Our family took a long road trip to Michigan from Arizona for a family reunion. On our road-trip vacation, I got the chance to see the results of being a father. Our travels took us first from Phoenix, Arizona, to Shamrock, Texas, then Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, then a layover in Chenoa, Illinois, and finally to West Branch, Michigan. The second leg of the journey took us from Shamrock, Texas, toward Chenoa, Illinois, with a to-be-determined waypoint in Missouri. Somehow, coming out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I had made a wrong turn and we were traveling north. We had to take an alternate route east toward Tulsa. We ended up on a two-lane road through rural parts of Oklahoma. The road weaves across hills and dales through rural farming areas. The sides of the roads are defined by wide gravel shoulders and shallow ditches. The ditch lines are broken by infrequent gravel driveways that access farm homes set back from the road.
Along our path, I saw a car on the opposite side of the road with its trunk open. It was oddly situated at the edge of a driveway but just off the road. Initially, I continued past the vehicle, but in my rearview mirror I noticed an older male retrieving something out of the trunk. I also noticed the passenger-side rear tire was flat. At first, I continued on my way, but my principles forced me to turn around and return to see if the gentleman needed assistance.
When we reached the disabled car, it was situated to not allow me to easily park behind it. To avoid completely blocking the nearby driveway, I parked in front of that car. When I got out of the car and approached the gentleman, he seemed put aback by my offering assistance. The stranded motorist was alone. He was a grey-haired, older man, appearing to be in his mid to late-70’s. He was not a feeble man; he stood about 5’ 8” to 5’ 10”, and likely weighed 180 to 190 lbs. The presence of perspiration on his brow disclosed some distress. He first declined and seemed to be annoyed at the offer. But, after a brief pause he griped about the modern automobiles complex storage of simple items like a car jack. I moved to the trunk of his car and insistently, but respectfully, offered to find the parts for the jack before I left.
As I was locating the pieces in his trunk, Dom and Aric approached from our car. I handed the jack to the gentleman. He attempted to locate where to place the jack based on the vehicle owner’s manual, but pointed out it was difficult to identify. He suggested the manual identified the corner of the wheel well and the body as the jack point and placed the jack as if he were going to use it there. I interceded and located the proper location for the jack, about 8 to 10 inches toward the front of the car. At this point, Dom pointed out the wheel lugs needed to be broken loose before lifting it off the ground, and he offered to do that. I handed the lug wrench to him. The gentleman stepped back and let Dom, Aric and I continue working on changing the tire. He did not intervene or suggest he was offended. Dom finished starting the lugs, and I jacked the rear tire off the ground.
After the vehicle was off the ground, I stepped back and began to chat with the gentleman. Aric joined Dom with finishing changing the tire. The gentleman and I exchanged introductions, and I shared our story of taking a road trip to Michigan. He expressed his appreciation for the assistance. And then he explained his circumstances. He was on his way home from Tulsa from the hospital. He had been there for three days tending to his wife. She had been hit on top of her head. The impact ended up fracturing her skull, forcing her to go to the hospital. As he shared his tale, tears formed in the corners of his eyes, but he fought off any significant tears or sobbing. Because of the swelling around her brain, the doctors had to place her into a coma, and extract fluid from around her brain. He was on his way home to pick up some clothing and other items for the both of them. He didn’t offer any prognosis.
The gentleman complimented Dominic and Aric’s chivalry. When the boys finished changing the tire, the gentleman thank them and me. We wished him well and offered our prayers for his wife.
My sons’ actions fill me with pride. They continue to show they have grown to be good young men. My sons are young, they make some foolish mistakes. That’s normal, but they also demonstrate mature and honorable actions. I hope they continue this path.