My Skyhawk Guardian Angel

Well, what do you expect me to say about the literal angel of God that got me through the winter of 1995-96? Man-made but inspired by God, my Skyhawk Angel, a 1984 Buick coupe.

I was about to be homeless — lost my World Trade Center job on Friday the 13th. I had problems getting jobs at my age, in my mid-50s — $6/hour part-time jobs only, just not enough. I hated the two jobs I had – day and night, and to come home to what soon would be homelessness.

One of the mornings I called in sick on the day job, my supervisor said, “You’ve been doing this too much.” A two-week suspension without pay ran until just past Christmas, and when I was to report back to work December 26, I didn’t. The night job had folded just days before, so I ended up with no income at all, just a couple thousand dollars in savings.

I had breakfast at the Thru-Way Diner, New Rochelle — really depressed! I drove to a liquor store in town, bought two bottles of Gordon’s vodka, drove back to the diner parking lot intending to consume it all. I drank down one bottle in seconds, then half the other. I threw the car keys into the back. My intention was I’d die — just go into unconsciousness and never come out of it. Well, habitually, I leaned back and got a hold of the car keys, started the engine, and drove to the Ramada Inn two miles away, where I often meditated in my car. I don’t know how I got there, since I’d passed out behind the wheel just after exiting the New England Thruway, exit 15 or maybe 16. Momentarily coming to, I caught a glimpse of a truck coming up fast ahead of me — pretty sure I hadn’t hit it. I passed out again, not to come to again for over seven hours, when I found myself perfectly parked in a Ramada Inn parking space — how did I do that!?

I felt very strange — ethereal, really, as if I’d been somewhere far away, out of this life. Nearly as if angels were all around me, not seen, but felt. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was! I looked into my car’s rear-view mirror and saw such strange-looking eyes — mine! The blue of my eyes turned totally black, the pupil and iris one. It was like the CBS eye!

I got out of the car, noticed the hood had been smashed in. To get the car running again, I had to pull out the radiator a little. One headlight gone, and there was a definite impact shape on the car’s hood. I had hit something, but how strange the impact — not at all what one might expect had I hit something, or had something hit me, some heavy object, perhaps, falling onto the hood?  But what?

I asked around. “Any of you seen or heard about an accident around here?” Nothing. I even called the police, and they hadn’t heard about any accident. I had to have hit something, or someone — maybe an animal? Perish the thought — I felt horrified at the prospect. Then the thought came to me: the supernatural! How else could I explain it? Especially the “ethereal” experience I’d had, the “angel.” I became convinced that The Lord Jesus Christ made that imprint on the hood of my car (HE could even have driven my car the rest of the way, like “Footprints in the Sand” — or tire treads on the pavement). Had He done this, through my eyes that I myself could not see out of?


There I was, post-accident, with my dented car, and Christmas coming. Two nights before I left my home of fourteen years for good, I yelled to God, “This is Satan’s holiday!” (I’d just been turned down by my brother when I’d asked to live with him for a while.) I saw the handwriting on the wall; I could not continue living in that place — no place now except my car.

I started out living at the Yonkers Cross Country Center through Christmas; then, driving out to Commack, Long Island, Truck Rest Stop, exit 52.

Imagine spending Christmas Day living in a car — and Christmas Eve! But it really wasn’t so bad. I got up early Christmas morning, the only one parked at the Yonkers Cross Country Center Cinema parking lot. A man was jogging with his dog – I’d beckoned him to stop by, which he did. It was a sunny day, the sparkling remains of snow from a storm. I told him what had happened to me. He said, “God loves you.”

The day went well despite no gift exchange — though maybe the kind one does not see — a lovely relationship with God! I’d eaten, seen Jumanji with Robin Williams, a good movie for me at the time — elephants running through a house.

Then came the blizzard of ’96. All vehicles had to be off the roads, but what about me? My Skyhawk Angel was my home — my guardian angel! The snow had really started to come down hard — sideways, in swirls, forming beautiful patterns and drifts. My car actually started to look like an angelic ice sculpture.

Where would I go? I had to get moving fast! Well, my guardian Skyhawk took me to a Howard Johnson’s motel in Hauppauge — two miles away — barely getting there. I checked in — $85 a night. Phew! I didn’t want to waste the couple thousand dollars I had left, but I had to. The comforts of home — a TV, continental breakfast, others also stranded.

But what about my angel Skyhawk outside — was he or she all right? I’d go out and check. I was so appreciative of how he or she, covered by layers of snow blankets, had gotten me through that winter so far.

Four days later I had to check out. I drove right to Commack Cinemas and saw Leaving Las Vegas. How I could relate to that movie — a drunk who intended on drinking himself to death. That was me — I thought of doing the same thing.

One night, my foot weighed heavily on the gas pedal when I fell asleep. Upon awakening, the temperature light was on — overheating. There was the smell of antifreeze. Oh God! My home, my guardian angel — off guard, now? It was up to me, for me to be the angel now — to save my car, save my angel — or who’d be my angel now?! I drove to the all-night gas station for some antifreeze, and my angel came through. God loved my Skyhawk Angel too, because I came through, God nudging me in my sleep just in time.


Hitler’s birthday, April 20. I was arrested for DUI, and my angel was nearly at the boiling point — could not survive warmer weather, since the cooling mechanism had broken. We parted, tears evident, as I was hauled away by the police to an awaiting alcohol testing van. What fate would my dear Skyhawk Angel face?

Good-bye, my old reliable ’84 Skyhawk, my guardian angel! Thanks for getting me through that winter. I’ll always remember you.

Toby Van Buren is retired but feverishly working on his biggest effort yet, "My Homeless Experience," based on his experiences while he was homeless from December 23, 1995 to December 4, 2000. He contributes to and and is a long-time participant in the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen Writers' Workshop