Ever Changing Normal

 

Names of the people in my story have been changed to protect their identity.

 

            Conforming to a standard, usual, typical or expected is the definition of normal.  Whatever normal was for me it was not a constant, it was ever changing, during this time.  Daily functions like getting in my car, driving to work were no longer routine activities.  Simple things that I took for granted took on a whole new meaning.

            This was what my “normal” routine was like during this time period.  When I woke in the morning, if I was able to sleep, the first thing that would come to mind was that someone wanted to kill me.  I am not sure how I survived this period.  Nothing could have prepared me for this.  I still thought there was safety in that restraining order and the gated community.  The only vulnerable times in my mind were the travel time to work and the time my car was in the parking lot at work.  I felt that my car was fairly safe at home because I lived in a gated community with someone physically in the guard house at all times.

            My adventure started when I walked out the door.  My new tendency or “normal” was to always look around wherever I went to see if he was nearby.  I am not sure what I would have done if I saw him.  At this time I did not have a conceal carry license and did not know anything about self-defense.  I didn’t have a garage so I would physically walk around the car and peek underneath before I unlocked the door.  Like I said earlier I wasn’t even sure what to look for, but I looked.

            I cautiously unlocked the door and climbed in the car.  There was that brief hesitation when I put the key in the ignition and took that deep breath and closed my eyes as I turned the key.  I was constantly wondering if he had succeeded in his quest to purchase explosives without law enforcement being notified.  This was the process for getting in my car and starting it up every time.  Mind you, with all this going on I couldn’t tell anyone what was happening because it was an ongoing investigation.  I kept everything inside and tried to act like others expected me to act.  You might be wondering “How the hell do you do that?”  I am not sure other then I kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept focusing on whatever I needed to do next.  I was living in an environment where I knew there may be a bomb set to go off, but I had no idea where or when.

            Starting the car was just half of the journey of getting from point A to point B.  The drive was as stressful as the turning over of the engine.  I would look at each passing car to see if I saw him or I would wonder if the person driving by was hired to kill me.  When I looked in the rear view mirror it was to study the cars and people behind me.  Was he there?  Where they following me?  My driving habits changed.  I made sure there was enough space between my car and the vehicle in front of me in case I needed to make a quick getaway.  I was ready to jump the median or ram the cars in the adjacent lane to create a path that would allow me to get away from the threat.  There was no time to relax and breathe.

            This is how I lived my life for what seemed like forever.  It was a very stressful time.  Get up, get ready for work, walk outside looking all around, walk around the car, look under the car, drive to work while always looking to the left, right and behind me, walking through the parking lot with my head on a swivel, and looking like nothing was wrong. I knew nothing of his plan.  I would wonder what would come first, enough evidence to convict him or my death.  I am not sure what kept me going but I felt the stress was impacting my health.

            I viewed my office and my home as my safe spaces.  For some reason I thought he couldn’t get to me if I was in these places.  That might have been a defense mechanism so that I could let my guard down a little, or I might have felt a false sense of security.

            We can’t forget the ongoing legal battle between my attorney and his was still raging on, everything from his attorney still trying to get the restraining order dissolved to pursuing claims for me to pay his attorney fees.    All this time the informant was wearing a wire and getting audio evidence of Paul’s plan to kill me.  Wars aren’t won all at once.  There are times when it just takes one battle at a time to win the war.  Like the proverbial watched pot that never boils, that is what it was like.  It seemed everything was moving in slow motion.  Nothing was happening quickly and all I wanted was for it to be over so I could have my life back.  The sheriff’s office continued to get the evidence of Paul’s intentions.

            The day I thought would never come finally did!  They had enough evidence, and he was arrested.  Finally it was over…or was it?  Was it the end or just the beginning of another nightmare?  I remember Dean telling me that he had been arrested.  There was a sense of relief, but that didn’t last long.  This was just the start of another nightmare.  Just like in the movies, it is never over when someone is arrested.  It just moves the fight to another arena.  A legal battle can be just as stressful as the event itself.  You could view the arrest as a battle being won but the war was still on going and I could see no end in sight.  The things that I discovered from Paul’s conversations with the informant along with items they found in his house just showed me how little I knew about what was going on and how exposed I was even when I thought I was safe.

           The recordings from the informant were conversations with Paul that were very disturbing.  Things he talked about doing showed a very dark side to this person.  I understand that people can change, but how could I have been so wrong about someone I thought cared and loved me.  Where did this dark side come from and where had it been hiding?  I found out the he hired an investigator to follow me.  Remember the photos that he took from my house?  He took more than just photos.  There where items I thought I had misplaced that were found in his home.  Items like my class ring, pins that I was awarded for years of employment service at my job, to name a few.  The most disturbing of them all was a map of my gated community with my home marked on it.  He had been inside the gated community where I lived!  He was identified by the guards at the community as someone that was allowed to enter the development so he could get to the real estate office because he convinced them he was interested in purchasing a place.  This is why I feel gated communities are a false sense of security.  They basically keep the law abiding citizens out.

            The things he did and talked about on the tape were crazy.  He was very meticulous about finding the proper place to put the explosives on my car to do the most damage.  He actually went to the Ford dealer and told the salesman a story about how his wife had a phobia about car salesmen.  He was allowed to test drive a Mustang like mine without a salesman along so that he could take it to his house and show his supposed wife.  He wasn’t showing the car to anyone.  He had no wife because he was divorced.  He took the car into his garage and inspected it to find a place to put the explosive on the under carriage that would do the most damage.

           I also found out the mechanical issue that I had, which cost about $800 to repair, was not a coincidence.  The information on the recording told how Paul had added sugar to my gas tank.  Other facts that were revealed were that he had other ideas of how he could kill me. It was obvious one way or another he wanted me dead.  On the recording he talked of ways to infect me with the AIDS virus.  I can’t find the words to describe what it is like to know that someone wants to kill you so badly they had numerous deas of how to do it. 

           They say there is a fine line between love and hate.  It is hard to grasp that the predator in some people’s lives can be a person they know intimately or one who is a friend or relative.  I don’t know that there is any way to protect one’s self against this.  My objective now is to listen to my gut.  If it feels uncomfortable or odd, don’t ignore it.  Take care of yourself first.  As you have seen my story has progressed to more and more unpredictability with someone I thought I knew.

           Sometimes as I look back I can’t believe I survived this or lived this life.  It is but by the grace of God that I am here today to share my story with you.  This is where I wish I could tell you that is was the hardest time to live through but it isn’t.  There is so much more I had to deal with.        There seemed to always be a legal battle raging.  Now it was between the State Attorney’s Office and his lawyer.  The legal system isn’t perfect but it is good.  It isn’t perfect because of what the victim has to go through to prove someone is guilty.  I never thought I would have to testify in court and defend myself against someone whose desire was to kill me.

            The day came when I had to testify.  I had to be displayed on that witness stand and defend myself to a number of people that I didn’t know and they didn’t know me.  The only thing they would knew about me was what was portrayed by the prosecution and the defense attorney.

            The day of the trial, Dean and I sat outside that courtroom waiting to be called in. We couldn’t be in court to listen to what was being said prior to my testimony.  My heart raced and my hands trembled from my nerves going crazy from anticipation, fear and judgement.  I think fear was feeding on my nerves like cancer eats away at a person’s body.  Once it starts how do you stop it?  How do you regain control of yourself?  I’m not sure there is any answer to that question.  Maybe it’s all about that saying I mentioned earlier “Limits, like fear, are often illusions”.  Illusions are defined as things that are or are likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses.

            The doors opened and it was time.  It was time for me to take that stand.  I can’t imagine what I looked like as I walked up there, got sworn in and took a seat.  I did my best to avoid looking at Paul.  Nothing could prepare me for the emotions I was feeling.  The defense attorney probably saw that fear I was fighting and went right for the jugular.  Their whole defense revolved around discrediting me and making Paul look like the victim.  There was a time when I felt the fear turn into anger during the questioning and the implications the attorney was making.  In the back of my mind all I could hear was my voice asking how he (the attorney) could be doing this when he knew Paul was guilty.  They had evidence!  They had a recording of him admitting to what he was planning.  Finally it was over!  I felt emotionally and mentally exhausted and beaten down.  Paul’s attorney was attacking my creditability.  He was making me out to be someone I was not.

The Courtroom Sketches of Ida Libby Dengrove

            The next phase was waiting for both attorneys to give closing arguments and then it was up to the jury.  Who would they believe?  Would they believe I was the person the defense attorney had created or would they see through that?  I knew the type of person I was, but they didn’t know me personally.

            When people hear of women staying in an abusive relationship I hear comments like “Why don’t they just leave?”  They think the women enjoys being in that situation.  I can see why they don’t leave.  If they make it through the threats to their life and they show proof to get him arrested, they have to relive everything with a twist.  The twist is their creditability.  They have to fight to hold on to the truth of what they know happened without taking blame or letting a lawyer judge them and make them question their worth and their integrity.

            Like I said earlier, the legal system is good but it can be brutal for the victim if they must take the witness stand.  Everything they say is questioned, and they get legally badgered until they question themselves.  It takes a lot of strength and determination to survive the time in the courtroom.  When you don’t know how you make it through something in your life and you become a survivor you know there was divine intervention.  You know that God had your back.

            Life is a journey.  The things in your past help make you who you are today.  You can let these events define you or you can use these events to become the person you want to be.  Just like when people look back at historical events, and they try to change history by removing the events from books or taking down inanimate objects.  You need to remember that those events got us where we are today.  Life isn’t perfect, the world isn’t perfect but it is today what we make it, based on history.

            After the prosecution and defense rests it’s time to put everything into the hands of those people that you don’t know.  Will they believe I was the person the defense attorney tried to make me out to be?  What my new normal daily living would be like going forward was now in the hands of twelve strangers.

Read Chapter 6  “The End or Another Beginning”