The Helpful Stranger (A fictionalized short story based on actual events.)
The original version of this story was copyrighted in 2005, and 2006.
It was the morning in late January of 1967; Janie was attempting to wake up her twin sister Rusty.
"Wake up, it's snowing outside!" Janie exclaimed as she was excitedly nudging her sister with her pudgy little hands.
Rusty, who was still a bit drowsy, climbed out of bed and soon followed her sibling. Immediately, they walked softly downstairs to the giant bay window to see what was occurring outside.
To their astonishment, the snow was falling steadily.
This certainly was a remarkable sight.
The consistent flurries had been tumbling down since earlier that morning, while they were each enjoying a cozy slumber. This was a drastic change to the unusually balmy weather they had recently enjoyed.
They decided to communicate in whispers. Their grandmother, who lived with them, was ill with cancer at the time. She was sleeping serenely, and the girls were mindful not to disturb her.
The twins immediately hurried in silence upstairs to their bedroom, and began getting dressed for nursery school.
Usually, the little yellow school bus picked them up at the same time every morning.
It was a thrilling time for them both, as they were getting closer to their fourth birthday. Unexpectedly, there was a knock at their bedroom door.
"Hi girls, may I come in?" their mother asked.
"Sure Mom, come in," they both replied.
She entered and sat down on one of the beds. I just received a phone call from your teacher. Due to the weather, school is being canceled today," their mom informed them.
"Why don't you both nap for a few more hours," she recommended, as she stood back up and strolled gently out of their room.
As hard as they attempted to snooze, they were both too energized and spent this time making plans for later that day.
"Hey, why don't we build a snowman?" Rusty suggested aloud.
They assumed the snowfall would cease eventually, and they would be able to have fun outside in their backyard.
Hours thereafter, they had awoken once again. To their shock, the snowfall had not curtailed. They both revisited the same window from earlier before.
This time, the accumulation had become higher, far above their carrot-red ringlets. When they opened the curtain, they could no longer see outside beyond the wintry clutter. They were simply too small in stature to see above the pasty looking flakes.
The twins immediately leaped into the kitchen where their mother was talking with their grandmother, who was sitting at the table, accompanied by her nurse.
She was positioned in a comfortable chair, bundled up with blankets. Their grandma's smile would broaden whenever she would see her two little granddaughters.
They both ran over to her, and gave her a big hug. They were aware they needed to be more careful around granny, as she had become physically weaker from her disease.
"Good morning, it looks like the two of you will be staying home with us today," their grandmother stated with a gentle grin.
"Yeah, I guess it is just too icky outside," Janie remarked.
"Girls, the weather has become so dreadful I want you both to stay inside today," their mother cautioned.
"Look on the bright side, at least this will give us all an opportunity to spend some time together today," their grandmother stated happily.
She then added, "Why don't we all watch some programs together in a little while."
Later that morning, the twins enjoyed watching television with their granny. During this period, they viewed their favorite shows together. Sadly, they began to notice how tired she had become.
"Kids, why don't you come back later today, it looks like your grandma needs to rest now," her caretaker advised.
"Okay, we'll see you later grandma," Rusty amiably commented. They both gave their grandparent a kiss on her cheek and left the room.
The twins accepted the present circumstances, which resulted from the knowledge they had been provided with at the time. They spent the remainder of the morning, and early afternoon, frolicking together with the typical immaturity of their youth.
They utilized this interval by dressing their dolls, coloring with their crayons, as well as reading aloud with simplistic interpretations from their picture books. They each took turns pretending to be the teacher.
Then by mere coincidence, they overheard their parents engaging in an important conversation.
"Al, I am worried about all of this snow. What happens if my mother needs to go to the hospital again, and the ambulance is unable to gain access to our driveway?" their mom voiced with anxiety.
"Well, hopefully, this storm will end soon, and I will be able to find someone to help us," their father glumly asserted.
He then added, "I've already started making calls. Unfortunately, it is going to be very difficult to find a company to provide this type of service now. I have placed our name on all of the waiting lists in the area," he confirmed with a tone of defeat.
As the hours passed, the chilly disarray outside failed to halt. Due to the situation, their dad closed his business for the day. Traveling to work would be too daunting a task for everyone.
The day was no longer entertaining for the twins. They had begun to comprehend the panic, and worry, which had befallen their family.
By the next morning, the snowfall had finally concluded. Since it was Friday, their father's business, as well all of the schools in the area, still remained closed.
What had amassed on the ground was beyond comprehension.
Then suddenly, they noticed their father was preparing to venture outdoors.
"Hey dad, where are you going?" Rusty inquired inquisitively.
"Hi honey, I am going to try and wave down a snowplow somehow. We need to keep the driveway clear, should we need to call for assistance in order to help your grandma," he stated logically.
"Can we help?" Janie begged.
"Sorry, the snow is simply too high for the two of you to leave the house today. I fear that I would not be able to see the two of you out there," their father explained.
There was such a large volume of arctic litter on the ground; their dad had difficulty opening the door. He had to shovel snow away from the inside, before he could even attempt to journey outside.
He walked clumsily as his feet proceeded in the miserable frigid hodgepodge, which engulfed the property.
The lower portion of his legs sunk deeper as he attempted each step. After a while, he found his way to the center of their driveway.
For a short time, their father, stood patiently with his feet buried into the snow.
He was attempting to find help, while at the same time trying to maintain his balance with the bottom portion of his boots hidden within the chilly milky-colored mishmash. Trudging forward in this frosty jumble was a strenuous task.
When he came back inside, he was covered in snow.
"Hey dad, you look like a giant snowman," Rusty teased.
"I know, the weather has shown us no mercy," their father voiced with hopelessness.
After they all consumed a hearty lunch together, he went back outside and continued his pathetic attempt to find a snowplow.
Now his attitude was sounding desperate.
Finally, their dad was surprised when miraculously a plain green-colored snow plowing truck suddenly appeared across the street.
As a result of the weather, the usual stream of traffic was nonexistent that day.
The red-headed stranger inside the vehicle appeared to be a younger man in his early thirties. His overall physical characteristics seemed to be typical of a person with his hair color.
He stuck his head out of the window, and yelled from his vehicle in their dad's direction.
"Hey, I see your driveway can use a clearing," he communicated pleasantly with an Irish accent.
"Yeah, I am willing to pay any amount you want! My mother-in-law is a cancer patient. We must have this whole area cleared, in case we need to call for help. You name the price," their father voiced in a vulnerable plea.
"Don't worry about that now, we can negotiate later," the man replied kindly.
"Thank you so much. Oh by the way, please call me Al," their father requested cordially.
The snowplow operator did not mention his own name.
For the next few hours, the driver in the larger vehicle attempted to shove the excess snow aside with his plow. He allowed their dad to sit alongside of him inside the truck where it was warmer, while he was in the process of carrying out this tedious undertaking.
Unfortunately, there was such an overabundance of pearly-colored winter mess; it was a very complex chore. Finally, the work was completed.
"Wow, you really did a great job for us," their father expressed in a grateful manner.
"Why don't you come into the house, and enjoy some hot cocoa and a sandwich with us before you leave," their dad offered.
"No thanks, Al, I still have other parkways to tackle today," the stranger graciously replied.
"I understand," their father conceded sincerely.
He then asked, "How much do I owe you for all of this work?
"Well, let’s see, I will charge you five dollars," the other man calculated.
Their father then cheerfully countered, "You deserve more than five dollars. At least allow me to pay you twenty-five."
"If you insist, that is fine with me," the stranger chuckled. He then cautiously drove his vehicle directly up to the front door.
Their dad then added, "Let me go into the house and get some money from my wallet. Also, I would like to keep one of your business cards on hand, so we can hire you in the future."
"Well, I do not have any business cards available at this time. I still have not decided on a company name yet. Why don't you bring a pen, and sheet of paper with you, when you come back with the cash," the young man suggested.
"Okay, I will be right back. Don't go away!" their father eagerly emphasized, as he climbed out of the truck and marched carefully into their suburban dwelling.
A few minutes later, their dad returned with the currency. He also brought along a pencil, and pad of paper.
To their father's shock, the cordial fellow had departed before he had an opportunity to compensate him. He stood outside feeling bewildered.
He waited for a few more minutes, and then decided to walk back into the house.
"You'll never guess what just happened Margaret, that nice guy who helped us left before I could pay him," their father vocalized with puzzlement.
"Well, maybe he had to go someplace else, and couldn't wait. I am certain he will be back," their mother expressed assuredly.
"Yeah, I suppose so. I will just place his earnings by the door, so when he rings the doorbell I will know where it is," their father stated.
The young gentleman did not return that afternoon.
A few days later, their grandmother experienced another relapse and their father frantically called for an ambulance.
Luckily, because the crucial area had been cleared, the van was able to drive up to the main doorway without interference.
Immediately, the healthcare professionals rang the doorbell and were led inside by their dad.
Their grandmother's body was covered with a thick quilt, as she was lying comfortably on the couch. Her nurse, and their mother, were both sitting beside her.
"Girls why don't you both go upstairs and play," their dad urged.
The twins adhered accordingly to their father's instructions.
The frightening words, personified the behavior of the grown-ups involved in this predicament. This indicated the unspoken severity of their family's latest emergency.
However; unbeknownst to the adults, the twins were observing all of the commotion which was taking place on the first floor, from above the staircase.
The two youngsters had become inquiringly attached to this sudden matter like magnets. The event, which was presently unraveling before them, was obvious, and did not require an explanation.
Like most children, they had intuitively begun to sense the 'air of worry,' which surrounded the situation.
After their grandmother was gently carried onto the stretcher, the paramedics asked some routine questions. They then began the process of preparing the patient for transport to the hospital.
As they were arranging to leave, their father had an idea.
"Margaret, I will ride in the ambulance with the attendants, so you will be able to remain here with the children," he decided.
"No Al, I want to go with you," their mother replied.
"Well, if we both go, who will stay with the twins?" their dad questioned.
Suddenly their grandmother's caregiver tendered a solution to their predicament.
"Why don't you both ride inside the ambulance. Since there are several qualified staff available, your mother will receive
excellent care. I will stay here and watch the twins," she offered sympathetically.
"Are you sure?" their mother asked with slight trepidation.
"Yes, I am certain. It would be too difficult for you to attempt to find a babysitter now," the nurse pointed out with candor.
"Gee thanks, we really value your help," their father expressed as he humbly accepted this favor.
"Don't worry, I will stay here with your girls," she reassured them soothingly.
Shortly thereafter, their grandmother's nurse focused her attention on the two startled little beings standing before her, and uttered, "Why don't we all go to the kitchen and have something to eat."
The twins were very fond of the caregiver, as she was always friendly and pleasant to be around. She was clearly a kindhearted person.
She was a slim woman in her early fifties. Her soft and untainted manner was accompanied by her thick grayish locks, and her affable smile.
She decided to cook their favorite meal, hot dogs, with baked beans.
After they finished dining, she encouraged them to draw vibrant 'get well' pictures for their grandma.
Hours later, the telephone rang. The nurse immediately answered it with uneasiness. It was their dad. Since the
twins were in the next room, they could overhear only portions of the comments being spoken.
After she hung the receiver up, she walked into the room where Rusty and Janie were working on their art projects.
"I have good news. It looks like your grandma is doing much better now. Your parents are going to remain at the hospital for the time being, and will return in a cab tonight. I will stay here with the two of you," she lovingly reiterated.
Later in the evening, the siblings were preparing for bed, when their mom and dad arrived home. Their parents walked directly towards their bedroom to discuss their grandmother's progress.
"Hi girls, I am glad you are both still awake. It looks like your granny’s condition has improved a bit. However, as the situation looks now, she may need to be in the hospital for a little longer. The doctors are not able to give us an exact time frame just yet," their father tactfully informed.
"When can we visit her?" Janie asked.
"I'm sorry, it is against the rules. The two of you are too young to visit a patient. Nevertheless, do not fret; let's hope she will be home very soon. Tomorrow, I will bring the artwork you both have created for her to the hospital," their daddy assured.
During the next few weeks, their mother, father, and the nurse, each took turns visiting their grandma.
Since they had not heard from the nice man in the green truck, they had no choice but to hire another snow plowing company for the remainder of the season.
Their grandmother's nurse was still living with them and had become a very familiar fixture. She had become almost like another member of their family unit.
Then one day, several weeks later, the front door opened and they noticed their father was carefully steering a heavy wheelchair through the doorway.
It was grandma! The twins bounced over to the fragile elderly woman to embrace her. They each hugged her softly. She was finally home.
"Why don't the two of allow your grandmother to settle back into her room, and you can both visit her a bit later," their mom instructed.
They were both delighted to see that their only grandparent was home again.
However, they noticed that she appeared to be much thinner. Her complexion seemed to be almost as pale as the preceding snow outside.
Usually, her skin tone was very much like theirs, fair but with a light pinkish tint. She seemed to be quieter, as there was a hint of fear etched upon her face.
Physically she was merely a fraction of the slightly plump, and outgoing creature, she had been previously.
Soon after, the twins were relaxing with their granny as they were watching television with her. They both snuggled up against her, as they all sat on the sofa treasuring this special time together.
"We missed you a lot when you were in the hospital grandma," Rusty expressed in a childlike fashion.
"I missed the two of you more than I can say. However, I really cherished looking at all of those colorful pictures you both had drawn for me. Your gifts really cheered me up," she thoughtfully acknowledged.
Unfortunately, this reunion did not last long. Within days, granny's condition continued to worsen. She was in the hospital yet again.
It seemed as though their reunions were becoming increasingly 'short lived', as she needed to be readmitted not long after she would arrive back home.
In mid-February, their grandmother was unable to attend their fourth birthday party. The celebratory ribbons, goodies, and gifts, could not camouflage the fact that one treasured member of their family was visibly absent from the partaking of their celebration.
Their grandmother's nurse was not around the house as frequently. The twins were allowed to communicate with their grandma over the phone occasionally, while she was away.
Her physical presence was truly missed.
They designed multicolored paintings for her with the watercolor sets they had received from their birthday. Their parents continued visiting their grandma in rotating shifts.
They had also begun to notice some of the 'other relatives' who suddenly started spending time with them. The extended family members also made their own appearances at the hospital.
Although the twins enjoyed socializing with everybody, they sensed the reality of the situation with sorrow.
Five months after the blizzard, their grandmother passed away peacefully in her sleep at the hospital.
Her funeral took place on a pretty June day.
Their home became a sanctuary of baskets of fruits, and beautiful flowers.
As Rusty gazed upon the floral arrangements she blurted aloud, "I hope grandma is happy."
"Yes honey, I believe she is. I know your grandmother is in a very good place right now, where she has been reunited with your grandfather. He was the love of her life," their mom delicately explained.
Everyone was very saddened by her death.
However, they were grateful to the warmhearted person, who helped their dad that one frightful January day.
The 'sympathetic individual' made it possible for the ambulatory workers to come to their grandmother's aid, in order for her to receive the proper medical attention.
Plowing the driveway in advance for the paramedics had saved valuable time, which was crucial in prolonging their grandma's existence during the last months of her life.
To their family, this had become precious beyond explanation.
The helpful stranger never returned for his payment.
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The Helpful Stranger (A fictionalized short story based on actual events.)