The clock struck midnight. My phone began to buzz. Finally a call from the police? No, just a volley of text messages. “Happy New Year!” “Blessings in 2016!” “Happy New Year!” “Happy New Year!”
“Right, looks like we’re off to a great start” was all I could think, as I numbly laid down the phone again. I had been waiting by the phone for the promised update for an hour. When would they call? “At least I know he’s alive,” I kept telling myself. But I needed to know more.
Cory had been sick with pneumonia for 3+ weeks, before he had finally agreed to go to the doctor. I had done the best I could to help him, with poultices and all the natural remedies I knew, but it had not been enough. I was relieved when he came home with a prescription. Now he would get better. I had felt happy thinking of him finally feeling well again. Five months pregnant with our little girl, I was healthy and strong, and perfectly ok with doing the work on the farm, but I missed the normal day-to-day working together with him.
As the medicine kicked in, and the infection seemed to be going away, but I started to notice that Cory’s personality seemed to be different. Sometimes there would be a few minutes where he seemed depressed, but mostly he was just extra silly. All the time.
If you know Cory, you know that he is either very serious, or a big goofball. So at first the silliness didn’t cause me any alarm, I shrugged it off as boredom from being penned up in the house for so long. I encouraged him as he felt better, to come out and follow me around as I worked on the farm. He did, and I soon regretted suggesting it. He felt all better, physically, except for being weak, so he wanted to help.
But the quality of his help was less than acceptable. He raised a feed line without removing the hopper, and crushed the hopper up into the ceiling. He sat on a bucket and stared at the computer that regulates the environment of the turkey houses, and assured me that the heaters aren’t working. I went and checked them and told him they were working fine. He double checked me and insisted that they’re not!
Soon he forgot about the computers and the heaters, because as he stared at the turkeys he decided they looked terrible. He went on about how “they’re all gonna die,” and the service tech is “gonna be so mad!”(In his defense, those were not very healthy looking birds, and in my defense, it’s not unusual for Cory to be a bit pessimistic, so at that point I wasn’t really alarmed.) I just decided he was too sick to be out there and as sweetly as I could, I dismissed him back to his recliner.
Over the next few days, he continued to act just strange enough to make me wonder, but just normal enough to convince me that boredom was his issue…Once or twice I got really worried about him, and started crying and begging him to go somewhere to get checked out. It made him feel terrible that I was so upset; “I’m so sorry, Jeanette! I’m just so bored I thought it’d be funny to make you think I’m going crazy! I’m so sorry. I won’t do it again.” And the rest of the day he would seem himself.
I talked with our hired man, several times, and we discussed Cory’s behavior and tried to figure out if we need to be concerned or if he really was just being a goof. You may want to judge us for missing all the signs or not taking them seriously enough, and with good reason, but I’d say spare your energy, we have already been pretty hard on ourselves. If you know Cory’s teasing, fun-loving, crazy acting normal self, you might understand a little more, how we weren’t sure.
The straw that broke the camels back, was when he rudely made fun of the new hired man, right to his face. I couldn’t make him stop and I was mortified. I decided something is definitely going on, and I started making phone calls, to try to get off work so I could be there for him. I could find no-one else willing to work New Years Eve on such short notice, so I hugged my sweet, sick hubby and told him I have to leave for work. He weakly hugged me and said “I wish you wouldn’t leave me, I’m scared.” When I questioned that, he laughed, said “just kidding!” I didn’t know what to do, but finally just decided to pray really hard and head for work. I called his Mom and asked if she could please check on him, but the band she plays in had a New Years event, and she needed to be there.
I had been there an hour when I got a call that I needed to go home and check on him; as he was sending irrational text messages. I needed to find someone who could come and replace me at work, so I started making calls and got a replacement. Driving home, I was terrified. I remember the 30 minute drive seemed to take forever. I cried. I tried to pray. I called my dear friend Sharon, and asked her to pray. I called Cory. “Honey, are you ok?” He answered that he was taking a bath. I asked if he needed to go to the hospital, and he said yes. Before we got off the phone, I told him I loved him, and he replied: “Bring my car home.”
Looking back, I knew I should have pulled the keys from my car, and I definitely shouldn’t have left my phone inside. They say “Hindsight’s 20/20” and that is so very true. Regret after regret rolled over me, as in my mind I reviewed the past few days. Pieces fell into place. That’s why he seemed so different… this explains him calmly telling Eric “I’m just running from the cops,” (just as he would say “I’m tying my shoes.” He was losing his mind!
How come I didn’t know?” I moaned, to no one in particular. “How did I not see this coming?” Mom assured me that no one expects something like this to happen, and encouraged me that I had done the best I knew for him. “God is in control,” she said, “and He allowed this to happen for a reason.”
My heart slammed in my chest, as I pictured my poor husband, first driving so fast in such a state, and then being handcuffed and shoved into a police car. I cried as I thought how confused he must be. How scared. I wondered if he was badly hurt. Neither the officer or the tow truck operator had given us many details. After two hours of pure terror, not knowing where in the world he might be, it was a relief to know he was alive. But the answers we had, only raised more questions. “At a hospital, but in police custody… led the police on a 50 mile chase at 138 mph… we had to deploy the spikes… He lost control and wrecked the car into the guard rail… No, ma’am, I can’t give you any information on his condition.” Of course I imagined the worst. I was so thankful that my last words to him had been “I love you.”
I thought about my car… the first decent car we’d been able to afford. He had just bought it for me in November. “If we’re gonna have a baby, we need a good car to haul it in,” he’d said. He had taken into consideration every single thing I ever said I wanted in a car, and the car he bought me was so pretty… A navy blue 2013 Jetta TDI. Manual transmission, super efficient diesel engine, the car of my dreams. After driving perpetually broken heaps of scrap metal around for almost 4 years, I felt like a queen in my ride. And now I’ll probably never drive it again. I pictured it mangled beyond recognition.
It was selfish of me, irrelevant to the gravity of the situation, but my heart gave in to a moment of self-pity and I shed just a few tears for my car.
One o’clock came and went and still no more information. I was thankful for the company of my parents and my sister, brother and brother in law. We talked in quiet tones to avoid waking my sister’s children. One by one they started getting sleepy, so Levi headed for bed, and Daddy and Clinton stood up and said they’d best be getting home. Mom said she would stay with me. I was sitting right by the door, and on his way out, Daddy bent over and kissed me on the top of my head. I started crying again.
I tried praying, but I couldn’t. My mind was a swirling mess of whys and if-onlys. I hoped the Holy Spirit was filling in for me; “groanings which cannot be uttered” certainly seemed fitting for the occasion. I was awake all night, staring at the clock, staring into space, staring at my phone. (Actually, make that Levi’s phone; mine was in my car, in Covington, wherever that is.) He was kind enough to lend me his phone, so I could stay in contact with the police.
At 5:30am, I finally got the promised update. The officer was brusque, almost rude. He proceeded to fill me in on the details, mixed with a heaping spoonful of his opinions. “Your husband pulled a pretty stupid move last night, ma’am. He’s probably looking at 2 years in jail. He better be glad he made it to Allegheny County, ’cause if we’d caught him in our county, we would lock him up for 5 years!” (Interesting, coming from the same officer who was completely unconcerned the night before, and told me “a man has a right to take a drive in his car, and unless you have some way to prove he’s out of his mind, we really can’t help you.”)
He was able to tell me Cory’s location, a jail 2 counties away. Cory had made it there (normally a 2 hour trip) in about an hour. After his arrest, Cory had told the officers he was injured, hence the hospital trip, but they found nothing wrong with him. “We asked him where he was going and he told us he was going to California to build a turkey barn!” deputy T. sneered. I mentioned again that he seemed to be out of his mind, and he assured me that it was simply a matter of poor judgment in thinking he could outrun the law. “Ma’am, does your husband use drugs?” he asked, before hanging up.
After his call, I sat trying to process the information. 2 years in jail? That meant having my baby alone. Not a good thought… And where in the world is Allegheny County? The phone vibrated in my hand, and “Bible Verse of the Day” popped up on the screen. Curious, I thought, Levi won’t mind if I open this. I did, and I felt like I had gotten a text message straight from God. The verses of the day were 2 Chronicles 20:15-17. I got goosebumps as I read. “…the battle is not yours, but Gods. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf… the Lord will be with you.” That moment was one of the biggest “God moments” I think I’ve ever had.
We decided we would drive to Covington and at least get my wallet and phone from the pound yard, and go by the jail and see if they would let us see him. Our deacon and one of our ministers offered to meet us there. We got the phone and wallet, (by the way, my car just had minor scrapes and three flat tires!) and headed for the jail, but on the way there, we happened to meet Linden and Daniel. They told us that they had already been to the jail and that Cory wasn’t there; he had been moved to the neighboring county. So back on the interstate we went. When we got to the right jail, Daniel suggested we pray before we go inside. Then we went in and asked to see Cory. I kept crying on Daddy’s shoulder, wishing I were a little girl again and he could tell me that it really was just a bad dream.
It seemed like we waited awhile, and then the corporal came out to talk with us. I immediately thought he has kind eyes. Sure enough, he seemed genuinely concerned about Cory and asked us lots of questions about his personality, I guess just trying to figure out what kind of person he was dealing with. He said, I don’t have to know him, to be able to tell he’s out of touch with reality. Does he have a history`of mental illness? We said no; he wondered if he was on any medications and I said “not other than this antibiotic.” He said he would make sure Cory got the rest of it. I had my Bible along with me, and I asked, ” can you give him this too? He should recognize it, it’s the Bible we read together.” He took it, then asked, “Do you want to see him?”
I was not prepared for the Cory I would see on the other side of the glass. He shuffled into the booth, sat down and just looked at me. His skin was yellow and his bright blue eyes looked confused, scared, like a lost little boy. I could tell he recognized me but he didn’t know what to do. I held up my receiver and motioned toward him. he picked up his, and asked: “did you come to take me home?” I said “No, Honey, I can’t,” and he just hung up the receiver and walked out of the booth. The corporal turned him back toward the window, so he picked up the reciever again. “I want to go home now,” he said, “I just want to go home!” It broke my heart to tell him no. I asked if he wanted to see Daniel, and he said “Not unless he can take me home.” Then he got up and shuffled out again.
We weren’t very hungry after all that, but Linden offered to buy our lunch, so we all went to Subway. We discussed the wording of an email Daniel was typing up, to let the church family know what was going on. It was so hard to know what to say, because we didn’t know what was going on ourselves. I told them, “It seems like he’s had a mental breakdown, but I honestly have no clue why! Money hasn’t been THAT tight, and we’ve been caught up with our work, for the most part. If this were going to happen, it seems like it would have happened last winter, in all the stress of the turkey house remodeling project. Why now?”
I cried myself to sleep that night, in my old bed at my parents’ house. My future looked so scary. What if he never recovers? How will I care for him? How will I keep him from running away again? What kind of a life is ahead for our baby? Will I have to raise her all by myself? It’s hard to explain,because I had overwhelming support from my family, my church family, and my friends, and I had strongly felt the nearness of God ever since I read the verses in Chronicles, telling me He would fight for me; but at that moment I felt more alone than I’d ever felt in my life.
…to be continued…
Note: It’s impossible to include all the details… I did my best to hit the high spots. Please comment if there are things I left out that you want to know, and I will try to cover them in part 2.