Have you ever wondered what you would do in a scary situation? Let’s say someone reached in your car and grabbed your wallet or phone or purse.
A woman I met last fall at a folk art school in Door County, Marge, had this happen to her when she was 79. At my first glance of the 4’11” 80-year-old woman, I thought “sweet grandma.” After joining her for a meal in the dining room, I got to hear her remarkable story.
Being the kind-hearted soul she was, Marge had helped at a church rummage sale and wanted to drop off the donated eyeglasses that hadn’t sold. She had the address of a Lion’s club which collected them for redistribution. Marge, who lives in Illinois, got lost finding the drop-off spot and ended up in a neighborhood with deserted store fronts and shabby properties. She stopped to recheck the directions on her GPS. A man pulled up alongside her car. She rolled her window down partway. He asked if she needed help and she mentioned the drop-off center. He offered to show her the way. Marge kindly said he didn’t need to bother; she could find it thanks to his directions. She rolled up her window and headed off.
Still not finding it, she stopped at a light, only to see that his silver car had pulled up alongside her. “Follow me,” he said. She did.
He stopped in the parking lot and said, “This is the place.” She lowered her window and said it was a vacant building. She would check her address again. As she reached for her phone, he walked up to her car, grabbed her purse off the seat, and ran for his car. She yelled, “Please give me my purse back.” (I love the please.)
Within seconds, she was standing next to his car ready to grab the driver’s door handle—grab the handle! But he started the engine and roared off. She ran after the car—ran after the car! (I am not exaggerating here!) She had the presence of mind to get part of his license plate. She turned back to her car, intent on writing the numbers down, when she saw her car was moving. (She’d left it in gear.) Afraid it would run over someone; she ran across the street to stop it.
When she reached it, the door was still open. She threw herself across the seat, knocking herself out. While unconscious, she slid out, one leg landing under the car. She regained consciousness when the tire ran over her leg and remembers thinking, “that RAV4 tire isn’t that heavy.” (I’m sure I would have had much darker thoughts.) Adrenaline pumping, she stood up. Even though this street had abandoned storefronts, it was half a block from a busy thoroughfare, and she worried the car would cause an accident and hurt someone.
Our superwoman took off after it, praying to God. She caught up to the car after it jumped a curb and slowed in the grass. She threw herself onto the seat and turned off the key.
A stranger, noticing, checked to see if she needed help. Since blood was smeared everywhere and Marge was going into shock, the stranger called 911 and one of Marge’s friend. The police and rescue squad arrived. A medical examination revealed she had deep tissue injury to her leg and four broken fingers. Both were painful and would take months to heal. She was facing bedrest, wound care, and a splinted hand. Before the doctor left, he told Marge it had been an honor to care for her, and he was sorry she had had to go through all of this. He admired her courage but, with a chuckle, advised her not to chase down any more cars.
We could debate the wisdom of Marge’s actions, but we can’t debate her courage, strength, or confidence. At 79, Marge confronted her thief, chased after her runaway car, and tried to get onto the seat and stop it. After a tire ran over her leg, she continued chasing her car, afraid someone else would get hurt.
The thief, who was never caught, got Marge’s credit cards, which the family promptly cancelled. He also acquired Marge’s favorite purse, which was covered with butterflies, several gift cards, and all of her cash—$3.25.
Marge used her recovery time to reflect on her past and prepare for her future. She feels grateful and blessed to have survived it all.
Her first memoir, which she had started before this incident, was published in September 2022. It includes stories of her childhood and reveals the source of her strength. She’s busily writing her second book which will include this story. Email me if you’d information about the published book or contact details for this “sweet grandma wonder woman.”