When I first laid eyes on Frank, he was head down, on his hands and knees in the muddy grass. An adorable hound dog puppy bounded around him. He appeared to be looking for something. Thinking nothing of it, I prepared to jog past but as I approached, he called out to me.
Frank had slipped on the mud when the pup pulled him in an unforeseen direction. He’d fallen and was unable to get up.
Frank and his wife Julie have lived just on the outskirts of Casa Grande High (CGH) for over 40 years. He, his son and his grandson graduated from CGH and his grand daughter is on her way. When he finds out where I went to high school, he asks pointedly, “then what are you doing here?”
I don’t take offense because I understand well the historical rivalry between Petaluma High and Casa Grande. I grew up on the West side, and now I live on the East. One town, two high schools, no doubt a Classic American story. How could I betray my district?! Rather easily in fact, I never gave a shit.
I simply state that I like it here, as I grab hold of Frank’s arms to help him get up. I maintain a somewhat reserved distance as he is a stranger. I lift, hard, only to find he really can’t help and to no avail as he goes back down. He says he weighs 220, oh, no, 210 now, and he’s too heavy for me to lift up. We negotiate that maybe, if he could make it to the fence, he could use it as a hand hold while I lift him. Frank then says, that he has leukemia, “…it’s a blood disease. My fuckin’ arms are dead, there’s no strength left.”
He doesn’t curse like a sailor, only out of utter and hopeless frustration. Frank asks that I go just around the corner to his house and ask for his wife to come help. I jog the distance, ring the bell, wait and ring again. About two minutes go by – no answer. I turn and run back, thinking either she’s not home, or isn’t interested in answering the door to some sweaty strange young man.
Frank is lying on the ground. He made it about half way, five feet or so from the fence and apparently collapsed. I say there was no answer, and he replies “well, she must be out with our granddaughter. Do you see anyone else around who could help?” There is no one.
Realizing there is little option, I convince Frank to let me try to hoist him up again. I take it one step at a time; first just get to your knees… we succeed. Now we’ve got much better positioning. And now that I’ve completely abandoned the comfort zone, I am confident in the task. I take hold of Frank by each armpit, facing front. With an unconscious grunt and all the strength my arms and legs can muster, Frank is once again on his feet. Lifting, not from my back never felt so right.
On his feet he seems taken aback, as evident by his momentary speechlessness, yet no less grateful to be standing again. I brace him as we take the first steps and console him empathetically. “The worst thing would be to have you go back down,” and just as I state the obvious, I realize with surprise and thankfulness that he has little trouble walking.
We arrive at his front door within a couple minutes and we say our goodbyes. He isn’t real interested in drawing it out which is fine by me, I have another three miles to run. “Take care and nice to have met you, Frank.” I take off and a smile fills my face as a sense of satisfaction overwhelms me.
The feeling is quickly diffused as I consider that for me, a moment of “glory” meant for Frank a certain a lifetime low. Possibly the first time he’s ever felt utterly unable to perform one of the most fundamental functions – walking. I am glad though, that I was in the right place at the right time. And to have helped when, others may not have.
The incident struck a chord. A strong reminder of my capabilities and responsibilities as a young human being. I could and would help more people in need if the right places and times were upon me, as Frank literally was.