The Longest Night
By Dianne Miley
Hail pelted the windows in the middle of July. Lightning pierced the pitch black night. The wind whistled and howled. A clap of thunder jolted me straight up in bed.
I heard my mother crying. I was seven years old. The year was 1969.
We didn’t have early warning systems or cell phones. Our family was so poor, we didn’t even have a house phone.
That night, we didn’t have electricity either.
We had no way of knowing what was happening in the northeast Ohio world outside our windows – no way of contacting anyone – no way to reach my daddy.
We didn’t dare walk to the neighbors’ house. It was the middle of the night.
Hail turned to pouring rain – rain that came down in buckets and wouldn’t stop – rain that flooded our yard, our driveway, and our neighbors. Branches, hunks of bark from our sycamore tree, and slabs of shingles from our roof sailed through the air like missiles in the roaring wind.
Lightning splintered the black sky, lighting up the yard outside our darkened windows. I stood against the back of the couch, staring out the window. I cried for my daddy and watched for any sign of his car, any car, any sign of life across the wind-whipped and water-logged landscape.
Thunder cracked with booming ferocity.
I nearly leapt from my skin.
“Get away from the windows!” My mother picked me up and set me and my little sister on her lap in a chair across the room. We watched the dark windows.
Each time lightning lit the flooded lawn, we stood for a better view.
Mommy told us to go back to bed and not to worry. But I could tell she was scared. Her voice cracked and her eyes were red and watery. I heard her crying before, even though she pretended everything was fine.
I didn’t want to go back to bed. I wanted to wait up for my daddy too.
Mommy didn’t argue too much. I think we kept her company and made her feel a little less alone and scared.
My daddy worked second shift from three o’clock P.M. to eleven o’clock P.M. in a town eight miles away. Only eight miles, but that night, it could have been the other side of the world. He should have been home hours ago.
So we sat in that chair, my mother, my sister and I, in the middle of the night, and prayed.
Over and over, I prayed the same thing.
“God, please bring my daddy home.”