My First Night at Riches Ravine

Every story has its beginning…On October 4th, 2004 I was 19 years old and had just started a brand new job as a gaming clerk at Riches Ravine Casino in Davis, Oklahoma. As I walked in the atmosphere smelled of cigarettes, the smoke so thick it made my eyes burn; the machines were so loud- sounds of reels spinning, coins clanking, a plethora of cartoon and childlike music.  I was wearing black slacks with a white collared shirt, my face absent of make-up, my long brown hair pulled up into a pony tail. My training began at 1500 hours. I was paired with a lady named Suzanne she had a distinctive laugh and shoulder length flowy white hair. Suzanne spent several hours showing me how to enter customer information into the computer, then how to print player’s cards and prompting customers to choose a personal identification number. Around 1945 hours a tall slender figure sprinted faster than what seemed humanly possible in front of the desk where Suzanne and I were sitting. I’m not even sure I caught a glimpse, fire ignited immediately inside of my soul. Without thought the words “who the hell was that!?” darted from my lips. Suzanne replied, “That is our MOD (manager on duty) Mitchell.” I regained my composure and to keep from sounding like a fool I simply said, “Oh, okay.”

Wedding Day

Monday, July 4, 2005, 1730 hours.  Chickasaw national recreation area, Pavilion springs in Sulphur, Oklahoma.

The weather was gorgeous, very hot, muggy, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue with very few clouds in the sky.

The covered pavilion was constructed out of brick and wood, a few concrete steps led down to the floor of the pavilion.  There was a natural spring in the middle of the pavilion, cold water flowed constantly.  Metal folding chairs were sat in rows on both sides of the spring.

Many of our family and friends sat in the chairs.  Some were standing.

I pinned my grandfather’s boutonniere on the left side of his shirt just over his heart.  “Inside your heaven” by Carrie Underwood began to play.  Mitchell and Chuck stood to the left of the Reverend. My Aunt Deedee walked slowly down the steps, then immediately left and stood to the right of the pastor.  When the song finished, I walked to the left side of my papa, and locked my arm with his.  A family friend stood behind me straightening the train of my dress.  The wedding march played as my grandfather and I walked gracefully in sync. My eyes met Mitchell’s, they were misty.  He smiled bigger and brighter than I’d ever seen before.  As we stood in front of the preacher, my grandfather placed my hand in Mitchell’s and gave me away.  I stood there, my eyes glued to his.  We promised to love each other until death that day.

The wedding was short and sweet.  We chose a hay ride as our exit.  Crawford and Sharon drove a black Chevrolet truck.  Two square bales of hay sat against the cab of the truck in the bed.  The words “Just married” were written in red bold, large letters on the back window.  As we rode through the town of Sulphur cars honked and people waved as they drove past.  My veil blew in the wind as the truck traveled along the two lane highway toward Davis.

Our wedding reception was at Sharon and Crawford’s house.  A table set along the north wall of their living room.  On the left end of the table, our small wedding cake sat on a pedestal with a lighted fountain underneath.  My grandfather baked and decorated our wedding cake.  It was two tier, heart shaped, with white icing and pink and white roses around the edge of both layers.  On the right end of the table, was a large chocolate on chocolate sheet cake.  Friends and family stood around the open kitchen, and lined the furniture.

Our song “Bless the broken road” played.  He had his arms wrapped around my waist; my arms were loosely draped around his neck.  We held each other close, and danced in the middle of the living room until the song ended.

After our first dance, I changed into jean shorts and a white shirt.  He wore jeans and a T shirt.  We sat the front yard with our friends and family for the majority of the night.  Some set off fireworks; others just sat around and visited.  We didn’t plan a honeymoon; instead we stayed in a hotel room in Paul’s Valley.  We were both so exhausted that we fell asleep almost immediately.  I looked at him just before my eyes closed, smiled and said “We’re married.” He said “Good night my beautiful wife.”

The next months were pretty close to perfect.  We just lived.  We worked, cleaned house, went to the laundromat, paid bills, and cooked.  We would disagree occasionally; we always made up pretty quickly.

In August Mitchell tried to teach me to drive his truck, it was a standard.  I grew frustrated because he thought it was hilarious when the truck would roll backward or die at stop signs.  I finally told him I would drop him off at his sister’s and teach myself to drive a standard.  We spent many days at Sharon and Crawford’s house.  We would smoke cigarettes, laugh, and play video games.  I loved his family.

Hard times and a dream come true

Near the end of January my job in me to Oklahoma City for a Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunications System certification class.  The class lasted five days.  I stayed in a hotel close to the location of my class.  One evening after class I went to dinner with some of the friends I had met in the class.  After dinner I walked out of the restaurant.  A policeman stood where my car had been parked.  I asked “Where’s my car?” He pointed down the road with his left hand and said “Just towed.” Apparently I parked in a no parking zone.  How could I be so stupid?  The car was in my grandparent’s names.  I did not have the money to get the car out of impound.  My mom and her husband paid to get it out of impound and took over the payments.  I was able to ride home with a coworker.  I was stressed, my grandparents were angry at me, and my mom was disappointed in me.  Mitchell and I drank alcohol together that night.

I was very irritable during the next week, Mitchell and I bickered a lot.  He told me several times that I was pregnant.  He telling me I was pregnant infuriated me.  On February 11th as he was leaving for work.  I told him I was going to take a pregnancy test and if it was negative I would pack my things and leave him for good.

Marie and I had plans to spend time together that evening.  I wanted to get the pregnancy test over with.  I was so sure the test was going to be negative.  I dipped to the strip test in my urine; put it back in the foil pack and threw it in the trash immediately.  I walked by the trash can about 15 minutes later.  Something told me to pick up the package the test was in.  I did.  I pulled the strip from the package; it had two dark purple lines.  The test was positive.  I thought it was inaccurate because I put it back in the foil pack so quickly.  I went to the bathroom and dipped a second test.  I laid the test strip on the edge of the bathtub.  Within 30 seconds, the test had two purple lines.  That test was positive too.  Marie pulled into a parking space in front of my apartment.  I carried the test as I walked down to her car.  I sat down in the passenger seat and showed her the pregnancy test.  I asked if we could go to Mitchell’s job.  We pulled into the parking lot of the convenience store, Marie walked inside and asked Mitchell if he would come out to the car.  He sat down in the back seat of her car.  I handed him the test.  He excitedly said “So we’re having a baby?!?” I responded blankly “I think that’s what it means.” He was exhilarated.  I was terrified.

I asked Marie if she would drive me to Sharon’s house.  I walked through her living room toward her bathroom and as I passed her sitting on the couch I laid the test on the coffee table in front of her.  When I returned from the bathroom, Sharon had a huge smile on her face. She said “So you’re positive?” I told her yes and we would come visit her another time.

I was in disbelief.  I cried a lot.  Marie told me not to cry because I would have a baby that cried a lot.  I took five more tests, all different brands, and all of them were positive.

Monday, February 13, I went to the doctor. My pregnancy was confirmed.  I called my mom on Valentine’s Day.  I told her she got her wish and would be a grandma around October 10, 2006.  I could hear her screaming excitedly to everyone in the room with her. She was elated!  A week later I received a package in the mail from my Aunt Deedee.  I opened the package and found three or four onesies that were pink with flowers on them.  I called her and asked why she sent little girl clothing.  She told me she was sure I was having a girl or I would have a funny dressed little boy.

The next week I was using that toilet when I wiped there was a lot of blood.  I stood up, looked down and saw a large blood clot the size and shape of a pear.  My heart sank; I knew I was having another miscarriage.  Maybe I can’t have children?  I went to the emergency room several times that week.  Each time they would draw my blood and tell me my HCG numbers were still rising and that the bleeding would stop eventually.  The next time I had a doctor’s appointment, she had all of my emergency room visit reports.  I told the Dr. that I was still bleeding.  She said she wanted to check my progesterone levels.  The next day the nurse called me.  She said my progesterone levels were dangerously low.  She also mentioned that with all of the bleeding I experienced I possibly had vanishing twin syndrome.  The doctor wanted me on bed rest for four to six weeks.  She called in progesterone vaginal suppositories for me to start immediately.  Times were difficult, money was scarce.  I called my boss once asking if I could work. He asked if I had a note from my doctor.  I did not.  He told me I could not come to work until she released me.

I was in bed for five or six weeks.  I didn’t leave the apartment at all.  I got up to use the restroom, get food or drink, and then went back to bed.  Mitchell continued to work fulltime hours and took care of me when he was home.  Near the end of April my doctor said I could go back to work.  I was never in my life happier to go to work.

Our fate was sealed, stepping forward

Mitchell and I’s divorce was final August 5, 2008.  A piece of me died that day.  My desire to be married, once and forever was dissolved.  Hope and I would never have the life with him I once dreamed of.

My attorney drew up documents to determine paternity, custody, child support and visitation.  We filed those documents in September.  I requested supervised visitation and no child support.  The case is very drawn now.  We tried to serve Mitchell at home and work five or six times.  We finally satisfied the courts with service by publication.  Our case go to court for nine months.

Hope turned two that year.  I invited Mitchell’s sister and her family to Hope’s birthday party.  I explained to Sharon that I wanted them in Hope’s life.  I knew Mitchell’s choices had nothing to do with them.  They didn’t come to Hope’s party.  They didn’t send a card, call or e-mail.  I’ve never heard from them.  Hope didn’t receive anything from Mitchell either.  My heart hurt for her even though she didn’t realize she missed anything.  Eight birthdays and eight Christmases have been experienced in her lifetime at this point.  Mitchell has acknowledged one birthday, nothing more.

I saw on social media Mitchell married Johnnie, one day shy of it being three months from the day of our divorce being finalized.  I disliked Johnnie.  She had never done anything to me.  I was bitter and felt like she aided in shattering my dreams.  I felt insulted.  I couldn’t imagine Hope ever having a step mom.

I started dispatching again in mid-November.  I worked for a 911 center in my area.  My trainer was hateful.  She wouldn’t allow me to learn the easiest way for me.  I wanted to assault her physically in the worst way.  I wanted to quit that job multiple nights after dealing with her.  I ended up being put on a permanent shift with her as my partner.  We sat in silence for 24 hours’ worth of shifts.  She hated me just as much as I hated her.  One day we started talking.  We connected on a soul level.  We’d always look forward to working together.  Today Beth is my very best friend.  She’s walked through fire with Hope and I.  I couldn’t; I wouldn’t ever want to know what life would be like without Beth.

We moved to a bigger, nicer house.  We made the immediate friends with our neighbors.  They have babysat Hope, offered parenting advice, and have a daughter close to Hope’s age.  Their daughter has been Hope’s best friend since they were two and four years old.

In June 2009, my attorney and I went before the judge.  The judge looked over the documents I filed.  He told me Mitchell asked that no visitation be awarded for him.  He explained that in cases where the child had state medical (she did) child support had to be ordered.  He ordered no visitation and child support to be paid the first of each month.

Charles and I split in November of that year.  We weren’t getting along.  I found out he had a relationship with a man while in jail.  He had also been bringing another woman to our home and having sex with her while I worked. I was angry.  I was hurt.  He told me he never loved me.  I still so desperately wanted Hope to have a dad.  I told him he could have her any time on weekends he wanted.  He took her for one weekend in December.  She came home with a bunch of new toys.  I’ve always believed that was his way of telling her goodbye.  He never asked to see her again.  He never called to check on her.  He wouldn’t answer or return my phone calls.  He quit on her too.  Jamie and I talked after Charles and I split.  She told me that while in Colorado, one night while I was sleeping.  He fondled her breasts and asked her to have sex with him.  She was scared, she was 12.  She laid down with Katie to get away from him.  I didn’t realize it at the time but, I’d truly dodged a bullet with him.

One day in January while getting Hope dressed for the day, I told her she wouldn’t be able to go to school if she didn’t start using the potty and walking by herself.  I finish dressing her and put her leg on.  I stood her up in the floor.  She took off walking with no support.  She has never stopped.  She also daytime potty trained within a week.  She really wanted to go to school!

My story is Hope’s story.  She lived through all of it.  I am so ashamed of what I am sharing next.

The last name Smith was painful for me.  The name was a constant reminder of a man I loved with all of my heart.  I was also reminded constantly of how he quit on Hope.  My name was used a lot at work.  I felt I had to get rid of it!  He in February 2010 high married a friend I had known since middle school. Marrying that friend was a convenient way to get my name changed.  We divorced in June.

Hope started head start in August.  Her teachers came to our home a couple weeks before hand.  One teacher worked with me setting goals and signing paperwork.  The other teacher interacted with Hope.  Hope showed her where she slept and where she kept all of her toys.  The first day of school was emotional for me.  Hope walked in the classroom.  She was so excited.  She said “that bye mom” she didn’t even hug me or anything.  I realized that day that my baby was growing up.  She didn’t need me as much.  I took college classes while she was a school.  I worked 12 hour days on the weekends.  Hope stayed with my grandparents.  I volunteered a lot of time in Hope’s classroom that fall.  One day while I was volunteering, the class bully walked up and slapped her across the face.  I told the teachers I would step out while they handled it.  I really wanted to jerk the boy up and spank him.  One day when I picked Hope but from school her teachers told me I needed to talk to Hope.  They were in the bathroom when another child asked Hope what happened to her leg.  Hope said “my mommy just cut it off with scissors!”  I got Hope out to the car and buckled in.  I adjusted my rearview mirror to where I could see her.  I asked what happened to her leg.  She said “oh the doctor put me to sleep, I didn’t even feel it”.  I asked why she told her friend that I cut it off.  She laughed hysterically and said “because”.  I reminded her that it is better to be honest when others ask.  I said “tell them that’s the way god made you”.

October 17, 2010 my boss fired at me from my job.  I hadn’t had any write ups.  He told me the employment was “at will” he didn’t have to give me a reason to fire me.  I’ll always believe he fired me because he knew that I knew about him relentlessly sexually harassing an employee who quit six months earlier.  I was completely devastated.  I didn’t know how I was going to take care of myself or hope.  I filed for unemployment.  The 911 center disputed my claim.  They were able to slow down the process.  In the end, I was awarded the unemployment.  They could not show proof of misconduct.