the general one with a zillion e-mails) and today’s Word of the Day is ‘luxate’. It means to put out of joint, or dislocate.

I think it’s time for me to reassess my view of coincidence. Maybe something IS going on. Or maybe I luxated my brain in a twist of fate.


  1. Wow, that is a lot of coincidences. I think it's fun when several of them come along in rapid succession. As for Grace Gummer on Smash, I thought she reminded me of someone! Also, we love "Owen," including the parents who never heard of saying no and the nosy neighbor lady.

  2. Hey Leah! Yeah, weird stuff like this happens to me all the time, though usually in clumps. You may have just experienced your first clump; it must be all those games of Words With Roth. Indigo x

  3. OWEN..tell us about PEQUE- ORGEUN.
    TEDGERV is.

  4. a concerned friendJune 10, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Leah, you really are not that funny.

  5. And you are neither 'concerned' nor a 'friend'. I'd rather be me than you.


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