The last time I wrote about coincidences on this site I was thinking, as I had been for a long time, about writing an essay about them. Now I have, it was published two days ago as a Kindle Single, and I'm waiting anxiously to see what happens. It's my first excursion into straight-to-the-Web electronic publishing, and it's an offbeat subject, so you can understand my anxiety. But what good is it being a writer if you don't finally take that dirt road into the woods you've passed by so many times? I lived in the country once and used to walk regularly up a nearby country road and there was an actual, not a metaphorical dirt road that did run off it, and when I walked up it at last I found an old abandoned cemetery. Came upon it at dusk, furthermore, with the woods darkening all around, and the crows and grackles flew up in a cloud when I arrived. The bodies must have been buried in cheap wooden boxes because the graves were all caved in. Plastic flowers, badly faded, decorated the flat gray stones. It had clearly never had a caretaker. The place haunts my imagination still.
And don't coincidences haunt the imagination too? They seem like messages sent from somewhere outside our lives, uncanny events that relate only to us, and yet it's by no means obvious where they come from or what they mean. Here's one out of my wife's life. Her name, as many of my readers will know because they read me through her links to this blog, is Lorraine Dusky and she's very well known, if not famous, in the world of adoption, having campaigned a good part of her life to open adoption records to adoptees so they can find out who they are and where they come from. She herself is a birth mother and found the daughter she gave up for adoption thirty years ago, and then, about six years ago, lost her to suicide. But before any of this happened, when she was a young woman, still in college, she fell in love with a young man named Tom whom she came close to marrying and regarded for years as the first, lost love of her life. As it happened they both went on to other relationships, other marriages. Tom, too, had a daughter, and died of an aneurysm when he was young; his daughter was not yet out of grade school. Lorraine fell in love with a married man, had a child by him, gave her up for adoption, married someone else, divorced that person, and eventually she and I met and married. Within a year of our marriage she had found her child and contacted her, and we have been together for over thirty years.
About three years ago she founded her blog on adoption rights, First Mother Forum. It's quite popular and she has a lot of followers among birth mothers, adoptees, and adoptive parents. One of her adoptee followers happens to be a man named Daryl Royal, an adoptee from Michigan, who's also a Facebook friend. One day she got a call out of the blue from a woman named Jennifer who had been going through her father's papers and had found the letters Lorraine had written her father, Tom, when they had been in college. Yes, that Tom. In one of them Lorraine had put her full name as a return address on the envelope. Jennifer had then looked Lorraine up and found out who she was, and learned that she had given up a daughter for adoption. Jennifer had the wild idea that her father might have been the father of that child, and she had a sister. Tom had not fathered her child, but here's the kicker. Two kickers, actually. In the middle of their phone conversation, Jennifer's husband wanted to know who she was talking to. It's Lorraine Dusky, she said, my father's girlfriend from college. Lorraine Dusky? he said. I know her. I'm a Facebook friend of hers. Jennifer's husband is Daryl Royal. And then this. Jennifer herself makes a living finding the real birth certificates of adoptees and putting them in touch with their birth parents.
I would call that spectacularly uncanny. And it reeks of meaning, brims over with the feeling that if ever two people were meant to meet, were meant to know each other, it is these two women. As they like to put it, in the alternate universe that surrounds our own everyday universe they are mother and daughter, the might-have-been mother and daughter, together at last. And Lorraine had lost a daughter, and Jennifer and her own real-life mother have long been estranged.
So who, or what, arranges these things? How do they come about, and what is their significance as a general, and fairly common, phenomenon in life? These are some of the questions that have long puzzled me, and that I talk about in my essay. Everybody has these kinds of events in his or her life, but what are they about? Is it fate at work, and what does that signify for the way the universe is ordered? If you're interested, you can find the essay at the following address: