It was the early sixties, long before computers and cell phones, Facebook and Twitter. We relied on party lines and CB radios to keep in touch with the outside world. Many of our circles of friends had CB’s in their homes and vehicles. That’s how I met Rich.
As he usually did on Friday nights, Rich picked me up at the door, the overwhelming smell of Old Spice reeking from every pore of his body. After three months of dating, he never learned the rule, “less is better.”
We went to McDonald’s for a bite to eat, and while Rich went in to order our food, I sat listening to the CB radio mounted on the dashboard. No sooner did he get in the car with our food when his dad’s frantic voice blared over the CB, “Kenny’s been hit by a car and rushed to the Wilmington, Delaware hospital!”
Suddenly, our pleasant evening turned into a night of horrors.
As Rich raced me home, my thoughts raced back to Kenny before he went out the door that night.
He was six-teen going on thirty. No driver’s license. No car. So he walked everywhere he went. And, from head to toe, black was always his chosen attire. I have to admit that it did flatter his tall, slender frame, and his blonde hair and blue eyes. All he needed to complete the look was a bandito mask and cape.
“I don’t think it’s safe for you to go out looking like Zorro tonight, Kenny,” I pleaded. “It’s foggy and misting rain. No one will see you walking in this mess! You might get hit by a car!”
“I’ll be fine,” he grinned, his baby-blues dancing with confidence. And into the darkness, he fled.
Rich sped into the driveway and before coming to a complete stop, I jumped out and ran up the steps crying hysterically.
Mom and daddy had just gotten back from the hospital and I pleaded with them to take me there. I wanted to see for myself that he was okay.
“No one can see him tonight,” mom said tearfully. “We can see him in the morning.”
“What happened?” I cried. But I already knew the answer.
Her face paler than usual she tearfully explained, “He tried to avoid stepping in the mud along the construction site, so he walked on the road and got hit. The driver didn’t see him.”
She went on to tell me that Kenny had suffered a concussion, and a deep gash in the back of his leg that required several stitches. But the doctor’s main concern was for Kenny’s enlarged heart.
“He may not make it,” she sobbed.
Those fatal words sliced my heart in two.
I went to his bedroom where his bloody clothes lay in a heap on the floor. Burning tears streamed as I sobbed uncontrollably.
Kenny was sickly all his life. Because of a severe case of Rheumatic Fever, his heart was so enlarged that he wasn’t given a life span much beyond his mid twenties. He missed so much school that he was held back and couldn’t seem to get caught up. Playing sports was out of the question. A minor cold was followed by high fevers and excruciating earaches. And a trip to the dentist always meant a shot of penicillin. Eventually, it was notched up to bicillin, which Kenny jokingly accused the dentist of injecting with a square needle.
If his sickness and limitations ever bothered him, he kept it hidden behind his dry wit and devil-may-care attitude.
So many memories flashed before me as I sobbed. Like the times Kenny chased the hens until one finally squatted down, allowing him to pick her up. He was so happy with his prize, hugging and petting her as if she were a cuddly puppy. Victory was short-lived, though, when suddenly, the old rooster jumped on his back, clawing and pecking his head and shoulders. I didn’t know which was funnier, mom storming out the door with a broom, or Kenny crawling on all fours squealing like a pig.
Then, there was the time he stuck his finger in a hole in the ground and a mole bit it. And the times he followed our older sister everywhere she went, even to the outhouse, and waited patiently till she came back out. And the hours we spent together exploring the woods, searching for turtles and lizards, walking along the creek, and picking wildflowers to take home to mom.
We were always together; playing, arguing, competing against who was the sickest when we both got sick. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
Hysterically, I paced the floor. Mom tried consoling me, but a river of consoling could not have soothed my shattered heart that dark, lonesome night.
The only thing left for me to do was go to my place of refuge. The moment I stepped into my tiny bedroom, I felt more at peace. On the dresser lay my Bible, my source of strength in times like these. Clutching it to my breast, I collapsed on the edge of the bed, pleading, hoping and praying that God would give me the slightest sign that Kenny will be okay.
With all the faith I could muster, I opened my Bible, allowing the pages to fall where they may. Glancing down, like a pilot guiding a ship, my eyes were navigated to Psalms 91. Each verse was filled with promise and hope, a healing balm for my shattered heart. But the sixteenth passage was the rainbow, the peace that passes all understanding, the assurance that my brother will not die for a very long time: “With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Immediately, I stopped crying. The darkness lifted. My heart was filled with hope. I knew God had answered my prayer. Whispering a prayer of thanks, I calmly went to mom and said, “Kenny’s going to be alright.
Before his release from the hospital, Kenny went through a battery of tests. To the their amazement, other than a slight heart murmur, the doctor’s found no heart enlargement, not even a trace of scar tissue. He was released with a huge knot on his head, a bandage on his leg, and a brand new heart.
Since that day, Kenny joined the Air Force, married, has a son and grand-daughter. He gave up his bandito attire, drives instead of walks, and is still going strong at the ripe old age of sixty-five.
I asked for hope in the darkness. God gave me a miracle.