Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
With the passing of Scott’s third birthday, left uncelebrated for the most part to await a party when Nate came home, I thought about my three years as a mom. As a whole, it hadn’t been that hard. I don’t know if I was very good at it, but it wasn’t hard. Nighttime feedings as an infant, teething, juggling him with school or work, our many moves, even potty training, none of it had been too hard.
What was hard was making excuses for his daddy every other day.
“Daddy just has to keep working at that place we go to.” He’s in prison.
“Daddy loves you, but he made a mistake and has to stay away for a while.” He’s a thief.
“You didn’t do anything wrong. Daddy wants to come home to you.” This is true, I think.
When we picked Nate up from prison this time, I prayed that it would be the last time we’d ever have to see him in prison blues or jailhouse orange, that we’d never have to see a prison again, and especially that it would be the last time he’d say, “I promise to do better. I’ll never hurt you again.”
I left behind all thoughts of leaving Nate. If he’d have been gone longer, who knows, maybe I’d have had a better plan. But now I was happy to have him home, happy that he just might this time have changed for real. I thought of all the letters he sent home, all the promises, all the bible scripture he shared to prove he was a changed man, and I wanted more than anything for that to be true. I needed it to be true.
“I’m going to work with Dad in Georgia,” he said after returning from yet another unsuccessful job hunt in town. “I have to get you two out of this dump.”
It was a nice idea, but it meant Scott and I were going to get left behind, again, even if just for a little while. Once again, we’d be on our own, and once again, I’d have to be the one who ties up all the loose ends, pack if we were moving, and let go of my new job at the newspaper.
Within weeks, Nate was ready for us and we bid farewell to Florida. Mom was upset that we were leaving her again after all her help, and I felt guilty about that, but surely she couldn’t fault me for wanting my family together in one place. Skipper didn’t seem to like the idea either, and I often felt like she saw more about me than I realized, but she wished us well and asked that I stay in touch.
Once we arrived in Georgia, I realized Nate wasn’t ready at all. He hadn’t found us a home and pretty much everything we owned went straight into storage. Scott and I spent long days in tiny used up motel rooms, moving from city to city. Though we weren’t running from the law this time (although it was unclear if Nate’s parole officer had actually granted permission for him to leave the state), it felt like Tennessee all over again.
We finally found a nice little trailer when Nate’s work travel ended in a small town. It was a relief, not only to be out of the motel rooms, but also because it was so many steps up from where Scott and I had been for the last couple of years. Who knew yet another trailer could offer what felt like a more luxurious lifestyle.
Every morning when Nate left for work, Scott would climb in bed with me and we’d “spend time” and work. That’s what Scott called it: “spending time.” He’d lug in a pile of books and we’d read together for a little while, and then he’d read on his own while I wrote. Our morning routine was special to us.
Life was looking up. Nate came home after work and spent time with us, went grocery shopping with us, and really seemed to appreciate being with us. We started looking at putting down roots, visiting house after house, looking at land, and really just making a new start at our future. Finally, here it was, what I knew we could do together, be together. I became thankful for prison, for what it taught us both. He valued family now, and I learned that I could make my dreams come true.
“We should have another baby.”
I looked at Nate, unable to hide my surprise.
“We don’t want kids too many years apart, right?” he asked.
No part of me ever dreamed we’d be talking about planning a child, but there we were. The idea of a new baby was both terrifying and exciting. If not now, when life was going so well, when? Nate hadn’t laid a hand on me or called me a single name since he’d been home, was clearly not out stealing anymore, and he and Scott had grown close again so fast, surely this was the right time. Silently, I thanked prison again.
I didn’t get pregnant right away. When you’re trying, it’s not so easy, yet when you’re not, it happens. Still, I knew it would happen and the timing would be perfect.
The so-called perfect timing came, however, right after Nate was laid off from his job. I immediately went looking for work myself and landed an interview at a local restaurant. I also suspected I was finally pregnant and made an appointment for a test. Both the appointment and the interview fell on the same day, and when I received the positive on the pregnancy, I just knew I would get the job, too. The timing might have been off, but life had been going well enough otherwise, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful, certain that all would be fine.
I worked nights waiting tables while Nate stayed home with Scott. I did quite well in tips and was able to continue supporting us, although I had to apply for Medicaid all over again for the pregnancy. Every time I was sure I was done with welfare, I was back on it again.
Just a couple months into my pregnancy, Nate’s younger brothers moved to Georgia and into the recently vacated trailer next to ours, and our life no longer seemed enough for Nate. He spent more and more time at their place, and less and less with us. I worked full time, late into the night, and Nate and his brothers would arrive with Scott in tow to pick me up, music blaring, the smell of alcohol in the car. And when we’d get home, Nate would disappear into the night with them. It was all beginning to feel just a little too familiar.
“Please don’t be like you were before,” I begged him.
“I’m my own man,” he said. “No one makes me do anything I don’t want to. Don’t worry.”
I wasn’t worried about someone making him do something he didn’t want to do. I was worried he would want to go back to his old lifestyle. It excited him much more than being a husband or father ever did. But I closed my mind to the idea that he would. He was a changed man. I was pregnant. We planned this baby. We were happy. That’s how it was supposed to be.
Out of the blue, Nate decided we needed to drive to Florida, that there was work waiting for him there. He promised he’d come home on the weekends, but he had to jump on this opportunity right away.
I called out of work and drove him to Florida, reluctant to leave him there as Scott cried for his daddy to come with us, and then drove the three hours home again. I quickly found someone from the classifieds to take care of Scott while I worked, and then I got myself back on schedule. No matter Nate’s promises that I didn’t need to work anymore, I was afraid to let my job go.
When two detectives came to visit me shortly after I returned that first night back to work, I knew there was no job in Florida.
“Where is your husband?”
“I don’t know,” I said, afraid of them, afraid for him, and afraid of him.
“You know. You do know. We’ve been watching you. Where were you? Where did you go? Where is he?” They fired question after question at me, and I stood there holding my serving tray over my shoulder, my customers staring at me, my boss watching from a distance.
I just shook my head. I didn’t know what to say.
“You tell us or we arrest you,” they said.
“We planned this baby!” I blurted, tears streaming down my face. It was all I could manage to say. How could he? How could he do this again?
I put my tray down and covered my face and my belly with my hands. I wanted to scream at them to leave me alone, at the customers to stop staring at me, and at Nate to tell him what a horrible person he was.
“We’re watching you,” they said, leaving as quickly as they came.
As soon as their car pulled away, I ran out the back service door and left the restaurant once and for all. I could never show my face again. I was humiliated and defeated.
Nate did it again. He was a master at ruining everything. I was the idiot for believing him. I was the idiot for staying with him instead of breaking it off while he was in prison. I was the idiot who didn’t want to listen to any doubt that things might be going wrong again. All I wanted was the simplest thing — happiness — and I couldn’t have it no matter how hard I tried.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!