This is a picture of my oldest son, Anthony. We call him Tony, he was only three-years-old at the time. Nothing is really out of the ordinary in this picture, right? It was his first time catching a fish in Almond, North Carolina on a camping trip.
But there’s one thing- I wasn’t there.
It was March of 2016. I had been ecstatic to be picking up my older two daughters for a weekend visit. I had talked about this all week long. I would have all five of my babies together. I was so excited.
I made arrangements with the girls’ father. I worked my normal teaching job from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Since I was living in Athens, Georgia and traveling to Lawrenceville, Georgia, I actually set my alarm clock for 4:30 a.m. most mornings. After work, I drove to Warner Robins, Georgia to pick up the girls. We then headed home.
I begged and pleaded for my husband to not create any sort of chaos during our visit.
Next thing I knew, his girlfriend had my husband drive her a good hour and a half away to pick up her two children. Looking back, I realize that this was a ploy all along. They KNEW how much this weekend meant to me, and they destroyed it.
I told my husband that I would just like to do my own thing with the girls, just not to make a scene. That didn’t happen.
I tried to hide the fact of who this girl really was too. I knew it wasn’t normal, but I had no say so in the situation. The incident that occurred this weekend is what triggered me to start researching about getting out of an abusive relationship.
My husband said that we were all going camping. Great idea with seven kids, right? I had no choice but to comply.
I drove my red 2010 Ford Focus with my three girls, and my youngest son, Jakob (Jake). Unfortunately, I was one seat short, so Tony had to ride with his dad and the girlfriend- and her two kids in a separate vehicle.
They had my son, so I followed. We rode, and rode, and rode literally ALL day. Both my husband and the girlfriend acted erratically. They were screaming, fighting, cussing. Everything I had previously begged them NOT to do, they did.
We couldn’t find a camping spot that was good enough in North Georgia, so we pulled over into a gas station. “What are we doing?”, I asked. “The children are hungry, they are all crying. I didn’t pick my girls up to spend time in the car all day together!”
He became irate. How dare I question him.
Next thing I knew, he jumped in his car, leaving me on the side of a mountain with my girls and baby, in North Georgia. My phone was out of range, and I had NO idea what to do or where to go.
I couldn’t believe it. It was going on midnight. I had no choice but to turn around and try to remember how to get home. I sobbed the entire way home. “Girls, I am so sorry. Next time you see me, you will not have to worry about him again (or her). I’m just going to have to figure all of this out.”
As I cried, they kept saying, “Mama, it’s okay- this isn’t your fault.” I had to take them back to their dads house the next day because they had school that following Monday. I knew in my gut, that it would be the last time I would see them for a long time.
And I was right.
That was the last time I saw my older two daughters. From that day forward, my life spired out of control. It’s been 14-months since I’ve seen my girls. This past week, I gave insight on some of the things going on in my life to my oldest daughter, Aubrey- who just turned 13-years old a week ago. I’ve been in contact with them and look forward to reestablishing relationships with them in the very near future.
After we finally made it home, I ended up having to make the long ride back to Warner Robins to take the girls home the next day. A friend of mine came over and we talked about my situation. She picked up our pottery that was ready for pick-up from a couple of weeks prior, when I took them to paint pottery. That was a better memory that I’ll always have. Painting pottery together.
We had so much fun.
After the girls were gone, it was just me and Jakob, he was 2-years-old at the time. Hannah, my daughter who lived with me, was in school. My husband would not answer any phone calls. I had no idea if my three-year old son was okay. I panicked.
Days went by. I started receiving messages from his girlfriends’ family asking where SHE was. They told me it was very unlike her to just take off like that. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach. I called the Graham County Sheriff’s Department. I described my son’s age and what he was wearing. I told them that I lived about two and a half hours away, give or take. I had not heard from my husband and did not know the status of my son. I was extremely worried.
I had barely any gas left in my car.
It was unnerving. A sheriff went out to the camping spot, the only one I knew of- to check and see if she could find any trace of them. I explained that he may be in the company of another woman and two of her kids.
The Sheriff’s Office called me back and said, “We’ve found them.” She put my husband on the phone.
He was laughing.
“We’re on our way back, chill out. We were just about to pack up our things.” I hung up the phone. I took my two-year-old baby to a park. Although I can’t remember the name of it, I fell in love with it. It was beautiful. I watched him climb up and down the stairs on the playground. If not for me, I have to do something- fast, for them.
I sat and thought. I reflected on the past six years. How I had been estranged from everyone I’d known and loved.
It was going on dark, late in the evening when they finally arrived. My husband could hardly wait to tell me about all of the fun they had. They had a blast, in what was “our special spot”.
Tony caught his first fish, and I couldn’t even be apart of it because the girls and my young son had been abandoned… STRANDED in the middle of nowhere!
I did everything I could, at that point on to distance my children and myself to him. I had a feeling that things would get worse, and they did.