In the Driveway…Just this Morning
Susan L. Tucker
It was 8:00, and I was still in bed on that morning after Labor Day. I was being totally lazy and decadent while watching Tom dress for work. Suddenly the phone on the bedside table came to life with a shrill noise. Oh, man. Who is that? What do they want? “Hello.” It was the secretary from Charles Spencer Middle School. “Mrs. Clawson, how are you? Are you working today? We’ve just had a teacher call in sick.” Because I could think of no reason not to go, I said, “I’m fine. No, I’m not working today. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
While I showered, Tom, my sweetie and husband of six months, fixed my lunch of a ham sandwich and chips and packed my substitute “survival” bag full of five minute time fillers, puzzles, and reading materials he knew I usually took with me--just in case. In a bit, we were both ready to leave. He walked me out to the carport and put his IKON Copy Machines service log book and briefcase into his car while I put my purse and sub bag in my car. I was about to get in when Tom called—“Susan.” I turned around. He was walking slowly toward me, and I had ample time to drink in the image of him. His mostly dark hair sparkled like diamonds as the sun bounced off the gray strands scattered throughout. His baby blue shirt brought out the vividness of his blue eyes. God, how I loved that color on him! He had rolled his shirt sleeve cuff up on the inside of the sleeve, showcasing his beautifully tanned arms. His dark blue trousers perfectly matched his shirt and showed off his 6’3” frame quite nicely.
As he closed the distance between us, he again spoke my name. This time, however, it was very soft. He walked slowly toward me and mouthed my name, “Susan.” Then he leaned in and whispered gently in my ear, “The school will wait long enough for me to tell you how much I love you. I absolutely adore you. Now, you go off to work, and I will be here when you get home.”
I stretched my 5’4” frame up onto the very ends of my tiptoes to hug and kiss him. I didn’t quite reach his ear, so I nuzzled his neck, inhaled the manly scent of his Old Spice cologne and told him, “Just looking at you takes my breath away. I love you so much. These past six months have been absolute heaven. I cannot imagine my life without you.”
Then, very deliberately, we embraced so tightly not even a sliver of sunlight could separate us.
Slowly, he pulled back and placed a kiss, soft as butterfly wings, on the bridge of my nose. Enclosing my hand inside his capable, even larger hand, he squeezed it long enough to let me know he was reluctant to go but had to. Releasing my hand, Tom ambled to his car. As he backed out of the driveway, he stopped the car in the road long enough to wave to me, blow me a kiss, and flash me his wonderful smile. Then off he went. I watched him until I could see the car no more.
I was assigned to Mrs. Anderson’s room that morning. Around 10:00, the rain, which had threatened to ruin many a Labor Day picnic and cookout the day before, seemed to explode from the sky! It was as if Mother Nature had suddenly unzipped the grayish black, and the biggest, fiercest rain drops ever created violently raced each other to the ground. It was unlike any rainstorm I had ever seen. Pulling up window blind, I said “Look, kids, it is raining so hard we can barely see the building over there!”
Shortly after 4:00, with nerves raw from rainy day dismissal, and “the first day back after a holiday” exhaustion, I pulled into the driveway. I turned the car off, relieved that this long, arduous day was over. Eyes closed, I paused for just a moment, replaying the scene of that morning on the carport with Tom. Enough of this. He will be home soon. I have dinner to make.
I opened the car door and got out. Reaching into the back seat to get a huge eggplant Momma had given me yesterday, I noticed a white van slowly pulling up at the end of the driveway. Since we lived just off a rather busy street, I thought, Maybe these people need some directions; I’ll wait before going inside.
The van stopped, and three men in ties and white shirts got out. Actually, they looked like Mormon missionaries who ride on bikes around town. I thought, How odd that they are in a van and there are three of them. There are usually only two. All three of them approached me. As they neared, I noticed that they did not have on the nametags that would have identified them as missionaries.
One man held out his hand and said “Hi, Susan. My name is Dale, and I am Tom’s boss.” I tentatively shook his hand, told him that Tom had always spoken highly of him and how pleased I was to finally get to meet him. He then introduced the two other gentlemen as the district and area manager of IKON’s Southern Division.
Then I remembered Tom told me his boss from Albany would be coming over sometime that week to do an evaluation on his work. Okay, now it made sense—sort of. But, wait . . . I had never heard of an employer visiting a wife of an employee who was getting evaluated. And with top level management! This was just getting plain weird!
Looking again at the men with Dale, I noticed that they were not smiling. Even their eyes were sad. Why? Really curious now, I looked back at Dale. He said, “Susan, you know that rain storm this morning?” I nodded my head, and then heard him say “Well, as a result of that storm, we received almost five inches of rain.”
I said, “Yes, I even pointed out to my students this morning how fierce the rain was coming down.” Boy, this conversation is getting stranger by the moment! Why would three strange men come all the way from Albany just to talk with me about the weather?
Then, I heard Dale say, “We have tried to find you all day. We even called your parents, and they didn’t know your schedule for today. During the midst of that storm, about 10:00 this morning, there was a terrible accident on I-75. Susan, I am so sorry. Tom was involved.”
In that instant, I knew, without a shadow of doubt that Tom was dead and would never be coming home to me. I don’t know how I knew, but I did.
Numb with disbelief, I collapsed into the arms of Dale. Suddenly, an undeniable thought struck me. Wait! Tom—he knew I loved him! I had told him! And I knew—oh, how I knew—he loved me too. He had told me so in the driveway . . . just this morning.