I have a guardian angel I named Al. I haven’t always been aware of Al, but he has definitely been there for me when I needed him the most. The name comes from my middle name “Albert,” after my Uncle Al, my Mom’s number two brother. I believe that Al has always been with me, but it was only after experiencing close calls while boating in big seas in Prince William Sound that I became more aware of him. With my being an adventurous sort, there have no doubt been times from childhood on when Al intervened on my behalf that I was totally unaware of. However, there were also times when I miraculously evaded calamity that I remember all too well.
The earliest such time was when I was 13, when my Los Angeles Boy Scout troop visited nearby beaches to play in the surf. It was only years after one such time that I realized that I had probably narrowly escaped drowning. When we arrived at the beach, the surf was a bit rough, but still manageable. Then, not long after we entered the water, a rip current developed — a strong current caused by successive waves piling up more water on the beach than can be drained completely after each wave. The result is a narrow current that flows away from shore and toward the breaking waves.
The scout leader called everyone out of the water, but I was near the rear of the group, struggling to wade shoreward through the thigh-deep water. I had been body surfing LA beaches long enough by then to know how to dive beneath approaching waves to avoid getting tumbled around when the wave broke. However, the rip current complicated things, and I was unable to make enough progress to escape the next wave. As that wave tumbled me about, all I could do is keep my eyes closed and hold my breath until the water calmed enough for me to surface and gulp in more air. I finally found my footing and again struggled shoreward against the receding current. But I was weaker and still fighting to catch my breath when the very next wave again caught me. As I was again being tumbled around like a rag doll, I wondered if I had enough air and strength left to finally make it ashore. The thought that I might be in danger of drowning never occurred to me as much as I just knew I had to keep fighting to reach shore.
When I finally found my footing again I could barely stand, let alone walk. But somehow, by the Grace of God, I was now in calmer water and I was able to slowly make it up the beach to where my Scout friends were recovering on their beach towels. I don’t recall much being said by anyone, and the Scout leaders soon loaded us into their cars and took us home.
Jump ahead a few years to when I was a junior in high school, and my next-door neighbor Roy and I often rode our motor scooters to school. One morning we had left together and were waiting on our scooters at a busy intersection for a stop signal to change to “go.” As soon as the signal changed, I twisted the scooter’s throttle, but Roy immediately shouted “GERRY!” I released the throttle as the blur of a car that had run the stoplight sped by a couple feet in front of me. Had I not heeded Roy’s warning yell, that signal-runner may have ended my life right then and there. Another time on my scooter, Al arranged for there to not be any vehicles crossing the intersection through which I had blown right past the stop sign, not even noticing there was a stop sign at all until I was halfway through the intersection.
Then there were a couple times as a young adult when Al was there for me. I lived for a spell in the north San Diego suburb of Del Mar, and one time was when I was driving to town on a winding, two-lane canyon road. I had driven that road many times, but I was late getting to a meeting and was driving too fast. When rounding a sweeping right curve, my car skidded sideways across the oncoming lane and onto the dirt shoulder on the opposite side of the road. My car was enveloped in a cloud of gravel and dust as it tilted up and nearly rolled. Fortunately, no other vehicles were coming from either direction, and I escaped with no more than jangled nerves, and my car a bent axle.
Then several years later in Seattle, after I had been riding motorcycles a couple years, Al was there for me again. My bike skidded out from under me while rounding a freeway off-ramp at 45 miles-an-hour. It was raining, the first rain we’d had in several days and the roads were slick. Thankfully, Al had arranged for no other vehicles to be behind me when I went down. I was wearing a heavy-duty riding suit, which along with the slippery pavement, allowed me to slide to a stop as I watched my motorcycle slide down the road ahead of me. It happened so fast — in an instant I went from sitting upright on the bike to sitting on the off-ramp pavement, sliding along on my butt at forty-five. By the grace of God, I escaped with no more than bad bruises and my bike scratched up badly on one side. I sold the motorcycle soon after that, and I haven’t looked back since.
I hope to soon post Part 2 of Al’s exploits on behalf of my charter boat passengers and I while boating on Prince William Sound. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!