"Tim," I said, "we should ask the guy if he wants to throw his bike in the back of the truck."
Tim turned the truck around, and we drove back. I rolled down my window. "Hey," I said, and when I asked him, he flashed a big grin. "Yes," he said.
So I hopped out of the truck and helped him load his bike. He told me where he was headed, and said, "but you go to where you need to go, and just drop me off."
He seemed surprised when I said that we were headed the other way, that we'd turned around. "Well, that's really nice!" he said. And he clambered up into the back of the truck. He didn't need to ride up front where it was warm, he told me. He was fine and grateful for the ride. So we drove him where he was going, and I got out once more. He was standing his bike up, and I reached for it. "You hold it for me, till I get down. I'll lift it out," he said.
But I lifted it down, and waited for him to get off the truck. Really. He was about our age. His old coat was tied with a piece of rope. His boots were old and worn out. He thanked us again for the ride. Dylan has a blaze orange hunting suit, warm. I offered to get it to him.
Nope. He was fine, he said. I pointed out it would make him a lot easier to see at night. He thought it was a very nice offer, but no, he said, once more.
You know, we are surrounded by people having a hard time. I saw an elderly couple. Probably in their nineties, pushing his and her walkers. He struggled to open the door for his wife. "Oh, gosh!" I thought, and I darted over. It was a bit of a struggle, because he could not back up his walker because she was behind him, but I squeezed by, and held the door. I got them to step to the side, and then I opened the second set of doors for them.
As they walked out the door, his wife said, "We've both got neuropathy."
I was sympathetic. "That's a horrible thing," I said.
She said, "Oh, I've only got it in my feet, but my husband has it in his lower legs. I can't imagine that," and they slowly made their way out the door and to their car parked in the first handicap spot. "Do you need any more help?" I asked.
They assured me that they were fine. I watched them from the door, just to double make sure. He opened her car door, and she got herself in the driver seat. He walked to the trunk of the car, which she opened from the inside. He was pulling her walker. He folded it, and put it in the trunk. He folded his, and he put it in the trunk as well. He shut the trunk and leaned on the car for support, making his way to the driver side rear seat. He opened the door, and got in with much difficulty, at one point, nearly lying down. I was just about to go out and shut his door, but his white head popped back up, and he shut the door. Carefully and slowly she backed the car out, and away they went.
I also saw a woman waiting in front of me. You see some mighty rough women. This one had a bandanna on her head, and carried herself like she was a bit of a bad ass. As much of a bad ass as a woman my age can be. But she turned to me, and with a shock, I noted the lack of eyebrows and the bloated face. I realized that the bandanna was not covering hair.
This will not make sense. Cancer seems to lurk around in the back of my mind, but at the same time, I forget sometimes. I forget, and I see something that triggers the memory, and it comes almost as a shock..."Oh, yeaaaaaah....I remember..." I can't explain it any better than that.
I wanted to say something encouraging to her, but as always, I found myself without words. I stood there awkwardly. She stood in front of me, her back toward me. Neither of us said a word. I remembered what it was like to have no hair in the cold. I thought about how I could have never gone out in public with my bald head exposed through the back of a bandanna. She was a far tougher woman than I, far braver. I stood there waiting, and trying to think of encouraging words that never came, but before she left, it did occur to me that she probably was a bit of a bad ass, and that it probably was serving her well during this time.
The past two days, I've been really aware of the misery in this world. It surrounds me. Probably surrounds you too. Maybe if we all just reached out to do what we can, maybe it would make a difference.