Friday, December 23, 2011

The Heavenly Host

Often at this time of year, when we hear so much about angels, I think of my Guardian Angel, who has actually spoken with me, twice. Aloud, I mean, so anyone could have heard.

That was back in the time I didn’t even believe in guardian angels, or in angels generally. I did sometimes go to the Greek church, but although my angel helped change this, I wasn’t planning to become Orthodox.

What I had tumbled to was that my then-husband’s new “best friend”, who went by the alias of George Homewood, was a con artist. Not that we had any money to speak of; we were very poor, but my mother-in-law had just died and left us a little something for a rainy day. My husband wanted to scrape together and give his "friend" what for us was a huge amount, including my next paycheck.

“George” had a plan (don’t they all!). He had invented a solar food dehydrator. Because it was inexpensive to use and could preserve food, it would be the salvation of the starving poor all around the world. He had already produced it once, spending his entire, vast fortune to distribute it as widely as he could when he had been a missionary in the Philippines. As a result of his over-generosity, he now found himself in need. (Here it comes.) He needed money to begin manufacturing his device again. But this time, having learned his lesson the hard way, he had developed a plan for selling it that would make him – and us, of course – fabulously rich at the same time it helped the starving poor. Oh, and by the way, he also needed some funds for food and a few other necessities, in the meanwhile. Just to keep him going in the short run.

When the realization came crashing down on me that this had all the marks of a scam, I tried to discuss it with my husband, but this possibility was too difficult for him to admit.

So I saw I would have to prove my point, and quickly, before everything we had should go to George Homewood. I took the next day off from work and spent it in my cubicle anyway, and the first thing I thought I ought to do was ask for help from the police, and that’s when I spoke, over the telephone, to my Guardian Angel.

I dialed the regular non-emergency police number and said to whoever answered (the Desk Sergeant, if TV police shows are to be believed?), “I think my husband is being conned, and I need some help to prove it.”

“Just a moment,” said the man, “and I’ll transfer you to Tel Com.” I assumed that was short for Telephone Communications. Anyway, my Guardian Angel came on the line, although at the time I just imagined her as a very large, black woman, from her voice. “This is Officer Childs,” she said.

I had my legal pad and pen ready. “Is that C-h-i-l-d-s?” I asked. She said it was and I wrote it down beside the police phone number.

“I think my husband is being conned,” I told her, and then provided a few details.

“Honey, I’ve been in pursuit of justice for a long, long time, and I can tell you this definitely is a scam. No question. But what you need to do,” she said, gently, “is talk to your husband. Cain’t you talk to him?”

“I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work. He won’t hear it; he just gets mad."

"Listen, you've got to quit playing the avenging angel [how did she know?]and play the victim instead, because that's what you really are in this situation."

"I'll try, but can’t you give me some sort of ammunition, some facts, maybe some criminal record?”

“Well, I’m not really supposed to be doing that sort of thing. But you give me half an hour, and I will call you back.”

Half an hour later, she did phone me back. “What have you got?” I asked.

“He was never a missionary in the Philippines or anywhere else. He isn’t a Mormon, either. Nor a Navy chaplain. His degree in theology is fake and he’s no lawyer. Never even studied law. He was in prison during the time he said he was in the Philippines. You got a pen handy? His date of birth -”

“Thank you! I don't think I'll need need to know his birth date!”

“Yes, you will. You write this down.” So I did.

If I wanted to learn more, she suggested, I should go down to the Courthouse and inquire.

“Okay,” I said, “thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ll check it all out.”

“And when you’ve finished,” she said, “and it’s all over, I want you to call me back at this same number and tell me. Promise.”

Of course I promised! It felt like some sort of a secret pact between us. And I kept my promise, too, or tried to.

First item on the agenda, according to her, was to get all our finances safely under my sole control: bank account, mutual fund, insurance. That took most of the day.

Then, with the help of a private detective, I methodically checked everything she had told me. I called the Church of the Latter Day Saints, and they said they didn’t have any such person in their records. But how old was he at the time? Because they didn’t sent out missionaries older than 25. I had my Dad, who worked at the Pentagon, confirm that George was not a Navy Chaplain. The law college George claimed to have attended turned out to be a correspondence school. He had registered, but never even completed the first course. His theology degree was from a basement diploma mill in California; write your dissertation in 50 words or less on Why Religious Freedom is Important and enclose $25, or $35 if you want your diploma mounted in a handsome frame. I telephoned various prisons nearby and said I needed to confirm the dates of the incarceration and the nature of the charges. The charges were always fraud and/or passing bad checks. One man I spoke to said, “Oh, yes, I remember him. He was quite a piece of work! He used to take on legal cases for the other inmates, cheap rates.”

A week or so later, when I had gathered all my evidence, including photos of the man in prison, and when the big fight was over, and when George had disappeared on a “business trip” to the Philippines, with all our luggage but without any more of our money, I called the police station and asked how to get a flower arrangement to Officer Childs.

There is no such person working here, I was informed.

“Yes, there is! I spoke to her last Monday!”

“No, ma’am.”

“Well, has she quit or been transferred since then?”

“No ma’am, there never was anybody by that name working here.”

“She’s in Tel Com!”

No, she wasn’t. “The only female officers working in Telcom are Officers Evans and Jones.”

“Is one of them black?” Officer Childs had had a distinctly black timbre to her voice.

“No, ma’am, both white.”

The private detective who had helped me follow Officer Childs' leads now tried to solve this new mystery, out of pure personal interest. Maybe someone had given me a pseudonym? But why? He tried every branch of law enforcement: city police, county police, sheriff. But he never solved the mystery. Officer Childs just didn’t exist.

Except that she had given me valuable information, and everything she had told me had proven true. She had given me courage, saved some of our precious little nest egg, and given our badly battered marriage another chance (even though, in the end, it still failed).

Oh, and everyone I had spoken to, every single one of them, had required George Homewood’s date of birth when looking him up.

It was the Greek priest who exclaimed, “My God, have you been talking with your guardian angel, or what?” And I looked at him for a long moment before I finally said, "Yes," with wonder in my voice. "Yes, I have.” Yes, just as almost everybody else including me has given up such quaint and curious beliefs, I told him, I find out this is one thing you have got right after all.

Glory to God, and fervent thanks to you, my own dear Guardian Angel! (Were you among those who sang Christ’s birth?)


elizabeth said...

beautiful. thank you.

Anam Cara said...

I once had an angel visit me. Really - there was no doubt that it was an angel. It visited me in my college dorm room in just before dawn - woke me up from a restless sleep - a good 30 years before I even knew Orthodoxy existed. It has never occurred to me, even since becoming Orthodox, that it was my GUARDIAN angel. It was just an angel. Wow! Something to consider.

And it was BIG! And the first words out of its mouth were,
"Don't be afraid." There was only one other 3 word message and then it left. But it has had a profound effect on my life.

I never talk about it because I am sure people will think I am nuts. With your story, I wonder how many other angels are out there working "overtime" that we aren't aware of.

Heb 13:2.

You know, I almost hate reading this post because I think I am going to have to do something I really don't want to do - have strangers over for Christmas.....