This story begins on the anniversary of our Lord's birth. That's when Mom gave me a gift that cost $75. For someone who's not above wrapping up a used can opener and saying, "Happy Birthday!," this was big. Mom was beaming when she handed it over, saying, "I really want you to have this."
Ripping off the paper, I gulped, "Oh my god, thanks." In my hands was a painting of what looked like a caftan-covered 6-inch penis—with wings. Of course, it wasn't that. It was a portrait of my guardian angel: a faceless, sideways-slanted celestial being floating in a sunset-lit sky, balancing two balls of fire in its hands.
My mom had commissioned it from Vancouver, Wash., artist Kristine Bauman. I shouldn't have been surprised. My sis, who's one of those "angels-all-around" ladies, handed them out like candy this summer.
"Horizontal versions are rare," my sister, who used to collect Beanie Babies, told me.
"No shit," I said. "I had no idea."
During the toughest times, I'm not much of a God guy. My family knows that. But, after a tough year full of cancer and death of loved ones, I guess my mom thought I could use a soulful pick-me-up. The painting came with two notes. The first was from the artist. Bauman noted my angel was of "masculine energy" and "full of fire," hence the orangey balls of hell. She also said, "You have created a world in which you are free to be yourself." Not a bad gift from a family that likes to forget I'm gay.
The second note was from my "angel." Supposedly Bauman can channel spirits like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost. In it, my "angel" said "his" name was "Teddy." That's weird. The one thing I've leaned on since the day I was born is a stuffed bear named Bosco, which I've always called (you guessed it) "Teddy." I know kids call their bears Teddy all the time, but not many of them still have it on their bed at age 44. Both notes said something else. It was about connection. Bauman's said, "You have this way of connecting everyone." Teddy's said, "You build a bridge to connect the ones you love." I get it. Both letters are from the same source. That I understand. But what I don't understand is how a complete stranger, either from the physical or spiritual realm, knows my biggest secret. Spooky, isn't it?
What's spookier is, rather than put the painting in the closet with all the gifts my family has given me, I'm hanging it over the bed I share with my partner, where it looks down on us (or would if it had eyes).
Bauman noted she believes "guardian angels reflect the true sides of our soul. What we are made of."
Looking at it, you'd think my angel was equal parts Barry Manilow and Satan, but somehow I find comfort in it. And I guess that's the whole point of this woo-woo guardian stuff, anyway. The truth is, I find the fact that I've fallen for an angel really embarrassing, like admitting I like American Idol (which I do). But part of growing up is accepting comfort when you need it—no matter where it comes from, even above.