"Maybe I could change it," I cautiously said to my sister as we looked at the back tire, flatter than a pancake. "Do we have a spare?"
My sister looked at me doubtfully.
"Do you really think you could change a tire?" she asked.
"Maybe," I said with some reservation.
Then I told her about dad showing me how to change a tire on his car. Our father had passed away a couple of years earlier and about a year or so before he died he had made a point of showing me how to change a tire.
"Every young lady needs to know how to change a tire," he had said. "So I want you to watch and help me to do this."
I had watched Dad carefully and helped him so that by the time we finished I had felt that I could change a tire in an emergency.
"Okay then," my sister said. "Let's take a look in the trunk and see what we can do. I'm sure a spare tire came with the car."
As she opened up the trunk I immediately recognized the tools that dad had used when changing the tire on his own car. Everything we needed seemed to be there and although I knew we'd have to jack the car up first, I pulled the heavy lug wrench out of the trunk to see if I could loosen the screws that held the tire in place. I vaguely remembered that dad had pushed down on the lug wrench with his foot when removing those stubborn nuts and bolts that held his tire in place. I hooked the lug wrench onto the bolt that held the tire on the rim of the Mustang and the lug fit perfectly. So far, so good, I thought with delight. But then, when I tried turning the wrench, it wouldn't budge. Together my sister and I heaved and pushed and stomped down on the wrench but it wouldn't give--not even one fraction of an inch! Finally, after struggling for 15 or 20 minutes got back into the car exhausted and disheartened. We kept the emergency blinkers going in hope that someone would stop and help.
"What time is it?" I asked.
"Midnight," she said, looking at her watch.
"The bewitching hour," I said.
"Yes," she smiled. "I really miss dad, don't you?"
"I sure do," I replied. "I wish he hadn't died and I wish he were here to help us," I added.
No sooner were those words out of my mouth when we heard the loud reverberation of a huge 18-wheeler approaching. We watched, almost in a trance, as it slowed down and pulled directly behind us on the deserted interstate highway. For a moment we sat there, quite relieved that help had arrived and yet somewhat frightened since we didn't have a clue whether the driver was planning to help or harm us.
We got out of our vehicle and, to our delight, the driver looked kind and fatherly–he looked like our very own father. My sister and I exchanged a surprised glance but said nothing.
"Looks like you girls are in need of help," he said.
"Flat tire," my sister replied. "We tried our best to change it!"
"We couldn't get the lug wrench to move the nuts and bolts that are holding it to the rim," I added.
"That's always the hardest part about changing a tire," he said as I reached into the trunk and handed him the jack. "I tried to teach one of my daughters to change a flat tire one time and the hardest part was loosening the screws," he said, looking at me. "But, it seems that loosening the tire wouldn't have done you any good after all," he added. "That jack won't fit your model car."
"There's a truck stop about five miles back," he said. "I'll go and see if they have the kind of jack that'll fit this little Mustang. Meanwhile, you girls get back into the car and lock your doors. I'll be back as soon as I can," he added.
So my sister and I did as he advised, getting back into our car and locking the doors. We watched in awe as he drove the big 18-wheeler across the median to turn around.
"He looks an awful lot like dad," I whispered.
"Yes, I noticed," my sister replied. "Almost scary," she added in a hushed tone.
"I know—even his voice sounds the same. Did you notice that?" I asked.
"I did," she replied. "And how many times over the years did dad tell us to lock our doors when we went out somewhere?
"Too many to count," I said. "In fact, he was almost obsessive about it!"
My sister nodded in agreement.
After about 20 minutes the trucker returned with the right equipment, quickly changed the tire, and left us the new jack. We offered to pay him for the jack and for his help, but he refused.
"No," he said firmly. "You girls just be safe. In the future, try to get home earlier," he smiled. "And, always remember to keep your car doors locked," he added as he jumped back into his truck.
Again, my sister and I exchanged a glance at one another. Of course it was a very dark night and there were only headlights reflecting light on the man who looked so much like our very own dear father. Perhaps if it had been daylight we would have seen no resemblance at all. Yet his voice was so similar to our dad's that we almost told him how much we missed him. But, of course, we didn't do that. Instead, we thanked him profusely and got back into our car, allowing him to lead us through the dark moonless night.
We followed him for about ten minutes until he rounded a steep curve in front of us, but when we rounded that same curve he was suddenly nowhere in sight! Where had he gone? There were no immediate exits that he could have taken and no side roads that he could have wandered upon—nothing! We looked along the side of the highway to see if he had pulled off somewhere, but the truck was nowhere to be seen. It would be an understatement to say that we were astonished.
"He's gone," I said.
My sister glanced quickly at me, a look of shock on her face as she attempted to keep her eyes on the road.
Within another twenty minutes we were safe in our home, our beds, dreaming away the remainder of the night. The next morning, as we prepared for work and school, we spoke of the incident in whispers as though it might have been a dream. But the flat tire, along with the new jack that lay in the Mustang's trunk, were evidence that the midnight messenger had in fact changed the tire and then disappeared into the night. Still, the following question remained: Was he our dad, coming to help us, perhaps even steer us away from further danger?
Although this incident occurred 38 years ago, even now my sister and I discuss it from time to time, only between ourselves, in reverence. We have a deep knowing that this midnight angel was indeed our dad, looking out for us from far beyond, shifting into our lives for a moment to let us know that we were still protected and loved.