Written by Bill Willson, and previously published in “Angels to Bear You UP:True Stories of the Lord’s Tender Mercies.” An anthology by Judy C. Olsen; Covenant Communications Inc. 2012; p-1
When Mom and I learned of my Father’s death, a secret fantasy, of his return, stored in my eleven year old heart died with him. When my father passed away of acute alcoholism on skid row in Seattle, Washington, he had a note and a bank book in his pocket. The note named me his sole heir. The bank account had over $3000 in it. In recalling this, as an adult I realized that while he was away from us for six years, all his thoughts and efforts were of me, and that he sacrificed much to save all that money in such a short time. Was he really an alcoholic?
Dad had to leave when I was five years old; it was some kind of a court order, because of his alcoholism. I never knew this until years later. One of my fondest most delicious little boy memories was of my father taking me in my big, red, Radio, American Flyer, wagon to go fishing. We lived in the alley off of University Avenue not far from the San Francisco Bay. Dad loved to fish and he took me often. Shortly after my father’s death, I began to go fishing by myself every chance I got. One day in my thirteenth summer I came face to face with my guardian angel. Whom I now know was my father.
It was a beautiful summer day, so I grabbed my fishing gear and jumped on my bike. I headed for the two barges tied up, behind the Bay Meadows race track. The Bay was as smooth as glass, the sun felt warm on my face and arms; it was a good day. In no time at all I had my first fish, a fairly large Jack Smelt. I strung the fish on my stringer and lay down on the edge of the barge. I had to attach the stringer to a cleat a foot and a half or so below the main decking, because it wasn’t quite long enough to reach the water. In order to do this I had to hang my head and shoulders over the edge. I baited my hook again and tossed it over the side. I had barely settled down when I had my second Jack Smelt. This one was bigger than the first and I was excited to be having such a great day fishing.
Too bad there‘s no one here to share the day with, I thought. I laid down on the edge of the barge and after attaching the fish to the stringer, I was lowering it into the water. A small ground swell, caused by a passing ferryboat far out in the bay, came in, and the barges slowly raised up and yawed apart as the ripple passed between them. I was Intent on my task, and oblivious to the danger. The two barges were about to come crunching back together with enough force to grind my puny little body into jelly.
Suddenly from nowhere a powerful force seized me and I was jerked up off the deck and snatched literally out of the jaws of death. As I was set gently down on my feet, I looked up into the eyes of this gentle, old man. As he looked at me and said, “You ought to be more careful Son. The world is a dangerous place. Your life is precious.”
I was shaking, because the last thing I remember seeing, just before looking into those eyes, were the two barges crunching together, just inches from my head. I turned and looked back to the fateful spot. When I turned around, the old gentleman was gone. He simply vanished. There was no place for him to go, because the barges were flat with no solid structures above deck. They were moored at the edge of a forty to fifty acre, flat, empty, parking area next to the race track. As time went on I have thought back on this event many times. I have come to realize that the old man who saved me from certain death that day was my guardian angel. I further understand that my guardian angel was, and perhaps still is my father.
I didn‘t get a very good look at him, but I‘ll never forget those eyes looking down at me, while explaining how fragile my mortality is. I know it was my father, because of those watery blue-grey eyes. Those same eyes that I have seen in the pictures of my father with me and my mom. Those old pictures are black and white, but I know he had watery blue-grey eyes, because I still remember them looking at me when I was a little boy. I also see them looking back at me every time I look in the mirror to shave.
Although I have never actually seen him again, I believe that he has been there for me at times when I have needed him. During the years in the navy, and the years I worked in construction, I experienced danger. I remember several times when I had close calls with life threatening circumstances, and I’m sure there were others I am not even aware of. My childhood secret fantasy of his return has been resurrected with my 20/20 adult hindsight, and I know that he returned. I now have a permanent place in my heart where his memory resides and I know he has a place with the angels in heaven.