One year ago today, I packed my 18 month old daughter, cats and everything I owned into a Ford Taurus and 4’x6′ U-Haul trailer and began the physical trek to regain my freedom from a life of abuse and fear. In abuse cases, a simple paper signed by a judge does not end the torment and terror. In most cases, it opens the door for even more emotional, spiritual and verbal abuse if not death. I was in fear of my life. I was in fear of my daughter’s life. I can’t explain why. He wanted me to feel that way. He would deny it but then he’d say something or do something that I could not ignore as “off-handed.” I had to leave Oregon. It was not where I wanted to live from the beginning and although I had met some really great people, I did not want to stay. I gave up all my financial status to make sure my divorce granted me full physical and legal custody and allowed for me to move ANYWHERE with my daughter.
After much deliberation, I decided to make the move to Fort Worth, Texas to live with my Sister-Friend, her husband and infant son till I got my feet back under me. Thankfully my Sister-Friend flew up from Texas to help me drive from Beaverton, Oregon to Fort Worth, Texas. I’m not sure I could have done it alone. Her mere presence made the journey real and possible. My ex-husband didn’t show up to stand in the way or complicate things. Personally I think it was because he was afraid of my Sister-Friend and the perceived power she has to make his life difficult if he ever returned to Hawai`i. She is untouchable. I had comfort in knowing I was with someone who would know if anything happened to me. The belief that I would “disappear” and my daughter would never know me began to fade away.
It started out as a 2,136 mile trip. We were going to drive to Colorado, spend the night and then go on to Texas. It didn’t quite work out that way. Weather became a HUGE obstacle almost immediately. Our trip ran three days longer than expected, forced us to bypass Denver and increased the distance travelled to 2,408 miles. We traveled through a freak blizzard, at night over “Dead Man’s Pass” while the Oregon Department of Transportation closed the road behind us due to poor visibility and slick conditions. After we modified our route we still faced torrential rains, ice storms, dust storms, brush fires and even LOCUSTS. Thankfully, nobody mentioned “FROGS”.
We also viewed the beauty of our great nation as we traveled the West. We witnessed base jumpers from Australia who had traveled to Twin Rivers, Idaho just to jump 486 feet from the deck of the Perrine Bridge to the banks of the Snake River below. We saw the vast emptiness of Nevada where we imagined alien invasions would do well. We saw free range cows right up on the interstate and were thankful we didn’t drive at night. The MASSIVE power station that feeds Las Vegas was mind blowing. The Hoover Dam was a highlight but surprisingly we were a little “disappointed” by it. Movies like “Superman” and “Fools Rush In” made it seem so grande. We expected we’d be able to stop or even toss a silver dollar over the edge as we crossed the state line. But no. It’s a small two lane road and there’s no way to zip across it with the top down and throw anything. It was crowded with pedestrians and we crawled through at a snails pace. Not to mention we had to stop and be inspected by security before we could cross. Still the Hoover Dam was impressive. The water level was scary low, the new bridge was awe inspiring and we still felt the romance of crossing it.
There was still so much to see as we continued our travel to Texas. A creepy spider like structure hidden in a valley turned out to be a concrete plant. Mountains with defined snow and tree lines, elk, large birds of prey, striated rocks, towns so small that if the speed limit hadn’t dropped down to 20 mph, they would never have been seen. And then we entered Texas.
HUGE signs declaring Ranch names. Oil fields. Wide, flat roads and at our first gas stop, a man sporting a huge cowboy hat, denim shirt, shiny belt buckle bigger than his chest, skinny jeans, snakeskin cowboy boots and shiny SPURS!! Not to mention he had a thick drawl and was fueling up his shiny white caddy with HORNS on the hood. Oh boy!
After quite the trip with a baby, cats and weather along for the ride, we arrived at our destination with the sun still in the sky. Texas would be my home for the next 10 weeks. I began my recovery and looked for places to call home. I reconnected with my daughter in a way I was afraid to do before within the shadow of abuse I had been living in. We laughed more, we played more, we developed our own language.
The last year has been full of huge changes for both my daughter and myself. She is still the most amazing, well mannered, easy going girl she always had been, but now she’s more confident and beginning to show signs of a child in a stable, happy & safe environment. I am regaining my voice and remembering those activities that bring me joy. I still have a lot of growth to do to shake the mental scars of what I went through, but I can say, I am on my way. My journey began a year ago. I don’t believe I’ve reached my final destination yet, but I am definitely on the right course.