Home > Uncategorized > The Post That Wasn’t Meant To Be…An Obstacle and The Kindness of a Stranger

The Post That Wasn’t Meant To Be…An Obstacle and The Kindness of a Stranger

I’d come up with an idea for a post, one I thought would be really good.   People were going to like it, maybe even love it, so much so they’d forward it, tweet it, link to it, and maybe even quote from it.  I’d come up with some rather quote-worthy lines, which I’ll have to work into another post.  (I may- on occasion- suffer from grandiose illusions.)

The plan was to write about a road trip- me, Dad’s truck, Interstate 45, old memories, and new experiences.  The idea had come together so well that I’d written most of the post before the actual trip.  I knew what I wanted to happen, how the day was going to play out, so all I needed was for the trip to occur so I could fill in the blanks of my essay with the actual experiences.

But then life intervened and obstacles littered my path.

***

Here was the plan:  I was going to drive the wife and son to Houston in my car while my youngest brother drove Dad’s truck from Austin to Houston.  Dad’s truck is one of the few tangible reminders we have of him.  While in Houston, I would watch my younger brother suffer through the Woodlands Ironman triathlon.  On Sunday, he’d hop a plane back to Los Angeles, the wife would drive my car home, and I’d drive the truck.  The post was going to be about that last part.

Me and my Dad’s truck.

Together alone for four hours.

From Houston to Arlington.

Memories were bound to come flooding back.

I was going to do the road trip Dad-style.  Fill up the tank, get a soda and a Snickers, turn on the music and go.  The only undecided aspect of the trip was which greasy dive I was going to stop at for lunch or dinner.  Again, just like Dad would’ve.

It was going to be great.

But just before I left for Houston, due to circumstances beyond my control, my plans for the road trip were scuttled.

***

My Dad took great pride in his vehicles.  I cannot tell you how many times he told me the story of his treasured hot rod getting stolen because my Mom took it to work and forgot to set the alarm.  He later drove a Chrysler Cordoba for over twenty years.  When he retired the Cordoba and bought the truck, the Cordoba must’ve had over four hundred thousand miles on it.

My first vehicle was a 1972 Ford Ranger Dad bought from a friend.  The truck looked like it’d been parked under a tree on a farm.  It looked that way because it had.  Not only did he lecture me as to how to take care of this dented truck with the AM radio, but he insisted I wax this truck.  Did I mention it had been sitting under a tree on a farm?  The only thing that shone more after the waxing was the rust.

He cared for his vehicles better than his own body.

So being in his truck, in one of his treasured items, was going to be a memorable experience.

***

As I said, the plans were scuttled.  The road trip post wasn’t going to happen because the truck was involved in a bit of an accident.  (It wasn’t me, and in case you were wondering or worried, no one was hurt.)  You can’t take a road trip in a truck you can’t drive.

Obstacles and interruptions, oh how they have a way of continuing to show up in life.  They can be pains and irritants, derailing us from what we wanted and where we plan on going.  And yet, sometimes, these interruptions show us something we would’ve otherwise missed.

When I started this blog, I intended to write about the books I read.  Then I tossed in a funny piece about our vacation.  From time to time, I wrote about the things I observed and learned.  And then a truck hit me while riding a bike, so I wrote about that experience, which then turned into a book.  Life continued to happen and the essays took a more serious tone as I contemplated life and death and the difficult moments we face in between.  Not only did I never imagine writing about such things when I first started, I wouldn’t have believed the number of people who would be interested in reading about such weighty matters.

But in order for me to write about life and death and those difficult moments, I had to encounter an obstacle or two along the way.

***

If you’ve never been to an Ironman, even just to watch, you’re in for a long day.  The participants seem to have a long day, but for those of us watching, it can be a struggle as well.  You’ve got to decide where to eat breakfast, what movie to watch while the triathletes are gone on a 112 mile bike ride, where’s the best spot of shade to watch them come in from the bike portion of the race, where to eat dinner, when to grab an ice cream cone, and how to time it so you see your person cross the finish line.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.

My younger brother finished at ten-thirty at night and there were people still coming in after him.  My brother-in-law and I walked my brother and his wife to their rented truck, the one he’d rented after Dad’s truck had been involved in an accident.

What’s one of the things you never want to see when you’re approaching your vehicle?

What do you not want to see after you’ve finished swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles?

Or if you’ve been watching someone do those things?

A flat tire.

“Don’t worry,” we told my brother.  He laid down on the grass while my brother-in-law and I worked on changing the tire.  On our first attempt, the jack didn’t lift the tire high enough.  We lowered the jack, moved it to a different spot, and attempted to jack it up again.  Then we heard a “creak” from the jack.  It broke.  The jack didn’t fall, but neither would it go any higher and the rear end still wasn’t high enough for us to change the tire.

About this time, the owner of the car parked next to the truck arrived.  Her car was one of two others left in the parking lot.  She asked if she could help, but since she drove a mid-sized sedan we doubted her jack would be of any use.

What were we going to do?  We needed to get the bike, my brother, and his wife to their hotel or figure out a way to change the flat tire.  We managed to wedge the bike into the backseat of my brother-in-law’s mid-sized sedan, but this took up any space there might have been for any backseat passengers.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.

“Thanks, but I don’t think so.”

My brother-in-law and I stared at the truck, trying to figure out what to do.  How could we get this thing fixed tonight?  And if we couldn’t, what were we going to do?

“Is there anything I can do?”

She must really want to leave, I thought to myself.  Her persistent offers to help were a kind way of hinting to us to move the bags and tools from behind her car, which were blocking her from leaving.  We dragged them away from her car.

“Are you sure there’s not anything I can do?  I feel so bad leaving you here.”

I’ll admit it.  I can be slow at times.  The light bulb began to flicker on and off inside my head.

“Which way are you going?” I asked.

“Down 45 towards Houston.”

Hmm.

“Would you mind giving my brother and his wife a ride to their hotel?  It’s just a few miles down 45.”

“Of course.”

My brother, still in his sweat-soaked and crusted gear, got up from the grass and he, his wife, and his bags piled into this stranger’s sedan so she drove them to their hotel.

A total stranger.  Offering to help.  Not something I planned on writing about.  Not something I would’ve written about if Dad’s truck hadn’t been involved in an accident.

An obstacle and a reminder.

The world is a dark and gloomy place full of grief and death and difficulty.  Learning to navigate such problems is a part of life.  But in the midst of such things, there are reminders of better things, lights in the middle of a dark night, help from friends and strangers as well.  Sometimes, we can’t find these lights on our own, but we need the accidents and obstacles of life to direct us, even to push us, into their path.

***

PS:  Yes, this total stranger could’ve been a serial killer and I may have made an off-color joke about that possibility as my brother and his wife drove away.  But she wasn’t.  She was a kind stranger who helped us out in a jam.

A stranger whose name I forgot to get.  Whoever you are, thank you.

 

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