"I have to get home. I have to get home..."
It was a terribly stormy Saturday night. So stormy that I was at first sorry I'd agreed to go out into it. But I loved young Tracey Trawick--indeed all the Trawicks--so I wouldn't have missed Tracey's baby shower for all the money in Tennessee, our home state.
"I have to get home. I have to get home..."
Days before the shower I had begun the preparations. I had told Will, my husband of ten years, not to plan anything with "the boys" that night but rather to plan to stay home with Mandy and Mickey, our 7-year-old twins.
"Why don't you get Melinda?" he'd complained. Melinda was MY twin.
"Because Melinda's going to the shower too." I retorted. "They have been friends since high school, you might remember."
After that was settled, I explained to the twins that they were to stay with their dad the night of the shower, but that I should be home no later than 11 p.m. It was a bit late but Melinda, Tracey and I were looking forward to visiting together after the other guests left and to having a few glasses of cold Chianti. It was my idea to treat so I had to buy the wine 2 or 3 days earlier.
"What if Dad's drinking?" asked Mickey.
I sighed. "He's promised me he'll keep you so he knows it means not a drop. If you see or detect anything to the contrary, you are to call me immediately. The number is on the fridge door as always."
They promised they would call but I didn't expect they would need to.
I was happy the day of the shower until the storm blew in a few hours earlier, that is. However, I was still determined to go. When you live in the mountains as we do, you know how capricious changes in the weather can be. I made sure the twins had their suppers and that Will had his and that his breath was technically "free and clear". I smiled and hugged them as I left for my night out. I even hugged Will a bit tighter than usual--cantankerous young drinker that he was.
It had gotten progressively worse since we'd married and I'd thought seriously more than once about whether I should stay with him(brave it out) or take the kids and start over. Practically everyone in the community who wasn't a relative of Will's would back me up. Not only that, I'd also always been critical of the few women I knew married to drinkers--that they'd stay with them. That the kind of message they were conveying to their children was a message of approval, practically. I didn't want that for my kids.
"Why Lord?" I'd asked a hundred times. "Why me, Lord, when You know I've always been a good person? When I've always had You in both my heart and mind?"
But as everybody knows--He's got those mysterious ways and not a soul can change that.
The shower was a total success. Great gifts, great food, and great jokes and comments. I guess there were 28 or 29 of us. Maybe it was stormy outside but inside at Tracey's it was quite snug. A bit too warm, perhaps. The three of us had our wine, laughs and reminiscences as planned. Tracey's husband, Phil, had been kind enough to leave us to ourselves.
"I'll be fine at mom and dad's," he'd offered. "Don't worry. Enjoy yourselves and let's say I'll pop in around 10:30 or 10:45. How's that?"
That would be fine, we'd agreed. If there was a good husband on this earth, it was Phil. That was my opinion. Tracey was lucky.
Uncannily, Mandy called me about 10:30.
"Mom, Daddy's acting weird. He took the number from the fridge door. I memorized it, though."
"I'm leaving now, honey." I reassured her. You help watch Mickey.
"Okay." she answered and hung up. Mickey worried me the most. He was in a wheelchair and had been for several years as a result of an illness. Mandy had acted as an extra guardian since then, alternately helping Will and me immeasurably. And she was only 7 years old!
I hugged Tracey and Melinda and left in the downpour. Melinda didn't expect any problems but she had a feeling she couldn't describe well.
"I'm gonna call Burt and let him know Molly's(that's me) on her way home." she told Tracey.
"Better safe..." Tracey agreed.
Burt was a local sheriff's deputy and friend. He'd gone through high school with all of us. I can't begin to relate how many times he'd prevented a scrape between Will and me or gotten me out of one.
"I'm in the ditch!" I yelled into Melinda's mobile. "Help me!"
"I've told Burt. I'll call him again right now! Where are you?"
"On 32. I was about to turn off it."
"Okay, I know," Melinda said and rang off.
I guess no more than ten minutes passed but it seemed longer. Burt pulled up in his cruiser, lights flashing.
"What's this?" he asked, amazed.
"Too fast," I answered, trying to clear my throat. "I was going too fast on the curve. Skidded off."
"Are you hurt?" he asked. His face had gone pale.
"No, I'm not hurt. I'm worried sick. I have to get home. I have to get home to the kids."
"We're going right now," Burt said. I followed him to the cruiser.
The house was too quiet. I prayed immediately for my kids. Then I heard their sobs. On the back porch. It was closed in but the rain had come in through the screens. The floor was heavily wet and Will lay on it in the strangest position.
"Mom, lightning came in. It struck us," Mandy said, still crying. The two of them were intensely relieved to see Burt and me. I burst into tears as Mandy hugged me. Tears of gratitude but also tears of fear. Fear of the future, the unknown.
"Mom, look." Mandy said as she slowly motioned toward Mickey. He stood slowly and carefully. Even I could not believe what I saw at that moment. Burt shook his head, both in disbelief and to tell me about Will. Mandy and Mickey both began to cry more loudly.
"I'm afraid he's gone," Burt said. "You kids go inside."
He motioned for them to leave the porch. My own sobs intensified. I now had a dead husband and at the same time a child set free from the confines of a wheelchair. I was nearly 33 years old.
Today, I am Molly McCollough, the good Burt's happy wife. Mandy's a lawyer and married, happily also, to one of the Trawick boys. Mickey. Oh, am I proud of Mickey! He's a pastor right here in Freesville. Nothing less than the First Baptist Church. Just like one of my heroes of the faith--Dr. Stanley. But Stanley's in Georgia, not Tennessee. You have heard of him, haven't you?