The Luck of the Irish

Fortuity in overcoming misfortune

March-April 2020

Will you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this month, regardless of whether you’re Irish? I probably should be among those dancing in the streets. (Although there is no way I’ll drink beer, especially if it’s green!)

The heritage my family has been able to ascertain is French, foremost. We can trace that line to Col. John Jarboe, who was born in Dijon in 1619. His is a great story. He sailed to what would become America in 1642 and then walked from Virginia to modern-day St. Mary’s County, Md. There, he set up a homestead that later became a nice estate, Long Lane Farm. He was a sheriff for a while and served in Maryland’s House of Burgesses. The colonel also started a long line of descendants.

Fortunately for future genealogists, his sons had sons who had sons, and so on, right down to my maternal grandmother. The lineage was easy to trace. My Aunt Margaret Jarboe Jackson did that sometime in the 1960s.

The lovely piece of land where Long Lane Farm stood became, many generations later, part of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. When Aunt Margaret heard they were tearing down the old house, she marched over to the base guardhouse and demanded entry. Being the headstrong woman she was, she made it to the pile of rubble and grabbed some of the old bricks. I am lucky to have one of those sitting in my dining room, a decoration of sorts, which I stroke lovingly from time to time and think of my long line of ancestors.

In the 1800s, two sisters from Limerick, Ireland, also made their way across the sea and into Maryland. They were Mary Elizabeth and Katie Loveless. (What a sad surname, eh?) Mary Elizabeth married Andrew Jarboe; they were my great-grandparents. So, it turns out I do have Irish heritage.

We always hear about the “luck of the Irish” and I am certain I inherited some of that. I have been surprisingly lucky. It’s not as if I’ve won the lottery, but at least twice I won something even better: The Life Lottery.

In the past two decades, I have experienced malignant melanoma in spades. The first time, I endured five surgeries in as many months. Things looked dire for a while, but today, I am 20 years cancer-free. I am lucky.

Not too long ago, I was sitting here typing and suddenly felt the worst pain of my life. I could barely make it to the phone. Turns out, my “innards” had ruptured. When the ambulance finally carried me the jarring 80 miles to LewisGale Hospital in Salem, the surgeon said, “We must hurry. You’ve only got about 90 minutes to live.” I was lucky.

A bunch of horror and machines and subsequent surgeries later (including five weeks in hospitals), I was put back together in just three months. It doesn’t seem that long, except it was almost unendurable. I was so lucky.

It’s not just medical maladies. For instance, this week I was driving and suddenly came upon a huge pile of fallen tree limbs and branches. I had no choice but to run right over them. A limb about 15 feet long lodged beneath my car, half out, half under. An angel I didn’t know stopped and worked mightily to unwedge, pull and tug the limb out, while I maneuvered the car in 2-foot increments.

I feared my tires were flattened. They were not. I feared the limb had punctured something important and expensive. It had not. I was very lucky.

When I told a friend this story, she immediately said, “You’re the luckiest person I know.” And she’s right. I can’t count the times I’ve pulled through something or other that’s dire. And scary.

I think, come March 17, I should celebrate my lucky Irish heritage.


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