A couple of weeks ago, during semi-lockdown, my parents masked up and took their first bus ride in half a year to a nearby town. Mum needed her new glasses, Dad needed to get his hearing aid fixed. Mission completed, they had coffee, visited the supermarket in actual person and went home very satisfied with their grand adventure.
Just a couple of days later, Dad lost his hearing aid.
It was going to cost many pounds to replace, so he and my mother looked all over the house for it, and then tried the garden. This was no mean feat as Dad had spent the last few weeks digging up the back lawn and replacing it with paving. On his own. I mean, the man is 85 years old. He's a machine. If I have half his pep - or, indeed, any fraction you care to mention - in 30-and-a-bit years when I'm 85, I'll count myself very blessed.
Still no hearing aid, however, so Mum, rational as ever, suggested they retrace his steps on the only outing he'd made - to the newsagents to buy the weekend paper. Neither of them has great eyesight, but between them they pored over pavements and scoured the streets. Nothing. At the very last marker on the journey, Dad called into the newsagents and asked if, by any tiny, unrealistic chance, they'd found a hearing aid.
And they had!
But that, my friends, is not the magical part. What my dad discovered next is stunning.
The reason the newsagent had Dad's hearing aid was because it had been handed to them. By another elderly gentleman. Who'd lost his hearing aid on a trip to the newsagents. Who'd retraced his steps to their very door and paced around the pavement to see if he could espy a very small object on a large expanse of ground. Who found it - along with another hearing aid. Two hearing aids in the very same spot. He took my dad's into the shop and took his own home - or wherever he was going next ...
So anyone who doesn't believe in magic, tell me how that happened. Anyone who doesn't see the synchronicity, the staggering coincidence, the universal hand in that serendipitous connecting of events - tell me how that happened. Anyone who doesn't believe in angels and god-in-the-machine (or the hearing aid, in this case) - tell me! How could that happen?
The only other explanation I can possibly think of is that Dad narrowly missed bumping into his doppelganger (which is a good thing, by all accounts). My folks have no idea who the other man was, and can't even thank him. I like to think that perhaps he was watching from the corner of the street as they approached the shop, heads bent, hope diminishing; then, wearing a gentle, satisfied smile as Dad relayed the story to my mum, he simply vanished.
Of course, if he didn't disappear and you happen to know who he is, please say thank you. And tell him, too, that sometimes the most ordinary, everyday things in our lives are actually extraordinary. Extraordinary magic.
(Jill Marshall is the best-selling author of fiction for tweens, teens and adults young and old. Many of her books feature everyday magic. Check out www.jillmarshallbooks.com for more.)