WEDNESDAY: Guardian Angel of the Highway


Copyright is held by the author.

I DRIVE an angel’s car. Seriously. It all started with a deadly mall collapse in my hometown in 2012. Two precious ladies were killed in that collapse. At the time, I was going through a medical crisis, lost my job, my car, my trailer — all things material that I held dear, things I had worked hard to get, things that I had made some sacrifices for to obtain. But they were only things. I could still wake up to a robin singing outside my window and enjoy the summer sun on my face. However, I needed to be in the driver’s seat again. I missed my car, missed taking impromptu trips to see relatives and grandbabies. I hated to have to beg for rides or take public transit to pick up a few groceries when for a lifetime I simply had to pick up a set of keys and go.

In a matter of weeks, I had lost my identity (I thought) and become a disabled person. Disability had many downfalls, not being able to function as others my age did, not being able to perform normal daily activities of living without immense pain and difficulty, not being able to participate in family, social and working life the way I once did. It was mind-numbing to me, and I wallowed for some time in a sea of self-pity. Disability has its many downfalls, but one thing disability did for me in a positive way was provide me with some money so I could purchase a car. As soon as that cheque arrived, I was on buy-and-sell sites looking for the bargain vehicle I needed. I could never again afford a new car, so second-hand would have to do, as long as it would get me from A to B.

My son found my perfect car on line and managed to strike a workable price with the owner who delivered it right to our town. Nothing looked as good as that little station wagon coming down the highway toward us that afternoon. I didn’t care that it was noisier than most cars on the road, nor that it was brown, my least favourite color. It was my means to independence once again, and that was the only thing that mattered. This vehicle would haul me up out of a funk like no funk I had ever known in my life. I would have a steering wheel in my hands again, grab my keys and point my car in whatever direction I fancied.

As we tended to the paper work of car ownership, I noticed the name of one of the deceased women from the mall tragedy on the previous owners list. It was a daunting discovery at first, but the more I drove around, the more comfortable I became with that knowledge. Little things. Swerving safely out of the path of a speeding transport that had crossed over the centre line, braking and slowing down long before I came upon an accident ahead, avoiding a moose loping almost into the my path, anticipating and reacting to what would have been a dangerous skid on glare black ice, stopping for a coffee when I normally wouldn’t have and thereby missing a highway sinkhole a few miles away- — those little things played before my mind’s eye in retrospect. They could only have been explained away by the presence of a guardian angel.

Recently, I was about two hours away from home attending a concert. Upon leaving the parking lot to return home, I discovered I had no headlights. It was late at night, pitch black, not a star in a cloudy sky, the threat of rain and rumble of thunder in the air. Staying in the city was not an option. I had fog lights, which although not safe for distance at least lighted my immediate foreground. I alerted another person from our area who was just leaving the lot and explained my plight. He suggested staying close behind him and we would make it home. I worried that the police would discover my rather unsafe lighting, and sure enough, about 10 minutes into the drive home, I saw the flashing red and blue lights behind me. Would they pull me off the road? Give me a whopping ticket I could not afford? Impound my vehicle? I put on my signal to pull over and accept my fate. Miraculously, the cruiser flew right by me, siren blaring, lights ablaze. Not me this time.

As we neared the next town, I realized I should fill up with gas. It was late, these were tiny communities where sidewalks rolled up after supper. Nothing open. The gas gauge continued to edge toward empty. Two more towns with gas stations closed. Now the dash light was on, indicating I might have about 10 more minutes of gas. I went through a town close to home and remembered that it had an all-nighter convenience store/gas bar off the beaten path. I prayed as I approached the roadway that it still stayed open all night. I had not been there for years. Sure enough, it was lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. My guardian angel was still with me as the car sputtered up to the tanks.

The last leg of this journey snubbed up to my friends’ SUV, hopefully out of sight of patrol cars, was uneventful. The rain had stopped, the moon decided to make an appearance and the night was perfect for driving under normal circumstances. I just made the best of it, put in my favourite CD and hummed along. As we neared my home town’s limits, the lead car driver flashed his lights on and off and disappeared to his own home. My fog lights chose that very moment to fail. Again, my angel came to the rescue. I stared at the town limits sign lit up by a long row of street lights. They lighted my way straight into my driveway, and once again I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My guardian angel had been sitting on my shoulder for the past two or three hours, and had not failed me. As long as I drive this car, I will know that there is another presence riding shotgun, and I believe that she will continue to protect me from roadway hazards.

  1. Whatever amount shows up for this story goes back into the coffers for the next writer.
    Gloria’s Guardian Angel…

  2. Lovely reminiscence, GJ. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that your guardian angel stays with you forever. And I loved the way you told the story, simply and humbly.

  3. I just loved this story! It made me smile from beginning to end. There are few things more comforting than knowing that you have a guardian angel looking out for you. I know.

  4. Thank you, fellow writers — that story wrote itself.

  5. Gloria,
    Congratulations…!!! Your essay in today’s Globe and Mail was delightful.

    Well done…

  6. Gloria: Please tell me how you get a story to write itself. It would save me a lot of time, sweat, and angst! Seriously, good job.

  7. A really well done heartfelt story. Thanks for sharing.

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