You could call this part two of a terrible and inspirational life story. On July 22, 2006, I decided it was time to leave my abusive husband for the sake of my five-year-old son. However, I didn't actually leave until August 3rd. The need for extreme caution and precise detail delayed my departure. I would only have one chance to do this. There would be no room for errors.
Those 12 days were agonizing. I had finally realized I needed to get out of the marriage. I had set the plan in motion. But for almost two weeks, I was trapped in that house. In addition, I had to pretend like nothing was happening. It was a chaotic time for me. I couldn't sleep. I could barely make it through each day.
Inside, I was a mess of emotions. Yet, I acted as if nothing had changed. At no point could I let the secret betray me. My life depended on my ability to hide the truth.
To make matters worse, I had no clue what was transpiring outside of my home. I had sent an email to my mother, begging for help. She replied, "It's about time." That was all the communication we had on the subject. We didn't dare say more. My husband, Greg, controlled our email server. He had complete access to all incoming and outgoing messages. I couldn't risk him learning about the plan.
So, I was left in the dark. I knew plans were being made. I didn't know what they were. I didn't know who was involved. I didn't know when it would take place. I was frantic to get out and desperate for knowledge.
Each day dragged on. I took care of Joseph. We played together, as always. I tried to think of special treats and activities to make him happy. I knew his life was about to be turned up-side-down.
I cried when Greg hurt me. I accepted his sexual advances, even though his touch made me want to scream. Every night, I lay awake beside the monster who abused me. I wondered if the torment would ever end.
Behind the scene, unknown to me, was a bustle of activity. My parents were in contact with several lawyers and a family friend who worked for the police. My own online friends and home assistant were also involved. Even people within the local deaf-blind community knew what was going on and were trying to help. They had devised various schemes, as if developing a war mission. They called it "Operation Escape."
Under no circumstances could Greg know I was leaving until Joseph and I were safely away. We could not risk a confrontation. He could beat me, even kill me. He could flee with Joseph and carry out his threat that I would never see my son again.
We also had to worry about the law. It's not a wise idea to remove a child from his home state. The court in Maryland could rule that I had no right to take Joseph. They could force me to return with him or turn him over to his father. My parents and supporters reviewed the details again and again. There would be only one shot. If we made a single mistake, all could be lost.
I finally learned about the plan on July 31st. My home assistant came for her once a month session to help me with appointments, phone calls and opening mail. Sarah was, of course, working with my parents to help me escape. She had been assisting me for about a year. For her to come on that Monday would not alert Greg. It was the safest way to let me know what was going on.
Sarah took me to pick up my leg braces from the repair shop. It was the kind of thing she usually did. After, we went to Bob Evans for lunch. The hard part would be talking without Joseph overhearing anything important. Sarah was ready for that. She brought her pre-teen aged daughter along to keep Joseph busy.
While the children happily sat at the bar to eat their lunch, Sarah and I were able to speak freely at a table. I learned that "Operation Escape" would occur on Thursday, August 3rd. My parents and a friend were driving from Ohio on Wednesday with two vans. They would stay overnight at a hotel. Once Greg left for work, they would come to rescue Joseph and I.
Using a speaker phone, I was able to ask my father questions. Sarah signed into my hands to interpret for him. After the call, Sarah and I made a list of everything I wanted to take with me. She would type it up and send it to my parents. Each person helping with the move would have a copy.
Once back at home, I began counting down the days to my freedom. I counted how many meals were left to be eaten together. I counted down the hours the minutes. Time seemed to pass so slowly. I was both excited and terrified. I couldn't pack. That would give it away. Instead, I began to clean and organize. I had everything as ready as I could.
Fear filled my heart when I couldn't find the key to my parents' house. It was on a key ring that would identify to Greg that it was their key. If I didn't find that key, they would have to change their locks. I began emptying drawers and cabinets as quietly as possible. I had a story ready about what I was looking for. But Greg never noticed what I was doing. I felt so relieved when I found the key.
On Wednesday night, we went to McDonalds for dinner. While Joseph played in the kid's area, Greg made crude sexual jokes and got angry with me because I hadn't written his new resume. I promised to do it the next day. I knew it was a promise I wouldn't keep. I didn't care. I concentrated on my count downs. I would not let myself fall apart.
I almost lost it over the hamburger buns. On the way home, we stopped at the store to get bread so I could pack Greg's lunch. As I picked up the bread to make his sandwich, I noticed he had also bought a pack of buns. I realized they were for Thursday night's dinner... a dinner that would never happen. I was overcome with sadness at the thought of a family dinner that would never be.
August 3rd finally arrived. Greg got up that morning with no idea of what was going to happen. He kissed me good-bye as I lay in bed. I said "Have a good day." I knew I'd never be saying that to him again. I pretended to go back to sleep, and I waited.
When I knew he was gone, I got Joseph up and dressed. I told Joseph we had a special visitor coming. I didn't want to tell him more or do anything else until my parents arrived. I was afraid Greg might come back.
My parents, a family friend, Sarah and her son all came to help with the move. It was frantic and messy. We didn't try to keep the house nice and neat. We didn't have time for that. All I could do was sit on the couch as the others raced about around me. I was shaking with fear. I didn't know if I had the strength to go through with this.
We had only two mini vans. I couldn't take everything. We focused on clothes, braille books, my adaptive technology and special mementos. We got Joseph's bike and some of the toys he picked out. Most of his books, toys and stuffed animals had to be left behind. I lost many of my possessions, as well. That didn't matter. They were just things. We could replace them later.
The house was left in utter disarray. Greg would know something was wrong the second he walked through the door. I had taped a lawyer's business card to his computer monitor and left him an email to explain why I was leaving. I warned him not to come after us. I was ready to call the police if he did. I wanted him to know how serious I was. There would be no going back. It was over.
We set off as fast as we could. Speed was crucial, but we moved slowly. Our two vehicles were filled to the brink with four adults, a child, a dog and our belongings. The temperature was over 100 degrees. We had an eight hour drive to make it to Ohio. We estimated that we had a four hour lead on Greg. But he would be in a faster car without children, dogs and luggage to slow him down.
At last, we arrived at my parents' house. It was raining. We needed to get the vans unloaded into the garage. My mother's car was stalled in there. We had to jump the engine to get it out of the way. It seemed like everything was taking too long.
Joseph was restless after the long trip. He rode his bike in the rain while my brother watched him closely. The police and neighbors all knew what was happening. Everyone was looking out for signs of trouble.
I waited inside, still in shock and terrified. I was imagining how furious Greg must be. Three words kept repeating through my mind. "He has guns. He has guns." I truly believed my life was in danger.
I didn't know what to do. I was too scared to think. Joseph sensed the tension and was worried too. We decided to go to a women's shelter. It was the only way to ensure our safety. My mother came along, as well. I needed her for communication and mental support.
At the safe house, I was considered high risk. Still, they were equipped to protect us. Joseph laughed and played with the other kids. My mother tried to calm down. I just sat there. I could not talk. I could not read. I could do nothing but sit. I was truly paralyzed with fear. I did not sleep again that night.
It was, indeed, the most frightening day of my life. It was also the start of my freedom. I wasn't ready to understand or enjoy that yet. It would be a long time before I felt safe and secure. One thing is clear, on August 3rd, 2006; I found my strength and did what I had to do. Afraid or not, I persevered. The rest would happen little by little. One small step at a time.