Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hope, denial and lotteries

When Sam was three the neurologist told me in a blunt, matter of fact way he would never catch up.  “Are you sure?” I asked. “He is barely three.” “Quite sure,” I remember hearing. “When a child presents this delayed the odds of catching up are one in one hundred.” 

One in one hundred. I remember dead quiet. I remember thanking her though I wasn’t sure why. I left for home, put Sam down for his nap and then I cried.

When he woke I looked into the trusting dark eyes of my beautiful boy and knew I couldn’t bring myself to say the words I’d heard out loud; not yet. I needed time to wrap my brain around the complete dissolution of the life I had planned for Sam. 

I prayed to God – any god – I would wake up with only the vague memory of a bad dream. I wondered what to do.

Around this time, I began to hear comments like “she is in denial” and inevitable the whispers that follow, “someone needs to tell her there is something wrong.”

Yes, I know, I thought.

But what was the protocol for news like this? Do you shout it from a rooftop? Send out announcements? I grew to hate the word “denial.”

And though I didn’t speak of this to anyone, I remember my meeting with the neurologist as the day I was handed my lottery ticket.

It was also the day I began to focus on one percent and what it meant. I started to think about hope and denial and metaphors. And so to anyone who has ever used the word “denial” I offer up the following:

What if you were offered a free lottery ticket for a Mercedes and the odds were one hundred to one of winning? You would likely take the ticket. You might fantasize about winning or the color of the car. Is it a convertible? Will I keep it or sell it for a bundle of cash? Is there room in the garage for it?

All of those thoughts, they are hope. You don’t build a garage for a car you haven’t won. That is denial.

With hope, I accepted my ticket and found the courage to slowly redefine our life. I found programs and therapies and for the most part, met wonderful people. I got through the early, difficult days by dreaming about the one percent. I began a college fund, knowing the money might never be used that way. And though I desperately wanted to build a garage for all the meaning it carried, I didn’t.

With the help of caring friends, I discovered the joy in simple things like playing with the kids on the local playground and hearing, “Hi Mommy.” I learned to question the definition of success and failure.

As time passed, I thought about the lottery less and less until I didn’t think about it at all. One day I realized the drawing had taken place some time ago. While I didn’t think I’d won, I wasn’t sure I had lost.

As for the lottery ticket, I still have it. You never know when someone might need a little extra hope.


  1. Beautiful, Janet. The really good news is that Sam won the mother lottery.

  2. I totally agree with the above comment!

    I love "While I didn't think I had won, I wasn't sure I had lost." I think all parents can relate to your idea of questioning the definition of success and failure, in some way.