The Rescue

He worked at walking,
Each night at dusk
 he headed home,
 deaf to traffic sounds.
Reeling into roadside ditches, 
he lay upon the ground
in a bleak half conscious
With effort
 he arose and crawled laboriously
 to the ditch’s edge,
                    then worked at walking
    once again.
The man continued
 through his nightly ritual.

A friend 
approached the sodden hulk.
Bending down, 
he kneeled beside the fallen man.
With steady arms
 the friend began
 the rescue.
The friend
 was not a hero.
I was a bystander.
Though years have passed
 the vivid scene remains.
Whose life 
was changed?
Whose journey 
reached a crossroad?
Whose path was interrupted
 by a chance encounter?
Was it the man?
Was it the friend?
Was it me?
What are you thinking now?
Night fell.
 Darkness hid the two from sight.
The rescue had begun.

July 2018

It has been many years since this incident took place.

My husband and I were standing at our living room window 
watching a man walking down the road. 

 The man lived nearby
 in a broken down house.
 He walked everyday 
to a neighborhood bar,
 spending his days there.

We didn’t usually see him 
traveling on his way.
 Nor did we always see him
 when he was on his way home. 

But this day, 
we saw him walking toward home.

He staggered and stumbled,
 falling into the ditch.
 For moments we couldn’t see him.

 Then we saw him 
crawling out of the ditch,
  struggling to his feet.

 Walking a few steps, 
he fell into the ditch again.
 He crawled up the side of the ditch 
on his hands and knees.

I became aware
 that my husband had left my side.
 He was now in his truck in our driveway.
 He was leaving the house.

I watched him drive down our road 
to the highway.
 He drove to the place
 where the man was lying by the ditch.

 Getting out of his truck,
he walked to the man.
Taking him by the arm,
 he helped him to his feet.

 My husband later told me
 he was going to help the man
 into the cab of the truck,
 but the man protested. 

 “I’m not clean enough to sit in your truck.
 Just help me into the back of the pickup 
and I’ll ride home there.”

As  this scene unfolded before my eyes,
 I was surely not aware 
it would  be in my memory and my heart
  these many years later.

How many of us,
 including me,
 would have left the comfort of our home 
to help a drunken, smelly man
 get safely to his home?

This was a side of my husband 
about which I wasn’t aware.
 Yes, he was kind and gentle and caring.
 The scene I was watching
 was more than that.

The experience may have changed me. 
Maybe it has changed you.

At this stage of  life 
it has become clear to me,
 we all need to be rescued.

Our Friend is on His way.

In later years, as we talked of the incident,
facts revealed themselves about the man
who was rescued.

He was a veteran from World War 2.

Many have since become aware 
of the experiences
our soldiers endured
 during that time.
They were too horrible to remember.

We now call it PTSD. 

It has been found,

 for some of the veterans,
it was easier to drink away the memories
than to think about them.

In our village, there were three veterans
who spent their days at the bar.
All were of that era.
The world called them drunks.

Should we call them heroes?
How do you feel about it?


Photography By Mary Anne Tuck