The smell of fresh-baked corn bread greeted me the second I opened the kitchen door. "Gosh, Mom, this is great! Thanks!" I said, pinching off a bite.
"Don't spoil your supper, Mike," my mother warned. "Nope," I said, dropping my books on the table. When she wasn't looking I grabbed another piece of corn bread and was back out the door. "I'll be in the garage," I called, racing down the driveway.
All day I'd been itching to work on my car. I was a senior in high school that May in 1958. Naturally, I had lots of things on my mind, like graduation and girls. But I was only 18 years old. No need to make any major life decisions. For me, every day was an end in itself.
There would be plenty of chances for me to get serious about my future. Later. All in God's good time, I decided. For now my only focus was a 1930 Model A Ford coupe I'd found rusting away in a farmer's yard in nearby Snook. The farmer did not want much for it, so I brought it home. I loved that old car, and I was determined to restore it to its former glory.
"Hi, baby," I said, patting the coupe's fenders. "Today you're going to shine like new." My project that afternoon was to clean the oil pan and then paint the car. I pushed a scissor jack under the front end and removed the front wheels—easier to get under the car that way. Eager to finish with the oil pan and get to the painting, I didn't steady the car with cinder blocks as usual.
Flopping down on the dolly I'd made, I rolled in from the passenger side of the Model A, directly below the wishbone-shaped yoke connecting the wheels. I stared up at the ball in the center of the wishbone and started unscrewing the bolts on the oil pan.
One by one, the bolts came out, easy as pie. Sure would like some more of that corn bread, I thought, my stomach growling. I reached for the last bolt. Stuck. Rusted tight. I tugged and twisted with no luck. "Come on!" I shouted, pulling at the bolt with all my might.
Creak. The Model A shuddered above me then fell off the jack. I jerked my head to the left. Pain shot through me as the car hit the side of my head, the ball of the wishbone landing behind my right temple. I was too stunned to cry out.
"Mike!" It was my father's voice. He's home from work! He can help me! "Mike!" he yelled again. "Are you all right?" I could see him, but I couldn't answer. I was numb with pain. "I'll get you out, son," Dad shouted. He grabbed the bumper. "Roll out!" he yelled, lifting the car a few inches off my head.
The future that had seemed so far away came screeching toward me like a freight train. I closed my eyes tight. Dear God, have I lost the chance to make choices for my life? Have I lost everything? Taking a deep breath, I felt different. I was floating somewhere above my body, and the pain was gone. "I don't have the strength," I heard Dad say. I wanted to tell him it was okay. I wasn't afraid.
I opened my eyes again, but I no longer saw my father. A powerful figure stood in front of the car. His hair was the color of bright straw touched with red, a curl twisting down over his forehead. Mighty wings rose above his shoulders, and I could see the muscles rippling in his arms. I'm looking at my guardian angel!
A whimsical smile curled his lips, and his eyes twinkled. "You've sure gotten yourself into a fix this time," he seemed to say. He spread his arms and touched the car's bumper with his hands. With just a twitch of the angel's fingers, the car lifted. I pushed on the dolly and rolled free.
Dad dropped to his knees beside me. Mom was there too. She cupped her hand to my head. "His ear is bleeding," she said to my dad. They got me into the car, and we went to the hospital. The next day I was released, with no ill effects other than a terrible headache.
"I'll never understand how you got out from under that car," Dad said. I tried explaining, but no one else had seen the angel. "It was God's doing," Mom confirmed, "one way or another."
Eventually I restored my Model A to first-class condition. The fancy paint job shone like new. I was proud of my car after putting so much work into it. And after that I put some work into myself. You could say I went through a restoration process too.
The future looked different to me. It wasn't far off somewhere like I had once thought. "In God's good time" meant our days belonged to him, and that knowledge inspired me through college, raising my family and whenever difficulties threatened to overcome me.
I always remembered that God was with me, and he loved me even more than I loved that old Model A.