“Life is Bittersweet”

by Brenda Reeser

A few weeks ago we received the dreaded late-night telephone call informing us that Doug’s brother, Gary, retired and living in south Carolina, was gravely ill. “I need to get down there. I want to see him,” Doug said, anxious and worried. After researching impossible flight schedules, our good friend, Dave Johnson, telephoned. ” I’m driving to Florida tomorrow. I’ll drop you off en route. We can take turns driving through the night and you’ll get there by morning.” His tone was calm and soothing.

Dave Johnson, who lives with his pretty wife, Carol, and four Yorkshire terriers here on Dingle Hill, drives cars for people who spend the winter months in Florida. They fly; he drives their cars. The trip to Florida is 1,300 miles, and it takes Dave 30 hours, door to door. He times his deliveries with impressive precision. Doug decided to accept his kind offer.

During our 25 years of friendship we’ve never tired of Dave’s humor. He’s got many captivating stories about his many trips. He doesn’t take pets anymore, after a close call with a valued family cat. While napping (in a Lexus) at a truck stop, this pussycat walked across the console opening a window. Fortunately the cat decided to enjoy the intimacies of a warm lap rather than venture out of the car window. His clients’ cars are the fancy ones…Cadillac, Mercedes. “I’m at the mercy of their collection of CD’s and have become pretty flexible. I’ve also rigged up a special curtain with an elastic band which I use for daytime, one hour naps.”

Dave has driven a total of 1.3 million (yup million) miles. “I like driving!” he laughs with a gush of breath coming forth. “And I like cars!” He has an incredible collection including a ’57 Thunderbird, a ’55 Crown Victoria, a ’56 Ford hardtop and an ’87 Porsche, to name a few.

This particular weekend, Dave had his red Dodge Ram 3500 truck with him. He and Carol were on their way to Long Island, so the plan was to pick up the client’s car in Stamford, Connecticut, follow Carol back to Long Island and then head down south on the interstate (less complicated than flying, believe me.) Doug was to be dropped off at a certain exit and Gary’s wife, Chris, promised to pick him up.

I packed sandwiches for the three of them: marinated, grilled chicken breast on sourdough bread, a slice of apple cake, a pear and a chunk of gorgonzola cheese for each. We both heard the sweet rumble of the truck engine as the Johnsons came to the house. Dave, with a Dale Ernhardt’s baseball hat fixed squarely on his head, joked, taking Doug’s suitcase, “Ya want business or coach? Doug hoisted himself up into the passenger seat met by Alex, the recalcitrant snarling Yorkie. The other three greeted him by jumping up and down like springboards. Doug leaned out of the cab window, “I’ll call you.”

I waved until they were out of sight, relieved that Doug was in good company and safe. I was moved too by the fact that people like Carol and Dave are able to make a commitment to the simplicity of compassion. Doug called me later that evening from their cell phone. “We’re just outside of Stamford. I have three dogs sleeping on my lap. The sandwiches were great.” I heard Carol’s laughter in the background and envisioned them sitting in the warm darkness of the cab.

Doug called me again at 8:30 a.m. the following morning. “I’m here with Gary. Got a little sleep. Glad I came.” Dave called me later in the day, just stopped talking to me around 3:00 a.m in the morning.” During these trying times, some people really do make this world a better place. ~

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