SHARON, S.C. (AP) — With everything she had to do that morning, Marshall McClain could not believe his wife was wasting time making the bed.
"What are you doing?" he gasped from the brown recliner where he spent his nights.
Tracey McClain was killing time, waiting for the lawyer's call, waiting to hear whether the adoption was a go and 11-month-old Alyssa would finally be theirs.
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Alyssa's mother had long since given her consent, but attorney Dale Dove hadn't been in a particular hurry to locate the biological father. In the case of absentee fathers, he told the McClains, the longer the child can bond with the prospective parents before an adoption notice is filed, the better.
"Time is your friend," Dove had said.
But time had suddenly become the enemy.
An infection raged through the 61-year-old Army veteran's withered, 115-pound frame, and the intravenous antibiotics couldn't keep up. Doctors said he had just a couple of days.
But the man who'd survived 60 combat missions in Vietnam had one more task to complete. He wanted to give his name to the little girl who'd been the light of his life these past six months. More importantly, he wanted Alyssa to have the right to collect his benefits after he died.
During the past few days, Dove and others moved heaven and earth to make the adoption happen. An opening had suddenly occurred in the judge's docket, and Tracey was scrambling to get herself and Alyssa ready and over to Rock Hill, about 40 minutes away.
By the time Tracey returned to the bedroom to say goodbye, the hospice nurse had arrived.
Even with the oxygen tube at his nose, Marshall's breathing was labored. He was unable to speak, but his eyes were open, and Tracey knew he could understand her as she leaned down to kiss him.
"I love you," she said. "I'll be back."
Tracey and Marshall McClain's life wasn't perfect — but it was pretty darned close.
They'd met on the job. He was a long-haul truck driver, and she — 17 years his junior — was his dispatcher.
Married on New Year's Day 1994, they started their own trucking company a year later. Over the next 16 years, they'd built their Charlotte, N.C., business from five tractor-trailers to a fleet of 32 owner-operators.
The couple constructed a spacious three-story house on 33 wooded, northwest South Carolina acres that they shared with three racking horses — Rudy, Hunter and Little Girl — and a pair of goats named Thelma and Louise.
Each had a grown child from a previous marriage. Marshall's daughter, Amy Lane, lived about three hours away in Summerton; Danielle, Tracey's girl, lived with them. If there was any diaper changing in their future, they figured it would be for their first grandchild, who was on the way.
But all that changed one Sunday morning last fall, when an 18-year-old stranger walked through the doors at Sanctuary Hills Church of God of Prophecy.