That time I met my guardian angel — maybe

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My guardian angel’s name is Bill.

I forget Bill is out there because I’ve only met him once, and that was 25 years ago.

Honestly, I was disappointed with Bill. I come from a long line of strong and wise women, and I always hoped my guardian angel would be Nana Pat, Nana Ivy, Nana Beth or any of the nanas who came before them.


Also, Bill had odd timing. I had made so many bad decisions, and Bill showed up for something that seemed almost inconsequential.

Here’s what happened: I was attending Chico State, and I wasn’t a stellar student. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that if I showed up for class, studied, and did the homework I might do well, so I dabbled enough to get by.

And then I took political science.

“Your generation is inheriting dirt and debt,” the professor said, pacing in front of the room. We read articles about the country’s deteriorating infrastructure andlearned there was no future for us in America.

I was supposed to write an essay one of these bleak subjects, and I couldn’t do the research. Every time I thought about a possible topic I’d call my mom and cry.

I stopped attending class.

I never missed poetry class, though. I showed up dutifully three times a week, poem in hand.

One afternoon, an elderly gentleman sat next to me in poetry workshop. He was round, ruddy-faced, grandfatherly. He introduced himself as Bill and said he was considering the class for the following semester. He asked about my other classes, and I told him about political science, though I hadn’t attended in a few weeks.

“I’m taking political science, too!” He said, happily.

In fact, his class was the same day and time as mine.

“There’s a young lady who sits next to me in that class,” he said, unprompted. “She rarely shows up. I tell her, ‘8 a.m. is 8 a.m. whether you’re in San Francisco or Beijing. Just get yourself here, and it’ll be OK.’”

I stared at him with my mouth hanging open.

After class Bill waved goodbye, and my poet-mates asked me about him.

“That was Bill,” I said. “Never met him before.”

But the next day I found my way to my political science professor’s office and stood in the doorway like a wary mouse.

“If I don’t write the essay,” I asked, “can I still pass your class?”

Now that I teach college students I understand how incredibly frustrating my question was, but he did not slap me upside the head.

 “If you show up and complete all of the other work,”he said, “You’ll get a ‘C.’”

That’s what I did. 

I never saw Bill again. Maybe it was a coincidence that he showed up in my poetry class, or maybe the universe gave me an important nudge.

Because I like to think there’s magic in the world, here’s what I tell myself: If I’d failed political science – in combination with my other lousy grades – maybe I would have taken another path, one where I dropped out of college, and then I never would have met my ex-husband, and we never would have bonded over our mutual love of the grandparents who helped raise us, the grandparents who passed away when we were not yet finished being raised.

His grandfather lived on a boat, taught him how to sail, introduced him to a deep and enduring love of baseball.

His grandfather’s name was Bill.

Maybe that’s a coincidence, too. Certainly my first marriage wasn’t such a good idea. It was brief and painful, but we’re still friends, and every so often we have a long conversation on the phone about who we are and where we’re going.

And where our daughter is going.

Our smart, funny, sensitive, unique daughter is almost 21 years old. I joke that she was determined to come into this world whether or not we were ready for her.

“You chose me!” I remind her whenever she’s frustrated with my mothering abilities.

Of course, I chose her, too.

What does Bill have to do with any of this? Maybe nothing.

Maybe everything.

We’ll never know.

Tricia Caspers a writing instructor, librarian, maker space coach, and award-winning writer. She may be reached at