During these slow, hot days of August I’ve been thinking back to small and large life events that have left a lasting impression on me. When this particular one popped into my head, I thought “Yes. This is a story to tell.”
It was August 2008. We were on the road driving our son Will towards his freshman year in college. On the second day of driving, we had been on the road for almost four hours when I felt it. And heard it. First there was the explosive bang, then the telltale thumpthumpthumpthump. The front right tire had just blown out. My adrenaline was pumping of course, but even more so because I happened to be driving 65 mph on the highway. I wondered whether the thumping could actually be my heart which was racing. I navigated over to the right lane and maneuvered over to the shoulder. Just like that we were motionless on I-70 somewhere towards the eastern half of Pennsylvania.
Confirming that we were all safe, we took a moment to assess. I looked into the rearview mirror and groaned. I was looking at the mountain of Will’s duffel bags, bins, boxes, clothes on hangers, a large lamp and one unopened bedding-in-a-bag. The spare lay beneath some of it.
We got out to start the unpacking process when a roadside emergency assistance vehicle randomly pulled up.
“Good morning” the driver began. “We are not equipped to assist with the flat tire but we can set up safety flares and call it in for you” he informed us.
“OK, that would be great” my husband Dennis replied.
The wait time was going to be about an hour. It was going to take a while anyway to unpack and precariously place my son’s new life by the side of the highway while cars whipped and whooshed by blowing hot wind in our direction.
Dennis felt better if he could do something while we waited, so he found the spare and lug wrench and got to work. Or tried to. Both he and Will were having difficulty loosening the lug nuts with the wrench. It seemed like the nuts had grown deep metal roots right into the center of the wheel disc. They were not budging.
Only 15 minutes had passed when a car pulled up behind us. It was an old, silver DeLorean. The DeLorean car was made famous not only by its eccentric inventor John DeLorean who founded the DeLorean Motor Company, but it is also recognizable as the time travel machine (with a little retrofitting) that was used in the movie “Back To The Future.”
As we watched, the famous gull wing doors rose up high and a man emerged wearing a Harley Davidson t-shirt and cowboy boots.
Will and I instinctively stepped back from the pile we had stacked up on the grass, creating a distance between ourselves and the man. (Will later told us that he had pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and held it if it became necessary to use it.)
“Hi, I’m Ronnie” he began. “It looks like you need some help.” Dennis shook his hand and replied “thanks for stopping, but roadside assistance has been by and help is coming soon.”
“Well, I’m here, so why don’t I take a look” he replied and bent down by the tire. Dennis explained about the stubborn lug nuts. We nervously looked at each other while he took the wrench, attached it to a lug nut and positioned his boot on the bar of the wrench. In one swift movement, he transferred all his weight onto the bar. The lug nut went flying. In less than three minutes, using the boot method, the lug nuts were off. He asked Dennis for help with the spare.
As they held the spare and assumed a kneeling position at the end of the axle, Ronnie suddenly turns towards Dennis and asks “Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior?”
Now I don’t care what religion anyone may choose to follow, there are many paths to finding God and universal truths. And I can share one of those truths now. If a stranger asks you that question when you have a flat tire by the side of a highway in an unfamiliar state, you say “yes.”
“Yes I have” Dennis responds immediately.
Ronnie nods and proclaims “Let’s pray.” As I watched them bow their heads, I’m pretty sure they are praying for different things.
When his work is done, Ronnie stands to leave. “Please let me pay you” Dennis insists, but Ronnie waves it off. “Give it to a charity or pay it forward” he suggests and he walks back towards the DeLorean, his boots clicking on the pavement. The wings rise once again, then slowly come down and Ronnie is gone.
I think we were all quiet for a moment, taking it in. First, we were now free to get back on the road and we were grateful. We also felt a little sheepish that we hadn’t trusted him. He was only a kind soul who liked helping others.
But really, there was something else it had touched on. We believe in God, but we are not overtly religious. We do not attend church services regularly. If we were asked Ronnie’s question in the middle of a Target parking lot, we would have kept walking. We aren’t entirely comfortable with people who wear their faith on their sleeves and want to share it with you. We feel that finding and living your faith is more of a personal journey.
I will say that I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. I 1000% believe that. So, here in this most random of moments, in this most random of places, a silver DeLorean touches down from nowhere, at our exact moment of need and the driver’s only request is that we pray with him and that we help others. And for that price, he quite literally frees us. I’m a pretty good cynic, but the unfolding and message of the moment demands some thought.
“Did something just happen here that we were supposed to experience?” I can’t help but ask myself.
I can’t really answer that, but it felt… different. I do know that even if it was all just a coincidence and only an interesting story, Ronnie was, at the very least, our good Samaritan/guardian angel that day. But it will always be interesting to believe, that maybe, he was something more.
We got back on the road and arrived safely at Will’s school while driving on the spare. We stayed an extra day to replace the tire. As we turned the car west, I sort of smiled wondering whether we’d spot a silver DeLorean on our return trip. We did not. In fact, I have never seen a DeLorean, with its raised wings, anywhere ever again.
What a great story, Melanie! You had me the entire time. I think my take on religion is similar to yours. I’m not what I’d call a deeply religious person, but I believe in God. It does make me somewhat uncomfortable when strangers try to go there without any indication that is what I want to talk about. I don’t attend church regularly now, although I try to be a decent person. Both of my parents were deeply religious, but they didn’t try to shove their faith down others’ throats. They just lived a Christian life, and I’m sure some of that rubbed off on me.
Even as Mom’s confusion progressed, it was the one thing I tried to keep normal in her life. I brought her to church each week partly because I knew it made her feel good to be there but also because she could be with her friends. Sometimes one of the other ladies would invite her out to breakfast after church, with the promise to bring her back to her assisted living home. It was a bit of blind faith that it would all work out, and her friend would get her back safely. (Sometimes her friends were still driving in their eighties, and I had to weigh the risk/reward aspect of things.)
One of the volunteer things I do in retirement is to mow the church grounds once a month. I have to admit that I do it more for my parents than any profound religious reason. I feel like it is one way that I can continue to pay tribute to them and the enormous influence they had on me.
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Thank you Pete! Now that you reference it, I remember from your essay that church was such an important piece of your mom’s life. Wasn’t there a story that she went twice one time? (First with a friend and then with you. 🙂 ) I am really moved that you mow the church grounds in honor of your parents. It just says so much about your relationship with them and who you are. A while ago, I tried volunteering with a group, but it wasn’t the right fit. I do think about trying to volunteer at the cancer center when it is safe to do so. It’s something I want to try if they have such a program. And you know what’s really crazy? My husband was eager to show me a video today of all days while I was preparing to publish this post. It was about a random stranger played a trivia game with a delivery man. Long story short, he surprised him by handing him over $200.00. This week has just been a reminder that kindness is all around us.
Haha! Your memory is better than mine. That’s precisely what happened. The priest said, “Virginia, this is the second time we’ve seen you this weekend.” Is was as much news to her as it was to me. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out who was bringing her to church, and she had no memory of it. It was one of those things you learn not to stress over. It’s not like someone was taking her to knock off a bank. 😎 On the other hand, it was a reminder to me when I left her at the Assisted Living Center, there was always a certain amount of blind faith that she would remain safe.
For all of the crap in the world, I still think there are far more decent people than not.
I don’t want to ask you too many personal questions, but I do think about you from time to time, Melanie. (Especially when you haven’t blogged for a bit.) I hope you are hanging in there and that your treatments don’t take too much out of you. I haven’t seen anything about your mom in quite some time, either. Last I heard, she had adjusted well to her new home.
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Hahaha, no I’m glad the mystery driver wasn’t helping your mom rob a bank. Too funny. But it’s a good point about blind faith. You don’t always know what happens when you’re not there. I have no worries about personal questions. 🙂 I did have some kidney issues, which delayed my treatment for almost 2 months. I follow a lot of cancer blogs too and started a side page on the blog where I “journal” to share details with them. That;s probably why you don’t see too many primary posts about it. BUT I eventually returned to treatment and am thrilled to say my last chemo round is next week. I feel good and my outlook is good. I will probably write about that. And mom is good too! She did celebrate that 90th birthday and it went great because they did the “window” visit which she loved. Presents were passed to her through the guard and flowers were sent from some distant relatives. It truly was a special day for her which thrills us. We are lucky it has gone so well for her.
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That is an amazing story Melanie!! Thanks for sharing! I definitely believe we all have guardian angels watching over us🙏😇😇
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Thanks Betsy!!! I’m so glad you liked the story and related to it. It has stuck with me for a long time. 😊
I absolutely LOVED this story Melanie! You are such a talented writer. You had me laughing with tears (hopefully not inappropriately) at the part about praying with Dennis and then segued perfectly to very thought provoking words about spirituality and whether occurrences in our lives happen spontaneously or not. I truly believe in the adage that things happen for a reason. I bet you, Will and Dennis don’t watch the “Back to the Future” movies the same way you did before this experience!
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Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, and you were ABSOLUTELY supposed to laugh at that awkward moment of praying. 🙂 Gosh, it has been many years since I’ve seen that movie. It may be the right time to do it after writing this. Thank you again for leaving such a kind comment.
What a great story Melanie. 🙂 I had a mental vision of Dennie as he bowed his head to pray with Ronnie, which in fact – almost made me giggle. I too, am not comfortable with people who wear their religion on their sleeve. In fact I once had a “boss” yes someone I was reporting to when I was still working, and no I didn’t work for a church 😉 it was a tech company, he asked me the very same question. Highly inappropriate and I responded kindly by letting him know I was a spiritual person and not one to embrace organized religion. Clearly in your circumstance that would not have been a good reply. LOL
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Thank you V. I laughed at Dennis’s kneeling moment every time I reviewed the post, so you are not alone. I am shocked by your boss. I wonder if that is even legal to ask about someone’s religion? If it doesn’t pertain to the job, then it feels wildly inappropriate to me. Thanks again for checking in!