my angel

IMG_0454I remember staring at a picture on my grandma’s wall of two children crossing what appeared to be a rickety bridge.  Below the bridge can be seen the looming danger of a  swiftly-moving river.  Standing nearby is the most beautiful blonde guardian angel intently watching the two children clumsily explore.  There is a small smile on her face and love in her eyes as her arms extend in cautious awareness, the kids oblivious of her or the pending danger.  I remember imagining what would happen next if one the children’s foot slipped, the angel quickly flying to the rescue and magically placing the child back on the bridge.  There were many times when I was crossing a log over the creek or climbing a tree when I would wonder if I had a guardian angel watching me, protecting me.  Someone who’s sole purpose was my well-being.

Then I began to have experiences with her.

The first one was at the ocean when I was six years old.  A strong wave pounded my little body and violently knocked me down.  The current gripped me so hard that I couldn’t seem to stand up.  I recall being under the water, seeing the sun in the sky through the gritty water feeling helpless.  I could hear my attempts to scream inside my head as I fearfully fought to get air.  There aren’t words strong enough to describe the panic and fear of smothering under water.  Out of nowhere, her arms gently grabbed me under my arms, pulled me out of the water, and set me on my feet.   I ran out of the water and onto the sand to catch my breath.  My angel had saved me from death. 

As I advanced through the adolescent years, I grew up in a volatile household.  My father was an alcoholic which led to regular scenes of screaming, fighting, and physical altercations.  There was a time I recall waking up in the middle of the night hearing my parents screaming in their bedroom.  My father yelled “You want me to hit you?  Do you? Do you?” which was followed by thud…thud…thud.  My mom howled in desperate, hopeless agony.  I pulled the blanket of my head and hurriedly got on my knees.  I prayed that God would send my angel to the bedroom and protect my mommy.  Suddenly, my father was in my room and for some reason threatening me and my brother with a beating.  I quickly scaled the bunk bed ladder and planned to either get out of the window or run out the door.  But I was cornered.  He was lurched over me as I backed into the corner of the bedroom, shaking and terrified.  Out of nowhere, she pushed him against the wall and held him long enough for me to run out of the room to find safety.  I remember running through the dewy grass, breathing in the cold night air.  My angel had saved me again.

As a teenager, the quest for approval and acceptance sent me down many disappointing and emotionally damaging paths.  I was different than anyone else in my family and most everyone else in my school.  The chaotic storm of raging hormones, dramatic home life, and being a community misfit was a pretty traumatic experience.  I began to face the dangers of emotional instability instead of the tangibility of a physical threat.  Once, standing in front of then entire high school, I stood boldly behind the microphone to deliver my student president campaign speech.  As I began to speak, a group of boys loudly chanted queer! queer! queer! until the principal had to call them down while many other students could be heard snickering and whispering.  I left the school that day mortified and for the first time suicidal ideation.  I sat in my car outside the school, tears welling up in my eyes.  As I searched in the car for a napkin to wipe my face, I found a note in my glove compartment.  Out of nowhere, my angel had written a message to me of love, acceptance, and encouragement.  A promise of devotion to my well-being.  My angel had saved me from a depressive spiral.

There are countless other angel appearances throughout my life, but I became too preoccupied with marriage, career, school, and children to appreciate her guiding hand.  There was something about being a self-sufficient adult that made me less aware of the miracles in my life.  I took less time to appreciate her and I grew self-centered and grossly cynical.  I stopped looking, and eventually gave up on caring whether or not my life was saved.  This worldview was one factor that led to my drug use.  Apathy is the one of the most destructive states of mind.  And I let it almost destroy me.  After losing everything but a black satchel, under a tree by the airport, I placed a desperate call of help to my mom.  As I waited for my mom to arrive from West Virginia, I reflected on the previous two years of my life.  I thought “Wow, my angel must still be around or I would surely be a dead man right now.”  I went on to conclude that she must have connected that cell phone call and was keeping my momma safe on the road.

Momma arrived and we spent the night in a motel in an effort to gather our thoughts and think about the next best step for me.  In the meantime, I had reconnected with a few of my “friends” from active addiction and had decided that I was going to stay in town and forgive them for leaving me on the side of the road.  In the back of my mind, I truly just wanted to get high and I knew they were the answer to acquiring some drugs.  So, I proceeded to explain my plan to mom, who replied “You’re coming back to West Virginia with me. There is no discussion.” Her statement made me angry, which led to both of us screaming on the side of the street.

When the discussion came to what I believed the end, I picked up my black satchel and tried to walk away from her.  She grabbed the handles of my bag and began yanking it toward her.  “Let go!” I screamed in her face. “This is all I have!”

I AM ALL YOU HAVE!” she screamed with a thunder I had never heard from her, face inches from mine, eyes wide with anger.  She repeated “I AM ALL YOU HAVE!”

We both stopped yanking. My body went to jello as her words sunk in.  She was right.  I left her standing and slowly got into her car.  I was stunned, shocked, and beginning to feel withdrawal symptoms. She got into the drivers seat, dropped her head and began to sob.  As I listened to her I realized that I had never heard my mom cry so hard.  But then I remembered.  That cry…that desperate, hopeless sob of my momma that I was hearing now I heard the night I was hidden under the blankets praying as a little boy.  The pain in my chest at that moment caused me to cringe and I shut my eyes.  I had caused my momma to feel that same pain emotionally that my father caused physically.  

That’s when it hit me.  All this time my guardian angel had been right in front of me.  My momma had lifted me from the ocean’s current, pushed my dad aside to let me run, snuck a note in my car when she knew I was feeling misplaced.  And now, she was here to save me from near-death, to fly down and place me out of harm’s way, safe from the danger of which I seemed oblivious. I do have an angel who’s sole purpose is my well-being.  She’s my momma. 

Happy Mother’s Day, momma.  And thank you.           

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