Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ma'am, Are You Okay?

Today’s Wild Ride Wednesday installment (like last week) goes back 25 years. When I look back over my life, I see a string of miracles. God has protected me from some crazy stuff, and I am grateful.

It was late May or early June 1985. Dallas was nearly 6 months old and was the light of my life. I was blessed to have a job that allowed me to bring my baby to the office for a few hours every afternoon. My sister, Tina watched him every morning before she went to work at The Peppermill where she was a waitress.

I woke up around 6am on that late spring morning. It was hot—the first really hot day of what would surely be another sweltering summer in Fresno, California.

As was often the case, my ex-husband had not come home the night before. He’d held ten or twelve jobs in the 2-½ years since our Memphis wedding, but had never worked longer than three months at any place.

During this period of unemployment the father of my child was “waiting for God” to direct his path. He wouldn’t even go to the grocery store with me unless God “released” him to do so.

Dallas woke up smiling and laughing—just as he did every single morning. He was an incredibly happy baby. After I showered and dressed for work, I put my young son in the highchair so I could feed him breakfast. As I spooned the mashed bananas out of the bowl and into Dallas’s eager mouth, his daddy finally walked in the front door.

I don’t remember how the innocuous conversation started, but I remember that it soon escalated and became volatile. I couldn’t say anything right.

My ex-husband began tapping me—just thumping my head with a steady rhythmic beat. “Please don’t do that.” I tried to keep my voice calm. The man just laughed.

The man I’d once promised to love, honor, and cherish balled up his right hand into a fist and with his knuckles he began knocking on the top of my head, as if he was knocking on a door.

I appealed to his good sense. “Aren’t you tired? Maybe you should go get some rest. I have to get to work. Dallas and I will be out of your hair in just a few minutes.”

He knocked harder. I started to cry.

“Look at your mommy, Dallas. Look at her cry.” His voice was cool and steady, devoid of feeling.

He went on, “Look at your mommy cry. Dallas, you’re mommy is crazy. She’s insane. I’m sorry you have a crazy mommy.”

I stopped feeding my son and began to unbuckle the lap strap that secured him to the highchair.

“I’m going to work”, I said.

“You’re not taking Dallas today. He’s going to spend the day with me.”

Over my dead body!

I went back to the bedroom and called my sister. “[My husband] won’t let me leave the apartment without Dallas. I don’t know what to do.”

Within fifteen minutes there was a knock on my door. I looked out the front window and saw a police officer. I told my husband that my sister had called the police and I was letting them in.

He walked back to the bedroom and shut the door. I opened my front door and two uniformed officers from the Fresno Police Department stepped inside.

“Ma’am, are you okay?”

My sister came running up the stairs. She’d left her apartment as soon as she’d called the police. I was relieved to see her.

The police told me I would not be allowed to remove anything from the apartment. They would escort me down to my car, but if my husband came out of the bedroom and asked me to leave my child, they could NOT let me take my son to safety.

I walked down the hall and opened the bedroom door. My husband was lying on the bed. “Dallas and I are leaving.” No response.

We spent the day at my sister’s apartment, but when night came I had to go home. It would be a month and half before the nightmare ended, but that was the day my ex-husband learned that I wasn’t alone—my family would not let him hurt me anymore.

I’m happy to say that laws have changed. If this experience happened today, I don’t think the police would force a frightened young mom to leave her child behind with her abuser.

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