Parts of this particular column ran in this space the summer of 2010. I have recently been placed in a position where I have had to face my own fallibility and the certain knowledge life is fragile, tenuous, and not without risk.
Regrets, second thoughts and second guessing are all part of the human condition. One thing I am learning in life is you can not change the past. You can live for the moment, set your sights on where you want to be, and make it happen.
I have heard people say, "I wish I was 16 again and know what I know now."
Certainly not I! I've said it before and I'll say it again, I wouldn't live through it a second time!
While I have not lived a particularly careless or reckless life, there were times, especially during my youth where certain decisions I made brought me to the brink of catastrophe. Fortunately, there were strong people around me who were able to snag and drag me back to a safe place, both metaphorically and in reality.
Besides those strong people I have always had around me, there is another dynamic which has been a constant in my life since I was small. I believe most strongly that I have a guardian angel. Some might call it a sixth sense, or intuitiveness, as I do too sometimes. I have learned to listen to that sixth sense, that intuitiveness, but also know I have a guardian angel.
The first time I became aware of that fact I was fairly young. I believe I was a first grader.
I have five younger sisters and an older brother. One day, I was waiting for my mother to pick me up after school. Apparently she got distracted by the duties of motherhood and the younger siblings and was late leaving to pick me up.
Even when I was young, I was impatient. On that particular day I was impatient, as well as over confident. I knew my way home and decided since my mom wasn't there, I would just walk home after all, I knew the way.
My father worked at Lennox during those years. We lived on Elder Drive in Marshalltown, which was fairly close to Lennox, but quite a distance from St. Mary's where I was going to school.
I don't remember the exact route I took on my journey home, but managed to find my way to Nevada Street and walked along the sidewalk on the south side of the road. I was always very careful crossing the streets and looked both ways for cars and then sprinted across. As I headed east on Nevada, I made it across Third Avenue, which was the busiest of the streets I needed to cross. That was before the cross-town was even an idea and the old viaduct ended right before a set of tracks and Nevada Street. There wasn't a stoplight there either, or even a crosswalk, so I must have sprinted across to safety.
Next I made it across all those other minor roads on my way home; Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue and Ninth Avenue.
Back in those days Twelfth Avenue was quite different than it is today. As you were headed north to Nevada Street, you came down a hill, then up a rise, over the tracks and then down to Nevada. It wasn't unusual to get stopped by a train at that crossing. Many times you could see a train in the distance and people were in the habit of speeding up on that stretch in order to beat a train to the crossing so they didn't have to wait for a sometimes long train.
I stood on the west side of the road, and waited for all the cars headed west on Nevada to make their turn onto Twelfth; it was a fairly busy route. I couldn't see any cars coming north going over that rise so I took off.
The road there was fairly wide. It would take several seconds to cross even for a sprinting first grader. I made it safely across the southbound lanes, but not the northbound.
Even thought I fancied myself a fiercely independent person, even at that age, I do remember cleaving to my mom and looking to her for reassurance and comfort when things in life weren't quite right. At the very instant I made the decision to cross that busy street, mom and my sisters were at the corner of Nevada and Twelfth where they were perfectly positioned to watch the drama unfold. I didn't see them, but hey saw me.
Just as I made it to the midpoint on my way across the road, a car popped up over that rise and across the tracks. What I remember next has much less to do with what I was feeling than what I was hearing and sensing.
I can only imagine that when a driver suddenly sees a child right in front of their car in the road that the instinct is to mash the breaks and make a bold attempt to stop. The sounds I heard were not the screeching of tires.
No, what I heard was ethereal music, sort of a harp sound and singing. Then I heard a woman's voice screaming, "Dad, I think I killed him!" Then I heard my mom wailing my name. "MIKE," she cried!
The young woman who was driving had her father as a passenger in the car. I don't remember him out of the car, but she was. And my mom was right there in an instant too. Both of them were distraught because you had to bend down to even see me. I was folded up under the front end of the car. My stomach was pressed down against my upper thighs as the underbody of the car pushed on my back.
I remember the young woman exclaiming, "I don't know how I stopped. It was like a giant hand reached out and stopped the car."
I had to do quite a bit of wiggling to free myself from under that car as my mom pulled on my arm. The woman who hit me was walking in circles and was hysterical. I do remember being absolutely calm myself. The whole scene was somewhat surreal. I knew it then and I know it now, I was touched by an angel that day.
With a look of absolute horror on her face, my mom lifted up my shirt looking for wounds or injuries or something. She examined my body with the frenzied love someone who had just witnessed their child being run over by a car should. Then she hugged me, sobbing and holding me close. The young woman came and put her hands on me and asked if I was all right. She kept saying over and over how sorry she was, and that she thought she had killed me.
All of those on the scene that day were amazed that this small boy who had just been run over by a car didn't have a scratch on him! But not I! I could still feel the warmth and love that came from the being that protected me from harm
That was the first time I was protected by my angel, but NOT the last.
Until next time-
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In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at email@example.com via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.