Out of gas, stranded on the shoulder, could she make it to her son's for Christmas Eve?
- Posted on Oct 17, 2012
Wrapped presents, homemade knit stockings, fresh-baked goods—I ran through a mental checklist of all the things I needed to bring to my son’s for Christmas Eve. Despite my recently acquired walking cane, I’d wheeled everything from my apartment to the car in a shopping cart.
Just because I lived in a retirement community didn’t mean I needed help getting ready for Christmas. I slammed shut the trunk. Ready to hit the road!
Moving to the retirement community had been a big change, although not as big as when I left Germany for America after World War II. I no longer had space to host Christmas Eve dinner. Fortunately, my son and his family lived nearby and had offered to pick up the torch.
I drove along, smiling at the thought of the young grandchildren’s happy faces when they saw all the goodies. On the radio, Bing Crosby sang “White Christmas.” Outside, the icy wind howled and the sky was laden with snow clouds, but I felt warmed by the Christmas spirit.
I was a few miles from my son’s when the engine made a funny sound. It coughed, sputtered, coughed again. That doesn’t sound good. I quickly turned the wheel and pulled over to the grassy median on my left. Or tried to. I came to a stop with the rear of the car still sticking out into the fast lane.
The gas pedal didn’t respond. Then I noticed the glowing orange icon on the dashboard display, and the gas tank needle. Empty.
How could I have neglected to keep an eye on my gas gauge? Me, who didn’t need any help? Why hadn’t I listened to my children’s pleas to get a cell phone?
“Mein heilig Schutzengel,” I prayed in German. Angel of God, my guardian dear. Cars honked. Drivers were impatient to get where they were going. I got out to flag someone down. Someone slowed to warn me to get out of traffic. Another, irate, yelled, “Call the cops!” Everyone else zoomed by at 60 miles per hour.
I stood there, leaning on my cane, shaking with cold and fear, almost in tears. The sky was getting dark. They’ll be wondering where I am. Could I walk to a service station? I’d have to cross the four-lane highway at the very least. What do I do?
Just then, a gray compact car pulled up. A man behind the wheel, a woman in the passenger seat. The woman got out and hurried toward me. She was of medium height, roundly built, her oval face framed by dark, wavy hair. She seemed to shimmer, surrounded with an aura of light.
Before I could say a word about my predicament, she called to me. “Go back and sit in your car. We’ve come to help you.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” I shouted. I did as she told me.
She came to my window. “You’ll be all right,” she said. “We’ll get enough gas for you to drive to a station.”
I watched the gray car drive off. After a minute, it returned, and the woman stepped out carrying a red gas can. She opened my gas cap and poured.
“How can I thank you?” I called to her. “Let me pay you for the gas.”
She shook her head.
“You’re like my guardian angel this Christmas Eve,” I said.
She laughed, finished pouring, and handed me the empty gas can. “Here, keep this in your trunk. Someday you can help someone else.” Then she leaned in the window and gave me a feather-light hug. “Merry Christmas. We’ll watch out for you as you pull back into traffic.”
I guessed everyone needed help some time, old and young alike. I started the engine and pulled into the lane. “I’m okay!” I called out, and looked back to wave good-bye.
Only the gray car was gone. That’s when I wondered. How did they know gas was what I needed? I’d never told them.
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