During the 'year of return' to my marriage, the drinking and violence escalated while I watched a normal, happy life slip away from my family. I realized that my husband was a very unhappy man and that by spreading his unhappiness to others, he was trying, foolishly, to negate the grief inside of him. But, his efforts produced more grief through the ensuing shame. His promises of reform and counseling were ridiculed and my hope was nearly gone.
Leaving now was no longer just a statement, it was a decision of life or death for he told me that if I ever left again - I would die. As in any war, appeasement seldom guaranteed peace. It takes two sides to create a lasting peace, and the enemy hid behind the face of my husband where reason and delusion battled for control.
My first angel lived across the street. Janet's daughter and my daughter were best friends, and as I had previously requested, my daughter was welcomed in Janet's house whenever violence erupted in my home. After one such eruption that ended with a broken window and my husband fleeing just before the police arrived, I went to retrieve my daughter from Janet's house. As she poured a cup of coffee, she told me her story.
"From the time I could remember, my father beat my mother. We would ask her why she stayed with him, and her answer was always that at least he was not harming me and my sister.
The years passed and my sister and I grew into our teens. That is when the nighttime visits started. My sister and I would lie in our beds praying that my father would not prowl the house that night. Still, many nights filled with dread, I would hear my bedroom door open. Worse still was the relief I felt when I heard my sister's bedroom door open instead of mine.
I left home when I was sixteen, and I never went back until my mother called to say that my father had died. My only reason for attending the funeral was to make sure that he was truly dead because then, perhaps, my nightmares would end.
I know you think that you are protecting your daughter, but believe me - their violence cannot be controlled and it will not stop with you." I took her advice and started planning my escape.
My opportunity arrived when my husband was fired from yet another job. He had been the night manager at a distillery and his midnight drinking caused his dismissal when discovered by management. Feeling wrongly abused, he announced that he was taking a trip to Florida to find a new job. He would be gone three to four weeks. Meanwhile, I was to get the house on the market and start packing. It was an opportunity made in heaven.
My second set of angels were my parents. I laid out my plans to them on the phone and within a few days, my daughter was whisked away to Connecticut on a jet. Putting my seven year old daughter on the plane was the hardest thing I have ever done. Anguish gripped me until I received the phone call from my parents that she had arrived safely in Connecticut.
Now that I knew she was safe, I contacted a realtor to list the house. In a short time, we had a viable buyer and with my husband's permission, I accepted the offer. I then went to a lawyer and filed for a divorce. Giving him my power of attorney guaranteed that I would not need to be present at the closing of the house for I intended to be in Connecticut before my husband returned from Florida. I also gave my employer two weeks notice.
Then my third set of angels arrived. My sister and her husband drove from Tennessee to help me pack. Together we packed half of everything - dishes, towels, furniture, books, and appliances. The moving company picked up the packed items for storage, and the rest of the household contents I left for my husband.
During this flurry of activity, my husband called every day from Florida. Thankfully, I could discuss many of my activities with him - selling the house, packing, etc. - as this was what he had instructed me to do before he left. He was moving closer to another job as they had scheduled a second interview.
The problem arose when he asked to talk to our daughter. In the first few days, I could easily manage the lying. "She went to bed early tonight. She is over at Janet's house. She is playing outside." However, as days increased into weeks, my husband became suspicious. I colored pictures and wrote infantile letters in crayon to mail to his hotel as evidence that everything was fine, but still his anxiety increased with each phone call.
I knew when I started this flight, that he may come home before I could get away, and this was the reason I sent my daughter ahead of me to Connecticut. Still, I hoped that I would complete my escape before he returned. I knew his consequences would be deadly.
My last day of work and I was to leave that night. Unfortunately, the check from my closed pension fund was delayed one day, and I needed that money to make the trip to Connecticut. Frantically, I called our home office begging for the check. The most they could promise is that it would arrive with the morning mail. The problem was my husband was due to arrive that day as well.
One more night in that house. I propped boards against the doors in case my husband came home earlier than expected. I woke before dawn, packed the car and drove to a coffee shop close to my office to wait for their morning mail delivery. When the office opened, I quickly took the elevator and, praise God, the check was there. Another elevator ride and I cashed the check at the bank on the main floor. It was December 6th, I was twenty six years old and I was driving from Kentucky to Connecticut; alone. I later learned from Janet that my husband arrived home around ten-thirty that morning.
My plan was to make the thirteen hundred mile trip in two days with an overnight stay in Yorktown, Ohio. Because I had never driven more than an hour at a time, I would make rest stops every two hours to keep myself refreshed. The first day went smoothly. I was on the road by 10:00 a.m., so I stopped for lunch at twelve o'clock and again at two o'clock I took a rest break. I pushed through to Yorktown, arriving at five o'clock; just in time for dinner. I checked into a chain hotel and had dinner in their dining room. The problem arose while watching the local evening news. A major snowstorm was approaching from the west and should arrive in Yorktown overnight.
I called my father in Connecticut and expressed my rising panic over the approaching snowstorm. Calmly, he told me to call him in the morning after breakfast, and then together we would decide if I should continue the trip or stay in Yorktown. Still anxious, I prayed. "Please God, I pray that your angels will protect me on this trip. You know how fearful I am about driving in the snow, so please, let your angels hold back the storm until I reach my parents home."
The next day the fourth set of angels arrived. In the morning, a quick check of the parking lot showed that the snowstorm was still west of Yorktown, so I went downstairs for breakfast. After breakfast, I returned to my room and listened to the local station for weather updates while I packed. The weather man stood before a colored map showing that the storm had slowed over western Ohio, and although still moving, there was no clear ETA for Yorktown. Filled with hope in my prayer of the night before, I called my father and told him I was continuing the trip.
I drove all morning stopping at a little diner in Pennsylvania for lunch. While sipping my coffee, large flakes of snow started to fall. I quickly paid the waitress and returned to the highway with another prayer on my lips. By the time I reached a New Jersey truck stop in late afternoon, the snow was still behind me. But then, I got lost in New York. I must have missed my turn after the Tappenzee Bridge because I never did find the Hutchinson Parkway. I panicked believing that surely the approaching snowstorm would overtake me. Still, two hours later after frantic phone calls to my father and dizzying directions from gas station attendants, I finally pulled into my parents driveway greeted by a downpour of sleet.
The angels had loosed the storm just as I pulled into the driveway, and I had made it to Connecticut safely.