Monthly Archives: January 2004

My Angel

When I was a student at Auburn University, I would often go to Birmingham to see my family. Rachel was very involved in sports, with four Varsity letters her senior year. I would sometimes take Anne or other friends, but usually I would travel alone. I took the Highway 280 route, because I enjoyed the scenery. (I’ve never been much for the interstate). I didn’t really feel comfortable traveling alone all the time, however, and was always happy to reach Waverly. Waverly, Alabama, is this town the size of a dime that sits right on Highway 280. I would travel at all hours, but it never failed, when I got to Waverly, my friend would be waiting. There was a man there. He was tall and thin. He had reddish hair and glasses and appeared to be mildly retarded. Whenever I passed through, he would stand at the road and catch my eye. He would smile boldly and wave. I would, of course, return the smile and the wave. On the way to Birmingham, it was toward the beginning of my trip and it would always comfort me for the rest of the drive. On the way back to Auburn, it was toward the end of the journey and would let me know I had almost arrived safely. It didn’t matter if it were six in the morning, four in the afternoon or late in the evening past midnight. When I went through Waverly, he would be there. I noticed after a few trips, that he was only there when I was by myself. I thought maybe I hadn’t noticed him, because I had been chatting or something, so I started to look for him. The pattern continued. He was only there when I was by myself. There he would be in the graveyard, or walking a dog, or mowing a lawn, or standing by the road, but he was always there when I was alone, almost as if he were waiting for me. After graduation I moved to Birmingham. I did still go through Waverly on occasion on my way to Eufaula, but I never saw the man again. I thought about him, however, every time I would drive through with my friends. I sort of missed him. I even thought about stopping and asking a resident what happened to him. But I thought it would show little tact, even for me, to stop and ask a perfect stranger if they had seen a retarded man wandering around. Two years passed. Shortly after I married, my great-grandmother passed away. Jay and I went to Eufaula for the funeral. I remember going through Montgomery to get there. It seemed like such a long trip. I wondered if it just felt that way because of my inability to deal with death or funerals was hanging heavy in the air, or if it was just because I hated driving on the interstate. After the funeral, I was out of sorts. It had come time to leave, and I requested that we please go home via Highway 280. I sat back in the seat and cried for the first hour. It was pouring rain and cold. I put some music on to try to sooth me, but nothing seemed to help. The road we traveled was so familiar, that I just melted into the journey. No words were spoken between Jay and me until we reached Waverly. We were driving slowly due to the hard rain. I was yanked out of my daydream when Jay said, “That man is smiling at you.” I just looked over at Jay, confused. “That man, he’s standing there in the rain just smiling at you,” He repeated. I looked up and saw the smile that had greeted me time and time again. I looked up just in time to see a tall, thin, red haired retarded man with glasses standing next to the road in a driving rain grinning at me and waving with enthusiasm. I turned quickly in my seat to watch him as we drove away, but he was gone. I have never seen him again. I decided he was my angel. He was always there to guard me when I traveled alone, and he had been there to comfort me after the death of my great-grandmother. I think about him standing there in the rain sometimes and get chills. Of course, I’m not sure it it’s ironic or fitting…my angel being retarded and all.

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