That Tragic August Day Chapter Two
Chapter Two - The Last Mile
The world would have been a better place, there would have been a happier end to the tale of my mother and father, if only…. How often each of us children have pondered that thought. My mother had less than a half a mile to go in order to reach the safety of my father and her beloved Mountain Hill Road. Such a short distance, measured in mere feet, and all of this tragedy would have been avoided. Each of us children could play the scene out in our heads of what should have happened. My mother would have raced in the driveway and would have left the car door ajar as she headed for safety. Alarmed by the unusual and loud panic being exhibited by my mother, my father would have come to the door to see why all the commotion, ominous cop cars pulling menacingly into the otherwise peaceful setting of that driveway. My mother would have run to the house with a look of terror on her face, and she would have been screaming my father’s name, “Edward! Edward! Edward!” Daddy would have looked extremely perplexed. No doubt he would have met them on the breezeway, opened the door for the police to come in, and, with a calm voice, he would have asked them what this was all about. Summoning his many years as a pastor, he would have then tried to peacefully defuse the situation. The fear of these men, even police officers, would have been evident on my mother’s face the entire time, and she would have undoubtedly hidden just inside her home, listening to it all behind the door as my father, her knight in shining armor, defended her. These cops had no way of knowing that my mother had been raped as a young teen-aged girl, raped at knife point with the threat of death breathing in her face. To this day, she had always had a fear of men who were strangers, and God forbid one of them should give her a look that spelled trouble. Some scars never fully heal, and there were moments that that sadness showed in Mama’s eyes. It made her more guarded with her daughters, when they came of dating age, in ways that they often hated. Thankfully, my father, who had been the man who came into her life shortly after that horrible time in her young life and took her away from all of that pain, was, forever after, her strong defender on whom she could always depend for protection. That relationship never changed...until today. What we all wished had happened only happened in our dreams. The reality was that Mama would never make it safely home that day. This cop was going to make sure that Mama was not able to reach the safety of my father’s protection. The cop was relentless, pursuing with a vengeance, never letting her get out of his sight, tormenting her to the end. He had to cut her off from her knight in shining armor. My mother’s fear would have been palpable, and with all of that horrific terror rising within her, pursued by demons from her past, she would not stop for this one. But Mama had driven her last mile. This cop would not allow her to finish that last stretch to safety. He deliberately pulled his car swiftly in front of hers. There, just past the intersection of Jackson Station Road and Route 7, the cop wrecked her car...then he wrecked her life...forever.
Mama Just Before The Tragedy
“Get out of the car!” he screamed over and over, seething in absolute rage. Violently, he pulled my mother from the car, manhandled her, slammed her to that hard, biting and unforgiving road surface, then viciously yanked her arms up behind her back while she lay face down in utter sorrow, confusion and shock. Insanely, the cop hit her wrists extra hard with the handcuffs that he now deliberately over-tightened on my mother’s aged and arthritic hands. He inflicted the pain on purpose, wringing the moment for the sadistic vengeance it gave his psychotic rage as he jerked my mother’s arms up behind her repeatedly. If he could have pulled them out of their sockets, he would have done so with sadistic pleasure. It was his turn to get even, and he was not stopping, even though he was surrounded by cops who should have arrested him for what they witnessed. Helplessly, my mother lay there pressed face down on that unforgiving hard road, crying and sobbing in agony, shock, grief and horror. Mama’s tears and blood soaked that road where she lay, those tears and blood marking the spot and the moment where my mother began to lose her mind.
I know that Mama had so many thoughts crowding her head as this excruciating event played out. She was in the hands of a cruel bear, an out-of-control, raging, six-foot-two-inch tall, muscular maniac who was bent on her destruction. What had she done to deserve this? She knew that she and my father had served the Lord, faithfully pastoring for fifty years, starting churches, praying for the sick and infirm, taking care of the needy, always doing without so that others could have, and this beast was unleashing hatred and pain on her. My mother was shocked and tortured by forces that were beyond her control. She was in the hands of the Devil, himself, and only God could deliver her. All the while that this demonic cop was torturing my mother, she cried to Jesus and God for help...and, sorrowfully, it did not come.
Mama's Knight In Shining Armor
There stood these callous, heartless police officers with guns drawn on my prostrate mother, an elderly and pitiful figure lying there bleeding in the road on that August day, and not one of them had pity on what they beheld. Not one of them put away their loaded and aimed guns. Not one of them recognized their duty to arrest an out-of-control officer. They all were complicit in the destruction of a tiny soul who lay helplessly before their onslaught of government-granted authority. There is a Higher Authority...God help them at the Day of Judgment!
Once the handcuffs were on Mama’s wrists, and after having repeatedly jerked her arms up from that position, this police officer, with the assistance of another one, then suddenly and violently pulled my mother up from the road and dragged her body, face down, around to one of the police cars to put her in one of them. But, by now, because her lacerated wrists were handcuffed behind her back, the back of Mama’s dress was covered with blood, red blood everywhere down her back. My sister, Connie, later told me that the blood was down the back of her blouse, completely soaking the back of her skirt and had even filled her shoes. Apparently, one of the police, realizing that cars were now sitting there on the road, backed up and unable to pass, must have taken stock of the impending legal implications. He had them take Mama over to the grass by the side of the road and sit her down there...still in those disgraceful, inhumane and totally unnecessary handcuffs!
It must have begun to register on someone’s brain that there were possibly witnesses, that Mama was bleeding severely, and that the situation was sinful, because the sight of it all caused someone to call an ambulance. Three miles away, the sirens wailed in Perryville, the sound growing closer and closer. The sound of that alarming siren approaching must have shaken one of those cops out of his illusions, because one of them decided to remove the handcuffs from my mother’s wrists...had to make the scene look less incriminating. The vengeful cop was taken away from my mother, no longer permitted to torment her. Of course, this was just more “cleaning up the situation.” Couldn’t have the ranting psychopath seething over Mama while onlookers arrived. The closer those sirens got, the less the tormenters wanted to be seen as seeking revenge. Guns were lowered and put away. Now, they needed to appear more like calm police officers, maybe even appear to be helping my mother when the medics arrived.
And the ambulance arrived to a totally different scene than the one that had been ongoing just moments before. Act Two was beginning, and the characters were already relearning their parts. Within minutes of first sounding those sirens in Perryville, the ambulance crew was treating my mother. The medics were appalled when they laid eyes on Mama. They know cops, they deal with them all the time, they know a lot of them on a first-name basis, but this scene had them numb with disbelief. What warranted such abuse of an elderly woman? What had she done to deserve this? There was no way the wreck of her car had caused these injuries. Yet the cops were already starting to rehearse their lines. “She cut herself when she wrecked. She tried to break the window with her hands,” one lied. The windows in my mother’s car were not broken.
Her injuries were severe enough that they transported Mama to Hartford Memorial Hospital across the river in Havre de Grace, about eight miles away. In the ambulance, according to one of the medics, Mama kept asking them to call my father. But no one ever called him. This kindhearted woman, who had always tried to be there for everybody else, was all alone with strangers who were taking her life away. This cop had ended her life as she knew it, and these medics were taking her to begin a new life, one in the control of doctors and nurses, one ruled by drugs and restraints. She would never see her life put back together again.
As the ambulance siren wailed, and my mother was rushed to the hospital, my brother, Gill, and my sister, Connie, just happened to be returning to my parents’ house, and they were coming down Jackson Station Road. They came to the scene and saw so many police cars, flares on the road, traffic backed up and cops seemingly everywhere. My brother commented to my sister that there must have been an accident, and he was about to put the car in reverse and turn around when he noticed Mama’s car at the scene. Connie saw it, too. “That’s Mama’s car!” Gill exclaimed with shock. A sudden feeling of horrific foreboding struck them both as they saw a police officer coldly enter Mama’s car and begin callously driving it away with another police car following. The road was being cleared for traffic to resume, so instead of turning around and taking the alternate route to the house, Gill and Connie worriedly began to follow Mama’s car to the house.
Mama’s car pulled slowly, almost cautiously, into the driveway at Mountain Hill Road, followed by the other cop car, and Gill and Connie were right behind them. When the cop driving Mama’s car got out, Connie identified herself as the daughter and asked him what was going on. The officer matter-of-factly said that “Mrs. Gray” had been in an accident, but that she was okay. That understatement should haunt someone forever! He did not want to discuss it further until he was inside the house. He obviously wanted to speak to my father first. Connie went to the door and invited the officers to come in. Then, she walked into the living room where my father was sitting and told my father, in a worried tone, that she had just been told by this officer that Mama had been in an accident. A pensively alert look came across my father’s face. My mother had always been an excellent driver with a perfect record...no speeding tickets, no parking violations, and certainly no accidents. Accident!? There had to be a mistake.
But, sadly, there was no mistake, and it got worse. It was not someone else who caused the accident, it was Mama. Of course, that is how the cops wanted it to be, and that is how they were going to spin this story from here out. The officers never took a seat, three of them standing there as if to make sure that they assumed the “dominant” position by not sitting in a chair that would put them in a position of looking relaxed, or equal. No, they had to look serious, because they had to be judge and jury and deliver a guilty verdict. My mother had deliberately hit their patrol car. It was not to be the other way around. No, they could not be guilty of causing this accident with all of its horrendous implications. They had to start damage control right now, so they stood while my father, my sister and my brother all sat and listened to their re-write of the events that destroyed my mother’s life.
According to their version, Mama had run the speed trap that they had set up, and they gave pursuit. The officer motioned for her to pull over, but she waved him off and sped up. He gave pursuit. As her car left Jackson Station Road and turned onto Route 7, he pulled his cruiser in front of her car to cut her off and stop the chase, whereupon, she hit his car. He said that he wanted her out of her car, and she refused. He pulled her out of the car, and she got combative. He put her hands behind her back and put handcuffs on them. During the process, the top of her hand was injured, possibly some veins or arteries were severed. He said that he had been a medic and applied a tourniquet to her hands because of the blood flow. Connie was stunned at the words “handcuffs” and, with astonishment in her voice, said, “He put handcuffs on her? Couldn’t he have held her?” One of the other cops responded by defending the cop who brutalized Mama, acting as if somehow this was normal procedure, and that we commoners should understand this. Arrogant condescension! The look on Connie’s face matched the concerned look on Daddy’s and Gill’s faces. The air was thick with palpable apprehension. This was no stranger they were talking about This was our mother, a kind-hearted and giving individual who was loved by so many people. She was not some hardened criminal. Handcuffs!?
The cop went on to lecture that a police officer being resisted by the public could not be tolerated. Of course, none of us had seen Mama yet. We had no idea of the extent of her injuries. And the cop DID say that she was “okay.” This was all happening in a blur, and the evidence we needed was lying in Hartford Memorial Hospital across the Susquehanna River in Havre de Grace. Through all of this, Daddy sat there in stunned disbelief, not uttering a word, but us children knew Daddy’s eyes, and they spoke of his distress at hearing all of this. While these cops were talking in the living room, my baby sister, Resa, had planned on coming over to the house on her lunch break, since she worked in Havre de Grace, a ten minute drive away. She had had an ominous feeling about Mama come over her as she was leaving her office, and she hurried home to Mountain Hill Road to find her dark feelings confirmed. Cop cars in the driveway! Stunned and numb with worry, she hurriedly came inside to find the police finishing their version of the event. “Mama’s in the hospital,” Gill announced to Resa.
Now that the police had sufficiently poisoned the air with their version, everyone started to search for reasons Mama would have done this, and Resa thought out loud that Mama might have Alzheimer’s, anything to defend this inexplicable, unbelievable, alleged criminal behavior. After all, Mama had never ever done anything like what these cops were describing. How else could we, as a family, understand this? The cops must have felt like they had succeeded in placing the blame for all of this squarely on Mama, they had worried the family sufficiently with the implications of Mama’s criminal act, and they could exit the stage with confidence that they had covered themselves with immunity. They let everyone know that my mother was in Hartford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace, gave Connie a card with the name of the police officer who had pulled Mama from the car, and Connie handed it to Resa. As soon as the officers left, Connie and Resa got in the car and headed for the hospital. Due to his lack of ability to walk and stand well, Daddy stayed behind. Travelling, for him at this stage of his life, was an arduous task that required a lot of preparation, so he would have to rely on my sisters to investigate and come back with their findings.
As soon as Connie and Resa saw my sedated mother lying there in a hospital bed and began to take stock of her completely deplorable condition, the story the cops told them no longer made sense. The sight was so deafeningly sad, that Resa immediately flung herself on the bed and sobbed tearfully as she held Mama in her arms. Any person who had simply been handcuffed and had accidentally cut their hand while being handcuffed would have been sitting out in the hallway with minor bandages. Instead, Mama was lying sedated in a hospital bed, and she was in obvious pain. She was a shocking sight. Mama’s hands looked terrible. Her right hand was incredibly skinned from the base of her fingers way back to the wrist. Her fingernails had blood under them on both hands. Her left hand was equally bruised and cut. Both arms had bruises all the way to her elbows. Little by little, my sisters examined Mama and found her to be completely bruised from head to toe. They were stunned with disbelief at what they were finding. How could this happen? This was nowhere near what the cops had told them! According to them, Mama had merely been handcuffed, had cut her hand in the accident, and that was all, as if she had only been taken to the hospital for precautionary measures. The sight of Mama was a total contradiction to what they had been told, a version from state police officers, no less. We had always been taught that police officers were truth tellers, honest, law abiding and law protecting. Their story had been told with straight faces and bold voices. Connie and Resa had come to the hospital expecting to find Mama sitting there waiting to be taken home, to ask her what had taken place on that road with those cops, and now they were finding a woman who looked like she had been beaten to within an inch of her life, bandaged, clothed in a hospital gown, suffering, sedated and lying in bed. The cops had lied!
Connie started taking photos of Mama’s injuries, because what she and Resa were seeing did not go along with what the police had told them. There was something terribly wrong with all of this, and they both had a horribly unsettling feeling about everything the more they looked at Mama’s injuries. How had all of this really happened? What had really taken place out there on that lonely road?
The doctors wanted to keep Mama in the hospital. On the patient admission forms I noticed that the doctor had written “PT (patient) had profuse bleeding from hand lacerations.” He had underlined the word “profuse.” Profuse! No wonder that they wanted Mama to stay in the hospital. But, Mama had never enjoyed being away from my father for any length of time, and certainly not at night. When the sedative began to wear off, not finding herself in her routine surroundings, she wanted to be in the familiar and reassuring comforts of her home, sleeping in her own bed, and in the company of the man she had jealously loved all of her sixty-five wedded years. No, a stay in the hospital was out. She would have none of this, and despite her physical condition, she would make life miserable for anyone trying to keep her in this hospital. Connie had no choice but to plead with the hospital to let Mama come home. Connie promised them that Mama would be watched carefully and closely, monitored for any changes that might show decline and warrant a return. Mama won for now, she was going home, and frankly, that was really where she would heal the best. Her wonderful home at Mountain Hill Road would lift her spirits and hopefully help to begin putting all of this behind her.
Sandra, Mama and Connie
In Connie’s words: “The next day after the incident, I washed the clothes Mama had been wearing during the accident. Her skirt, Navy blue in color, was covered in blood down the back. I tried to wash the blood out in the bathroom sink to get the stain out before washing her things in the washing machine. Blood colored the water so fast, I had to change the water several times. Her slip and underwear also had blood on them and had to be scrubbed to get the stain out. Her Navy blue shoes had blood inside and out, and I washed them. They were her favorite and most comfortable shoes.” Connie wanted to help my mother get over this, to do her best to help us all put life back the way it was before this horrible incident, and one of those ways was to try her best to get rid of that ever-present blood, to clean Mama’s clothes so that she could wear them again, as if nothing had ever happened. But sometimes, you can’t wash away sorrow, you can’t wash away heartbreak, and you can’t wash away horror. What had been done to Mama took her to the other side of an invisible mental line, and nothing was going to bring our mother back to us. This was the beginning of the end of all that we called home at that wonderful place on Mountain Hill Road. The days would pass swiftly, much too swiftly. Little did any of us know that we were seeing the last lines being written in the story of my mother and father’s lives.
Some Of Mama's Injuries
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