Over the Hill

Recalling the kindness of strangers

One way to catch the Christmas spirit is to remember people who’ve been generous to us. The generous people that I remember most are those who gave time and help rather than presents or money.

I met three of them one summer day in 1965 near New Ireland, Penn. Mamie and I were on a road trip to let as many relatives as possible see our new Mustang.

Mike was 10 and Sandy almost 9. The four of us and our luggage filled that little Mustang. But I forgot tools.

We’d already visited Mamie’s relatives in Arkansas and Louisiana. We were heading to New York State to see mine, when suddenly the Mustang started roaring and banging.

One end of the muffler had come loose and was dragging. I couldn’t drive like that. We were stranded on a lonesome road with no house in sight.

Then a car stopped. It carried Idaho plates and two young Mormon missionaries. They had pliers and a screwdriver but they still couldn’t remove that muffler. Then another young man stopped. He had a tool chest. They disconnected the muffler and put it in the trunk of the missionaries’ car. There was no room in the Mustang.

Our mufflerless Mustang roared into New Ireland, followed by the Mormons. The town garage didn’t have Mustang parts yet, so they reattached the muffler with wire. I didn’t get my three Good Samaritans’ names but I’ve never forgotten their generosity.

I also remember some long-term generosity that began shortly before the Christmas of 1981 in Rochester, N.Y. My 82-year-old father lived there and was suddenly hospitalized with heart failure.

He’d been taking care of his oldest sister, Ann. Mamie and I flew back and looked after her until she could be moved to a nursing home.

The ground was already covered with a foot of snow, and more fell the night after we arrived. The next morning I shoveled the snow off the driveway. We had to drive daily to Pop’s hospital and many other places.

It snowed almost every day, but I never again shoveled the driveway. A neighbor with a snow blower kept it clear.

After two weeks, Pop was still in the hospital, and we had to return to our jobs in California. We arranged home-care for him after he was released, but our minds were eased the most because of the neighbor women who looked in on him every day and fed him until he died in March.

The neighbor woman who was most involved was Masako “Machi” Toribara. I will be forever grateful for her generous kindness.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.