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Outside the house, I heard an all too familiar sound. The car door had slammed. I knew in an instant the man who was about to walk through the front door was not the same sober man who left earlier that day.
I could hear Greg stumble up the driveway to the sidewalk, his feet shuffling. God, I didn’t want to go through this again.
As he approached the door, no one ran to greet him. Even the girls learned that being around a drunk was no fun. Greg walked into the kitchen and wanted my attention. He was slurring his words, swearing and cussing at me. Have you ever witnessed a drunk swearing and cussing? They don’t make any sense! If it had been anyone else, I would have started laughing. But past experience taught me to be very careful. Don’t laugh, don’t move, and don’t say a word.
At that moment, I reached down to pick up my purse. Knowing his condition, it was best for me to take the kids and leave the house. My purse contained everything I needed in order to leave. I made it a point to make sure I had some extra cash, a credit card, identification and car keys in my purse at all times. If ever anything was to happen, all I needed was my purse and off I could go.
Only not so fast. Greg grabbed the purse from my arm, breaking the leather strap that was attached. We had a pool in the backyard, and he tossed my purse into the cold water. I tried to go after it, but he wouldn’t let me get close.
I watched in horror as the contents of my purse got soaked in water. Pictures, makeup, pieces of paper, checkbook, all destroyed. At this point, Greg was pushing me toward the door. The girls were starting to cry because all they could see was their drunken daddy hurting their mother. They wanted him to stop, but he refused. I didn’t have any shoes on and the girls were half dressed.
I pleaded with him to at least let me pack some clothes for the girls. But he absolutely refused to allow me to bring a diaper for my youngest or shoes for anyone else. Whatever clothing we were wearing was what we were allowed to leave with.
As I stood on the front porch with five small, half-naked children, Greg slammed the door behind us. I knew I needed to stay strong, yet I didn’t have a clue where we could go. I guess I could have walked to a neighbor’s house, but I didn’t really know the neighbors. Besides, our neighbors liked us. They didn’t have a clue what really happened behind closed doors, and I was too embarrassed to have them find out.
I turned around and rang the doorbell. I wanted to plead with Greg to give me the car keys. The very least he could do was allow me to take my vehicle. Greg came to the door, but would only scream “GO AWAY!” through the door.
I knew if I pushed my luck any further, I could be risking my life. Instead, I reluctantly turned around and headed down the street.
With my youngest daughter on my hip, the girls and I walked very slowly down the sizzling, hot sidewalk. My feet began to hurt as I hurried across the blistering pavement. My 4 year old began to cry, so I put her on my back. While carrying two of my daughters, and having two other by my side, not to mention my little niece who was only there for a visit, I didn’t know what to direction to take.
I found myself walking a mile up the road to the nearest payphone. There, I dialed 911 for help. I wasn’t sure what kind of help they could provide, but at that moment desperation had set in. I couldn’t go home, yet I had no place to go.
Two police cars arrived shortly thereafter. As I stood by the patrol cars, I tearfully explained what had just happened. One of the policemen told me he would drive back to my house to see if he could get Greg to open the door. At the very least, he would try to get some shoes and clothes for us so that we could get properly dressed.
The police arrived at the door and demanded to be let in. Greg was clueless that anyone was even knocking on the door. Apparently he had passed out on the living room couch and didn’t know anyone was knocking. The policeman told me he walked around to the side windows of the house where he saw Greg sound asleep. After several attempts to get his attention, the police stopped trying. I was told that in the state of Arizona, unless they had a search warrant to physically enter the house, their hands were tied.
The officer drove back to where the girls and I were standing and gave me a list of domestic violence shelters we would stay at for the night. They also gave me the name of a cab company that would provide transportation. I immediately called for the cab and we were driven to the shelter.
The cab left, but too soon. I found out the shelter was filled, no vacancies.
There I stood inside this shelter with five small children feeling very homeless and scared. By this time, night was beginning to fall, and street lights were beginning to come on.
The woman at the shelter didn’t have the heart to turn us away, yet she legally couldn’t allow us to stay as there were no beds available. She began to call around to different hotels in the area asking the manager of each hotel if they would be willing to put us up for the night, free of charge. After several failed attempts, she finally reached a manager who agreed. Not only did he agree to one night, he actually agreed to three free nights.
I was pleasantly surprised and so thankful that this woman went the extra mile to find us a place to stay. At that point, I didn’t care where we slept, as long as it wasn’t at home with that drunken bum who was passed out on the couch.
The woman called for another cab, and within minutes we were on our way across town to the hotel. The cab operator was very talkative and easy going, with a wonderful sense of humor. She was curious in her own way and felt comfortable enough to ask me what happened.
As I proceeded to explain to her what had taken place, she became more and more willing to listen. For the first time that evening, I actually had an adult to talk to. The cab ride seemed like it took hours. As we talked, the more the cab driver seemed inclined to help. When she asked if I had any money, I told her I wasn’t allowed to bring my purse.
Would you believe she drove the girls and me to a grocery store? She went inside while we stayed behind. She came out with this bag full of groceries, and told me that the food and milk was for the girls and me to eat over the next three days. I don’t remember a time in my life when I ever felt more grateful.
When we arrived at the hotel, she helped the girls and me to our room. I don’t know her name, but I will never forget her smile. The look in her eyes was like an angel looking over me. I gave her a big hug, and said my goodbyes. The girls and I settled into our hotel room and took showers prior to turning in for the night. The night seemed so calm and peaceful. We watched a little television and fell asleep.
At 2:00 a.m. the telephone rang. I knew it couldn’t be Greg, as he didn’t have a clue where we were. I couldn’t imagine who could have found us, yet I was curious to find out. I answered the phone. The man on the other end told me there was a suitcase in the lobby for me.
As he had awakened me from a sound sleep, I didn’t quite understand what he was telling me. I decided to get dressed and go down to the lobby to find out what it was about. There, the hotel clerk stood holding a suitcase. He proceeded to tell me that an African-American woman had dropped it off about 30 minutes ago and wanted to be sure I received it.
I couldn’t imagine who he was talking about until it dawned on me -- it must have been the lady who drove us to the grocery store and hotel. I took the suitcase and went back to my room. When I entered the room, the girls were still sound asleep.
I unzipped the suitcase and found a tremendous amount of clothing, shoes, hairbrushes, makeup, underwear, diapers, bottles, toothbrushes, paste and shampoo. There was a small note tucked inside that read, “I came back home tonight and went around to all of my friends and neighbors collecting goods for you and your children. I hope I have given you the right sizes. God bless you!”
I sat down the edge of my bed and shed more tears than I ever had in my life. Not because I was feeling sorry for myself, rather, I was so appreciative of the fact that this complete stranger helped the girls and me through our very tough situation.
I never got the chance to see or meet her again, and I didn’t even know her name. But to this day, I still call her my guardian angel. She was my savior that night, and I will never forget the wonderful gifts she gave us. How lucky and blessed I was to have met someone with such a loving and giving heart.
For the next three days, the girls and I had one big pajama party. We watched HBO, played miniature golf and laughed a lot. For the first time in months, I was smiling and having some fun. Everything I wanted in life was in the same room as me.
My thoughts would occasionally drift to Greg, but not as often as they should have. At this point, he still didn’t know where we were, as I refused to call him. Since I didn’t see my picture on the 5 o’clock news as a missing person, I figured he didn’t care anyway.
The girls and I went home on the fourth day. I called Greg to pick us up at the hotel. He arrived smiling and happy to see the girls. I still felt angry with him and didn’t have anything to say. It was very difficult to hold back my emotions when my kids were present. What I really wanted to do is rip his heart out for the pain he had caused my daughters and me. But I knew it was senseless. He was too drunk to remember all the fine details.
That was the difference between Greg and me. I refused to forget, whereas he refused to remember.
We arrived home a few moments later, and as I walked into the house, I noticed Greg had pulled my purse from the bottom of the pool. Everything was spread all over the kitchen counter. He was attempting to dry everything out.
The pictures were ruined, as were most of the contents. There wasn’t much I could to do to salvage what was left, so I simply turned to Greg and gave him a “look” and walked away.
He knew he was wrong, but was too proud to apologize.
Fast forwarding my life to 2013, I am on a new mission. I have a message I would like to send to my angel that night.
I want to thank you! You are out there somewhere in this big world of ours. You know who you are and what you did for me and my family. I will NEVER forget you. You were the taxi driver who worked in Glendale AZ back in the 90s who picked up my family and brought us to safety. Someone knows you……you’ve shared my night with others because you went around collecting clothes, shoes and diapers from your friends to give to us at the hotel. You spent your night’s wages buying food for us.
Please help me find you……I just want to tell you how much you have changed my life. You………are an angel!“
My heart still carries this angel with me wherever I go. I think about her all the time and I hope that she is well and safe. She saved my life that night. Imagine being on the street without an I.D. and few clothes on your back…no help…no place to sleep…no money…no food…5 kids. Imagine going back to the person who did this to you.
You’ve just imagined codependency. This was my life for 14 years.
I no longer live that life, but I have been on a journey ever since to help women who do. I want to pay it forward and be an angel to someone else. I want to show people who live in abusive situations that they have a voice. I hope now my voice can be heard loud and clear.