Dennis, My Angel
A True Story
I'm sitting here, 4:30 in the morning, all these thoughts running through my mind. I'm compelled by a force I do not understand to put these thoughts on paper. You can read them and believe them or not -- it's up to you.
I led a very lonely, sheltered life with my Grandmother. I was also quite naive (still am, I guess). In May of 1966 a very special man, who had a true love for mankind, gave me a book called "Something to Live By." I met him when a girlfriend and I were going to hitchhike to California after attending a big "party." I'd been to a party once in the 8th grade. I left when I found out the kids had broken into the house before I got there. I had walked home that night, never wanting to be with them again! So for me to go to this party where I KNEW there were drugs and alcohol and I WANTED to go, KNOWING I was about to destroy all hope of happiness eventually (or quickly), well...
However, by the age of 18 I didn't care anymore. I had given up hope completely. I had no one to talk to, no one who cared enough to take time for me, and I wanted to end the physical, emotional and mental abuses that started when I was born. I had no hope for the future by the time I was five years old. I'd been taught how to give up by my Dad. Only with the love of my Mom, who really loved me in the only way she knew how, had I survived until I was 18.
After about age five I became a survivor. Because of circumstances at home, my Mom took me to my Grandmother's and left me. After that time my Mom could only come to see me once or twice a year. Since my prim, pristine Grandmother (who rarely gave anyone a hug) had to work also, I only got to see her one or two hours a day. I basically raised myself. I vowed to be the best I could be. I didn't feel as if I needed anyone else in order to survive. I felt that I did quite well on my own. There were times when I didn't feel like I wanted to live, but something had always happened to stop that destructive thought pattern before I turned 18.
I had fallen in love in my Freshman year of high school. When he wanted to go steady (big mistake), he cheated on me and lied to me – but I was in love. Four years later I was still madly in love. He could have done almost anything -- even beaten me physically -- and I'd have forgiven him. I would have married him until he told me one night he couldn't trust me because of how he got hurt by one of the girls he'd dated. He'd asked for his ring back from me two years before so he could give it to her. (He told me it was because he wanted to prove to the other Seniors that he had a high school ring!) I was in Oregon and he was in Idaho at that time, so I asked him if that was the only reason because I had such an awful feeling about it. He assured me that it was. He then gave this treasured ring to a girl who thought he had money. A short time later, when she found out he wasn't rich, she threw his ring back into his face...now he wanted me again, but yet he could not trust another woman. I went back to him, not knowing what had happened. The truth always comes out, doesn't it?
One day while I was with him, a child came running out to me, calling me by a different name. When the child got closer and said, "Oh! You're not Candy!" I wanted to die right there on the spot. So did he. I'll never forget the look on his face. He finally told me what had happened. I knew it was the truth, so I told him I still loved him. Even though he had lied to and cheated on me, I still forgave him because he still wanted me (or so he said). However, when he told me he would never trust another woman again, not even me, I knew it wouldn't work. I'd never done anything to cause his mistrust of me, and he even admitted that. I think now he really didn't trust himself -- it wasn't me at all. I told him I couldn't live with that, and when he felt he could trust again, to let me know. He never did. Obviously love was "not enough," and forgiving any wrongs was "not enough," either. I wanted to be happy and healthy, too!
By the time I graduated from high school in May, 1966, I'd been locked in boxes for hours at a time; had cigarettes put out on my body by my father; had witnessed my dog being brutally killed by my father; had been lied to and about; had been attacked by a group of boys, almost drowned and left for dead by them; and had almost been molested by a step-grandfather and by a girlfriend's father -- just to mention a FEW things -- all before age six. Then I had been assaulted twice (the first time at about 12 or 13 years of age by a 23 year-old, the second time at age 17 -- and almost killed that time) by men my Mom, Grandmother or I trusted. Of course, I had no one to turn to or talk to when anything happened to me, so I ended up being bruised and broken in many different ways. Life was closing the lid on the box I was in. Trapped, I had to finally give up. There was no hope. The light was being cut off from me, no fault of my own. And I knew from my first years how to give up "in the box" so that maybe eventually I could manage to escape the darkness.
It was about this time I was to go to California with my girl friend -- to forget -- to die -- to finish off a lonely, miserable existence that didn't seem to have purpose or meaning...certainly no hope. I'd gone from independent to dependent -- from not needing anyone to desperately needing a special someone. There was absolutely no hope in sight for the future. It was over. So, to the "party!" There would be drugs, drinks, forgetfulness -- hopefully for good. The pain was too great. There was no one to talk to, no way of ridding myself from the awfulness.
As my girlfriend and I got into the car, a man came from the direction of the old church across the street.
"I know you," he said, very matter-of-fact. He was not handsome, not ugly. He had fine, "chiseled" features. My girlfriend piped up with, "Well, we're going to a party, you want to go?"
He looked at me very intently and asked if I were indeed going, too. I said yes. Seemingly surprised, he said he'd follow us, and he did.
I knew when I walked up to the door I was going to the wrong place. Dennis introduced himself while we were waiting for the door to open. When a man answered my girlfriend's special knock, she quickly took some pills off a tray this guy was holding and offering to everyone coming through the door. She nodded in our direction and then disappeared into the mass of writhing bodies. I stood there, ready to take something (I had no idea what any of those pills were) off that tray when Dennis said he didn't want any right now. Well, gosh! If he could say something like that, so could I -- and I did. Ignoring the 9 or 10 big black pills on the tray which I had thought about taking (and which probably would have ended my life that night), Dennis and I walked into that smoke-filled room which was occupied with a lot of squirming people doing a whole bunch of unimaginable things.
Dennis asked me if I'd like to go and sit down, so we sat on the couch. I looked around, smoke filling my lungs, tears filling my eyes, seeing people "making out" and acting weird. I felt really uncomfortable. He asked me if I wanted to leave. I almost jumped up and ran out the door with him.
I don't remember the drive up to the top of the mountain. I only figured that I was ready to die and perhaps this stranger who called himself Dennis could oblige me. I wondered why I had bothered escaping from the man I knew was going to murder me just a short time before. I hoped I'd have another chance to die with this stranger.
I remember getting into a clean, white car with a star on the dash. Moonlight reflected off that star. The next thing I remember is him telling me to look out the front window. I could not believe what I saw! It was as if I were above the earth and the stars glimmered below me and above me and all around me. I realized that they were the lights from Ketchum and Sun Valley and the stars in the sky. It was still breathtakingly beautiful.
He asked me how I felt and what I was thinking. I told him that it was almost like being above the earth, looking down -- like I was on my way to Heaven. He smiled and put his arm around my shoulders. Somehow he got me talking...and I talked and started crying and ended up telling him my whole life story from start to finish -- ALL the awful things that had ever happened to me! I remembered most of them then (not now, or even after I told him...)
Then I sobbed until I couldn't sob anymore, feeling a relief I'd never felt before. He just held me and hugged me.
Then I realized I was late -- too late to go with my girlfriend. It was almost four or five hours later! I was supposed to meet her at her house and I hadn't even packed. I knew she'd leave without me -- and she did. (I found out several years later how her life was ruined from going. She told me I was SO LUCKY and I had not missed a thing! She could have no more children and had given up the only one she could ever have for adoption...drugs had ruined her life and she just existed from day to day. She told me she envied me with my family and told me she would never have one, even though she really wanted one...)
I knew Gran would kill me! Dennis said that she wouldn't. I don't really remember the ride home. I do remember looking at the moonlight glistening off the star on the dash of his car, then pulling up in front of the house. Gran saw the car lights coming up the street. She had decided to meet me by standing in the doorway, door open, hands on her hips. I knew she was mad -- really mad -- even though I couldn't see her face very clearly with the light behind her. Dennis told me to stay in the car and he went around to open the car door. I remember thinking that was a good thing to do, and perhaps Gran would think of him as being a gentleman. He put his hand between the door frame and the front windshield, close to my face after opening the door -- I could not move, even though I wanted to get out and run away!
Gran made a sarcastic remark about the time I got home and Dennis told her that we had just been talking. Gran made another remark as if she didn't believe that for a minute. Again he told her we'd just been talking. Again she made a snide comment. I will never forget the last few words he said to her. A cold chill ran down my spine as he said them, and I knew he was speaking the truth to her as he spoke.
"If you are going to show such disrespect for your granddaughter, I AM GOING TO TAKE HER AWAY AND YOU WILL NEVER SEE HER AGAIN."
Gran's hands dropped from her waist to her sides and Dennis withdrew his hand from in front of my face and said, "It's okay, you can go in now." I told him that she was going to kill me, and he said no, she wouldn't, that he would come back the next day and see me. I told him I'd be dead then, but he could come to my funeral. He smiled, helped me out of the car, and I squeezed by Gran, brushing her side as I went into the house. Not a word escaped from her lips, not even the little "tisk" that she would utter under her breath when she was really upset. With her mouth open and her head slightly tilted to one side, she acted as if she were in a trance, just staring at Dennis as he got back into his car and drove away. I was a little unnerved. Gran never let anyone "get the better" of her -- especially a man! Yet there she was, standing in the doorway, even after Dennis drove away. She didn't move for a long time.
I still wanted to meet with my girlfriend and go to California, so I pretended to get ready for bed. As I put my nightgown over my clothes, I expected Gran to come back to lecture me. I waited. She didn't come. I figured I'd rather get it over with, so I went into the living room to tell her good night. She was sitting in her chair by the front door (which was also the only way I could sneak out of the house without her knowledge). I said good night and she answered good night, as if nothing had happened. That really scared me. She was so mad she couldn't speak! I figured I would really end up with a problem in the fast-approaching morning. Since I couldn't leave without her hearing me, I went back to my bedroom and waited the short time until she had to leave to go to work.
Boy! I dreaded that morning! When I got up, she was in the kitchen. I went in, expecting the absolute worst, yet she acted as if nothing had happened. I could not believe it! I kept waiting for her to yell -- she didn't. She went to work and then Dennis came and asked me to go with him. I went -- in a daze.
When I got in his car, the star on the dash caught my attention. I don't remember the ride to the place. The next thing I knew, we pulled up to what looked like a motel room. "Oh, yeah, here it comes," I remember thinking. I also thought about those "trusted" men in my life and what had happened. The second time I know I would have been killed if I hadn't escaped after we got back into town -- before the maniac took me back to his place. He'd almost killed me in the woods. Anyway, I expected the worst. Even so, I went into the room.
The room was mostly all white, even the bedframe was a really light wood. I don't remember any pictures on the walls. It just seemed as if almost everything was white, even a Bible on the night stand.
I reached up and put my arms around his neck. I started to give him a kiss, but he pushed me away. He told me he'd not brought me to this room for that purpose. He explained that there were several different kinds of love, then handed me a book called "Something to Live By." He told me he'd numbered several items and asked me to read the whole book, paying extra heed to the numbered items because they'd mean a lot to me in my life and to other people also. He told me if I lived by the values in that book I would not go wrong. Then he told me it was time to go back home.
I do not remember the ride home, only the sunlight, bright and dazzling, shining off that star on his dash. Then he dropped me off in front of the house, told me he'd see me again someday and left.
I read the book, then reread the numbered items. Most of them didn't make sense to me at that time. I packed the book away. Many years later, at a time when my marriage, family -- my life -- started falling apart, we decided to move. I had boxes and boxes of books to look through. I knew I couldn't go through all of them at once, so I decided to do a box at a time. I only got to one box. Of all those boxes and boxes of books, on the very top of the very first box I opened up, was "Something to Live By." I reread it, and about one-half of that book made sense to me. After the next several years of pain and heartache and learning and growing, I have found all of the numbered items now make sense and I do understand them. Those numbered items have made reference to many events in my life, and in other people's lives, too.
How could Dennis have known which passages to mark, not knowing what turns and twists my life would be taking at that time? He told me that those passages would be very useful to me in my life, and I was to pay special attention to them. He told me to share them with others, also. Now I wonder if he was and is my guardian angel. I wonder when I shall see him again, as he told me I would. I wonder if he will have that same white car with the star on the dash...I hope so.