A while back when we were experiencing an extreme cold snap, pounding on our front door awakened us at three AM. A semi tanker driver had engine trouble and was broke down on the highway about a quarter of a mile from our house. I listened to the conversation between Fred and the driver from the warmth of our bed and I could hear him shivering and sighing from his moonlight jog, moving from one foot to the other, while Fred was climbing into his snowsuit and winter boots. When the door slammed shut, from our bedroom window, I watched the taillights of our truck as it stopped at the entrance to our big shop. Like a doctor grabbing his medical bag in the middle of the night during an emergency, Fred was gathering tools and towropes. I found out later the driver was wearing only sneakers on his feet though the rest of him was buried inside a snowsuit. It would have been a long cold walk to our house. I was glad I'd left the patio and back door lights on and we had bright yard lights guiding him to our home.
Fully awake I got up and from the darkness of our living room; three cats joined me as I stood watching through leafless trees, the flickering lights on the highway.
With a warm cup of tea in my hand, I watched for about an hour as the two men, shadows in the headlights, tried different strategies with the trucks. A quick glance from the kitchen window showed the outdoor thermometer at –32C. (-25.6F) My cheering startled three sleepy cats when I saw the lights of the semi suddenly move, then drive slowly down the highway flanked by the headlights of our diesel pick-up. Under a full bright moon in the frozen darkness, I thought how it just seemed right that his truck had stopped at that specific spot near our home and Fred, a diesel mechanic, by trade. That night marked Fred's third roadside assistance this long, cold winter. With each one, when offered cash, Fred refused, saying he was just glad to help. The hitch on the back of our truck had broken clean off and he was chilled to the bone, but he fell back to sleep happy he had helped out. He only hoped the work he did on the semi's starter would hold till he could get it to a garage.
About a week later I was in the bathroom winding heated rollers in my hair when I heard tapping at the door. Fred was in the basement checking the water softener and I looked quite a sight. Before I could decide to quickly remove the rollers or keep them in, I heard the door open and neighbour and friend, Dennis's voice: "Hello!!! Hello –anybody home?" Well, Fred didn't 'here' him so I had no choice but to face him with my head wrapped in plastic spirals. Although I was embarrassed, Dennis didn't seem startled or comment - like he was used to seeing me like that every day. A thought went through my head and I let go all anxiety, "I bet Louise would give anything just to have hair to put in rollers!"
Dennis's face lit up and he said, "You betcha'! You know she lost her eyebrows and even her eyelashes now. Doctor says he's going to stop this batch of chemo because she's had enough."
It suddenly seemed irrelevant and Fred came and joined us and we had a sprinkled-with-laughter conversation between old friends.
Last week we came home from town one afternoon to find a shopping bag hanging on the front door. It's contents made us smile; a trucking cap, a special ivory embossed pocketknife and a twenty-dollar bill. It didn't take Fred long to put it all together. "Oh," he laughed, "My friend the truck driver stopped here!"
We were sorry we missed him and hoped that someday when he was on his route past our home, he would see us and stop in for a chat.
Living so close to a major highway it's interesting watching the traffic through all seasons and it has given me a new outlook on life. Whether through a helping hand, a cup of coffee or just a smile or a wave, we all have something to offer a fellow traveler because we are all on pretty much the same journey. Trying to get through the day unscathed and standing at the end of it. We take different roads, at different speeds, different scenery and direction but there are times when we momentarily intersect and touch one other. Often there are no second chances, no return trips with gratitude gifts, and I can only aspire to toss out the things that don't matter and get the greeting and meeting right the first time.