The rain hit the car windshield and scattered in a million directions. Puddles had invaded the low spots of the road. Teeth rattled together as the faithful car carried its occupants along that washed-out country highway. Chocolate mud stained the car’s brown fenders. The windshield wipers swung methodically, fighting against the eternal rain. A young man leaned forward at the steering-wheel. His hands gripped it as his eyes narrowed, trying to cut through that watery assault of nature.
A red octagon appeared ahead and to his right. His foot found the brake paddle. He felt the vibration of the anti-lock brakes as the car struggled to a stop. Looking left, though he could not see through the rain, he knew an old Victorian home awaited him. He knew it would be filled with light and the smell of burning wood would once again drift into his nostrils. He knew a plate of cookies, warm and perfect, awaited him on the kitchen counter. He could almost taste them.
Taking his foot of the brake, the young man let the car lurch forward. He jerked the steering-wheel left. His father’s grey head lolled to one side, but the snoring never ceased. Gravel ground beneath the car’s wheels as the young man turned into the driveway beside the old house. He parked the Buick in the garage. Grabbing all his bundles, he stood for a while before his dad shot out of sleep, “why’d you stop? Oh, we’re home.”
A wall of rain confronted them as they stood inside the doorway. As soon as they stepped out into the storm, umbrellas held overhead, the wind changed. The rain shot through the night at a near-horizontal angle. The pair, father and son, made a mad rush across the open yard to the front door.
The son wrapped his knuckles against the rough, wood door. The cast iron handle clicked as the latch was loosed on the inside. The door swung open and warmth embraced the son. His mother wrapped him in her arms. “Welcome home, son.”
“Thanks, mom.” The young man wrapped his gangly arms around her. A smile was on his face and in his heart. He felt as though his mother’s love warmed him more than the gentle wood heat drifting up through the ornate iron vents in the floor. The door was shut and the rain banished to fall in lonely exile.
The smell of the thanksgiving turkey in the oven filled the kitchen as the young man meandered through it to deposit his baggage in his bedroom. Cookies were stacked like corporate towers on a cooling rack by the stove. Little feet rushed around a corner. A curly, brown haired bundle of energy charged at the young man. “Andy!”
“Hello, little buddy!” The young man, Andrew, scooped his little brother up into his arms. Those plump arms wrapped around his throat. That head nestled against his neck. Andrew held his little brother out before him and stared into those deep brown eyes. He saw a flash of light out of the corner of his eye and he set down the little fellow. In the back of his mind he heard his mother scolding his little buddy for being out of bed.
He knelt down and peeked around the corner. Big, blue eyes stared at him. They were shy at first, then recognition filled them and Mae, his little sister, through herself at him. The light from the kitchen played in her golden hair as he grabbed her up and held her close. He kissed her gently on the forehead and then led her to bed, where he prayed over her and wished her a good night sleep. She snuggled into the covers with a smile on her face as he left the room.
Laughter filled the air as Andrew embraced his elder brother and his wife. His mom passed out cookies and milk. As the family sat around the fireplace with smiles upon their faces, primarily due to the wonderful cookies, Andrew’s father called for their attention. The room fell silent. They all knew the look on his face. A fan whirred somewhere in the house. He spoke, “as you know, we’ve been having some tests done concerning Mae.”
The family nodded. The mother’s smile vanished and a frown replaced it. Tears gathered and spilled down her cheeks. The father spoke again, his voice trembling. “Today your mother and I received the test results. The doctors have placed her only a few points of retarded. So, when she can’t spell her name or asks the same questions over and over…”
Andrew’s mom broke into deep sobs. His father rose and walked over to his wife, those strong arms encircled her, and a large hand brought her head to his chest. Tears moistened his white shirt. “You will all need to be patient with her. It is likely that she will never graduate from high school.”
“How can this be?” Andrew’s mother asked. “Were we too old?”
“No, no, honey, the doctor said it was nothing we did to make this happen.”
Freely, the tears flowed, though the sobbing slowed. Andrew’s brother and his wife bowed their heads. Andrew joined them in prayer, placing his hand on his father’s back. He could feel the heaving of that muscled back as his father wept freely.
They all returned to their seats and Andrew’s father said, “we just wanted you to know.”
Andrew leaned forward and with his deep voice spoke, “I do not see how this matters. Does it change who she is? It does not make her any less my sister.”
His mother looked at him with her teary brown eyes. A smile was born on her face.