“I don’t know mom, sometimes I feel like I should go to St. Johns.” I breathed into the phone receiver of my land line. I had called my mom to wish her a Happy Birthday on the wintery February Utah morning, my two month old son rocking in his swing, sleeping snuggly. I was enjoying being home with my infant son, the gift of being furloughed from a government job.
“Then go.” Came her simple reply. Then go. Those two words hit me hard. Then go. They pounded in my heart and thrummed through my veins. Then go. My fingers began to tingle, my body, heart, brain and soul all coalescing. Then go. I had my answer. It was like I was just waiting to be given permission. The next hours passed quickly and in a blur. I must have told my mom I was leaving, though I do not remember anything more of that conversation.
Once things were set into motion, everything else fell into place. I began planning and packing. Valentine’s Day had come and gone and I still had decorations hanging through my house, the carpets needed vacuuming, the bathroom scrubbed, the kitchen swept and mopped, the dishes put away, the laundry done, and our fridge was nearly bare. I felt a strange urge to clean it all up, to leave my husband a clean house and frozen meals. I would need clothes and a few toys for my son and me. I had no cell phone, and no money coming in, my ex and I had separate accounts; I had no access to his money. My mom called my dad, and when he told his boss his daughter was leaving an abusive husband, she practically pushed him out the door. Out of the blue my best friend who I hadn’t talked to in weeks, called my house, I told her what I was doing, and she dropped everything to come to my house. As my human angels converged on my home, I packed and cleaned; blessedly my infant son slept on and needed little attention from me. As soon as everyone got there, my friend volunteered to go shopping for me while my parents helped me pack my car and prepare my house, I wrote a letter for my husband, explaining I was leaving with our son, and that we would be safe, I placed it on the coffee table.
We stood outside in the cold winter air, my son buckled into the back of the running car, I gave hugs to my parents and friend, my parents gave me my dad’s cell phone and their debit card and the cash they had been able to quickly scramble together. It was around 2 o’clock in the afternoon by this point, my husband would be getting off work around five and driving home through the rush hour commute after that. I needed to get on the road.
The car I was driving was a 9 year old, white 97’ Ford Escort, it had manual roll up windows, a moon roof that leaked, side view mirrors that had been wired on, and mechanical problems on and off during the last few years. I was running off faith it would make the 595 mile drive. I hardly remember the beginning of that drive, it wasn’t until I had been driving for about an hour, and driven past my husband’s place of work that I finally let loose and began to cry. I was overcome with emotion; my thick, hot tears blurring my vision, a prayer in my heart as I faced the most frightening experience in my life to that point. I was frightened the instant my ex came home and saw the letter, he would know exactly where I was headed, and he and his father would come after me. I literally had visions of him dragging me back home by my hair.
I kept driving. Normally a very active boy who wanted to be held and cuddled often, my son slept on, only waking to be fed, I, still a nursing mother with no formula or pumped milk on hand, found places to pull over and nurse him for twenty minutes at a time, in a church parking lot, on the side of the road in the middle of a canyon, anywhere I could find, keenly aware it was all precious driving time I could have been using to get further away. I sat in the back seat, and fed my son silently and quickly and got back in the drivers seat. I kept driving. My dad had called ahead and arranged a hotel room for me in Moab, the half-way point, and temporary destination. When the time I expected my husband to be home rolled around, I could feel the anxiety rising up my body. I kept driving.
I pulled into Moab around 8:30 pm the skies were dark, and the buildings along main street lit up. I was hungry, I went through the Wendy’s drive-though, then continued driving until I saw the pre-chosen hotel. I pulled in and checked in as quickly as possible. They gave me my key, and I found my room and let my son and myself in. I was so tired. Emotionally, and physically exhausted from the drive and events of the morning. I remember turning American Idol on the TV, anything to drum out the thoughts and fears threatening to overtake my head. I changed my son and laid him out on the bed, I’m sure it felt so good to him to stretch and not be in that car seat anymore. I fed him once more and then took the time to feed myself. I called my parents to find out what had transpired since my leaving and let them know we were safe and in the hotel. What I found out surprised me.
Upon coming home and finding my note, my husband first called my parents. They told him they knew where I was, and that I was safe, but they would give him no more information than that. Shortly after, officers showed up at my parents door. My husband was trying to file a missing persons report. My parents explained to the officers why I had left, they asked my parents if they knew where I was, they said they did and that I was safe. “Have a good day.” Was the response the officers gave. Next, my husband tried to get an Amber Alert activated, saying I had kidnapped our son. That did not go through either. I also called my best friend to find out my husband had called her to try and get information from her as well. I am so grateful my family and friends were strong enough to stand up to my husband where I was terrified of him. While none of these tactics worked out the way my husband had intended, what they did do was scare me, that he was willing enough to do those things shot fear into my heart, what would he try next?
I tried to sleep, I kept waking throughout the night, sleep eluding me as my brain was hyper active with the possibility that my husband and his father would know intuitively exactly where I headed and were on their way to take us back. St. Johns is the small Arizona town where my mom had grown up, much of her family still living there. My uncle, who had married my mom’s sister, was FBI trained and the chief of Police, I would be staying with them. I knew I could stay there and be safe. Around 4 am when sleep would no longer come, and my adrenaline began pumping through my veins with anticipation of my husband showing up any minute, flight kicked in, and I quickly packed, when I went to go check out of the hotel, the lobby doors were closed, I slipped my hotel key though the crack, and figured that the credit card my parents had used to reserve the room would cover the cost. I began driving again on the cold, dark winter morning. It felt good to be in motion again, I knew I wouldn’t feel safe or be able to relax until I arrived at my aunt and uncles home.
The sun began to rise as the miles ticked away, I waited for a decent time to call my aunt and tell her I was only a few hours away. It still seemed so far, I had to talk the panic down that tired to rise up in my body. When I finally arrived in St. Johns city limits, I began to relax. I love St. Johns, I have so many memories visiting there, and living there for three years in my middle school days. My mom’s family is so fun to visit and I feel loved and accepted by them. I was looking forward to seeing my Grammy, and visiting my Papa’s grave who had passed away a few years previously.
I rarely fully look back at this day, and as I do now I can see the angels who were there along my way and the miracles that happened. I believe there were nanny angels with my infant son as I drove my car, lulling him to sleep and keeping him entertained so he rarely cried. I believe there were mechanic angels who kept my car running and made sure I arrived to my destination without complication. I believe there were guardian angels who surrounded us and protected us, who guided me and inspired me so we were safe. I believe my Papa was there with me, by my side the entire time, whispering words of strength and encouragement, watching over me, and just being there so I would not be alone. I believe the reason my ex did not automatically think I had driven down to Arizona was a miracle, granted by God, taking that idea and option from his mind. I believe the authorities who were contacted as my ex tried to track me down were comforted and prompted to know there was nothing to worry about and no reason to get involved.
I arrived at my aunt’s house uneventfully, it felt good to be safe and warm and out of my car. She greeted us, and got the chance to meet my son for the first time. She helped me unpack my car and got me settled in her son’s room. I found myself in a room with a queen bed and Dallas Cowboy decorations on the walls. My aunt had things to do, kids to take care of, errands to run. Life did not stop for me, life went on and so did I.