In 2011, my wife and I were asked to watch our grandson Connor, who was 4 years old. His mom was in the hospital, about to give birth to a new brother. The only catch was we had to drive up to Massachusetts from Long Island to retrieve Connor.
The entire situation thrilled us; welcoming a new grandchild and spending time with Connor. However, we began to sense that Connor would have some adjusting to do soon; sharing everything and everybody with a new person onboard -- even "Little Doggy," his ragamuffin, soft, worn-out, longtime favorite pal, no larger than a size 7 slipper.
With Little Doggy in hand, we spent some fun time visiting his mom, dad and new brother, Owen. Then it was off to Connor's house to put him to bed.
While driving 65 mph on the Massachusetts Turnpike, suddenly Connor yelled for his mother. Looking in my mirror, I could see tears welling up in Connor's eyes as he sat squirming in the child's car seat behind me. I thought he got hurt, so I immediately pulled off onto the shoulder. I quickly discovered that what actually happened was a superfast escape, of sorts, from the open window to his left. In a flash, Little Doggy had been sucked out into the Massachusetts air.
Now on the shoulder, I promised Connor I'd back up to find Little Doggy. "There he is!" he shouted, his face glowing with new hope as his tears trickled into his open mouth. "That's him, Grandpa, that's him!"
This small, stuffed toy had found its way to the median dividing six lanes of semicontrolled whizzing traffic that was nicking an ear or a leg every other second.
I parked and as I exited the car, I reassured Connor and my wife that I would get Little Doggy. I walked to the back of the car to think it through. Would there be a good enough break to make the dash to and fro?
Resting cautiously on the trunk, I gazed out into what can only be described as a blurring river of colored metal. I immediately recalled the images on TV of tsunami-induced bodies of water, spontaneously absorbing hundreds of cars, trucks, boats, buildings and people into an unforgiving, menacing monster that would stop for nothing. It couldn't -- from its own momentum, its own volume, from physics. And this traffic in front of me was no different.
I could see Connor with his nose pressed to the rear side window, crying, "I want my momma! There he is. There's Little Doggy!" This is heart-wrenching, I thought. We just left the hospital where my grandson was introduced to his newborn brother. Our mission, as grandparents, was to take Connor home to his house for a long-awaited nap and then return to the hospital. This is the absolute wrong time to lose his grasp on his security toy, just when a new person will be sharing everything he owns: toys, clothes, mother, father! I had to get Little Doggy!
I looked back at the traffic flow for an opening. It was so fast and tight, I knew it would take a while. And then I hear my wife yelling from inside the car, "State Trooper car backing up to us!" Sure enough, I could see red and blue lights flashing atop the black and gray Crown Victoria cruiser as he appeared through the cloud of dust he was creating. His blaring siren scared the daylights out of me. This was becoming a situation.
He stopped right in front of us, but Connor still had his eyes on his tiny floppy pal lying face down, three lanes away. The trooper began to exit the cruiser, appearing in my mind as if in slow motion -- hat, sunglasses, shiny dark mustache with waxy curled up ends -- and then continuing to rise out of the vehicle, sporting a lumberjack's build, complete with 6 feet of tight gray uniform. His glossy black boots loudly crushing the pebbly road surface. I almost thought I heard cowboy-style spurs clinking as he walked toward me.
"WHY ARE YOU STANDING OUT OF YOUR CAR?" he demanded.
I stumbled for the right words . . . new baby, Little Doggy security blanket kind of thingy, flew out window, heartbroken grandson. I pointed to Connor who was still crying. The trooper immediately grasped the intensity of the situation and knew what I had in mind.
"YOU CERTAINLY AREN'T PLANNING ON GOING OVER THERE TO RETRIEVE IT," he said, more a statement than a question.
"Wellll, I was kinda waiting for an opening," I said.
He starred at Connor, turned to look at me and without hesitation said, "OK, I got this. Here's what I'm going to do. I'll drive forward and ease over to the median and then back up to get it. You wait here."
In a flash, he was behind the steering wheel and making magic happen. Traffic stopped and he quickly proceeded on his mission. I got in my car and picked up the point-and-shoot camera to record him in video. As I turned to see where he was, he was already walking to pick it up. I looked through the viewfinder just as he was leaning down, pressed the shutter button and got the message: "Memory card full."
The trooper grabbed Little Doggy, got in the car and was back in no time. Connor happily received his beat-up little pal, hugged it to his chest and said, "Thank you, officer!" I reached out, shook the trooper's hand and thanked him for saving my life, too. As we rejoined the right lane traffic, Connor made sure that both he and his furry friend were buckled in.
--Carl J. Santoro,Carle Place