Roadside Assistance

Walking our dog last week, I came upon an elderly man changing a flat tyre.

Crouched in the gutter, midday sun scorching down, I was moved to ask: “Are you alright? Do you need a hand?”

He turned toward me with a wary, bothered glance. And relaxed.

“Yes. I’m recovering from an operation.”

A surprisingly immediate and frank admission.

So I hunkered down in his place, jacked up the car and changed the tyre.

As I worked he told me he’d had surgery 4 weeks earlier. That he’d visited his doctor for another matter and been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

He lifted his shirt and showed me the raw scar up his torso.

Surprised again. I told him that four years earlier my father died of a ruptured AAA, alone and undiagnosed.

Tyre changed, he asked if I lived locally. “Yes. Down the street. The house with all the piano music.”

Later in the evening my wife told me a man had knocked at the front door.

He said I’d helped him earlier and he wanted to leave me a gift.

She passed me a bottle in a brown paper bag.

A long-neck of Tooheys Old.

My dads beer.

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Crossing The Great Water

Our dreams are rich with insight, if we decode the messages.

This week, while facilitating a residential leadership retreat, one came my way.   

“A long suspension bridge spanned the ‘Swan’ river. Sagging, it dipped beneath the surface of the water for a great distance. Yet people in cars and trucks were still crossing. I sensed a man beside me and began to question him … how do those cars manage to cross? Is there visibility under the water? Is there a strong current? How do you seal the car? How do they stay on the road surface? etc. And to my growing concern, he gave me no answer …”

In exploring dreams, the literal rarely makes sense, so I seek connections and associations.

First I was surprised how clearly I knew the name of the river. The Swan River. I know it’s the name of the river running through Perth, but this has no strong relevance to me.

Then I remembered the previous evening watching parts of Jonathan Swans’ interview of President Trump. Swan, an Australian journalist and son of Dr Norman Swan, impressed me with his very straight forward, almost innocent approach.

The second obvious association was with Covid-19. The pandemic and it’s impact was a dominant background to all conversations over the preceding two days.

The perilous crossing of the bridge in my dream, seemed a fair metaphor for the unknowns which lie ahead.

Finally my thoughts traced back to my roots where I grew up on a property located behind Fawcetts Creek, in northern NSW.

Each February, during the rainy season, the creek would flood. At times we would need to cross it.

The process was always the same.

First a scouting of the natural ford, to assess the depth of water (above waist deep was too dangerous) and whether the creek bed was stable and unobstructed.

Even now I can recall the mesmerising swirls and power of the red-brown torrent.

If driving across appeared feasible then the Land Rover was prepared.

WD40 sprayed onto the electricals, a hessian sack tied to the grill to reduce the water surge onto the radiator fan and engine. 

The sturdy Rover was revved up and driven into the water at a confident speed.

Momentum is crucial. As is the ‘DO NOT STOP’ principle.

Once committed, there’s no room for hesitation or gear changes.

Fortunately we made each crossing safely.

When however the flood water was clearly too dangerous, we’d park the Rover.

Then hike three wet kilometres, skirting the creek along a track on higher ground, to a welcome home.

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