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I Love You But
When you realize that it’s not you, it’s them… sometimes, like in my case, you are lying on a concrete bed in a jail cell listening to a Jason Isbell song some guard was playing. Even more illustrative is that the Isbell song was “Something More Than Free.” You’re cold and hungry and thirsty and dirty and humiliated. You’ve just been told to bend over and cough.
And, I thought I was pregnant from a forced sexual encounter with my so-called husband of fifteen years. He’s the one who had me put in jail.
As it turns out the last few years weren’t at all what I expected. After surviving the tornado, and near fatal car wreck, and finding my passion for all things creative, I thought I had it all figured out. Man, was I wrong.
Living my life was never easy. Understanding my life was always hard.
Then, I realized that I had been surrounded by people who didn’t know how to love. They didn’t even know what love was. At all.
The trials I had faced all my life of not feeling like I fit in, of not understanding my place were because of them. They didn’t love me. They didn’t welcome me. They tolerated me. And were full of “I love you, buts.”
Just fyi, if anyone ever tells you “I love you, but” get away from them. Close the door and never open it. I wish someone had told me that. I wish someone was around that didn’t ‘love me but’ to tell me that.
So, when the deputy came to handcuff me, I sobbed. I was there seeking their help and protection and instead, got thrown in the slammer. They took my legally stowed pistol, the very one that saved me a week earlier. They confiscated a handful of the knives I had been working on, 1,200 dollars, and a hatchet. I was fingerprinted just like I had been when I took my drug addicted cousin’s baby in foster care to give him a loving home.
The men in the cells peered out like animals at me and made noises. One was threatening to kill himself and the several were speaking directly to me. I didn’t flinch.
I laid on that concrete bed for hours. I had used my one phone call to call my dad whom I had been staying with along with my three boys for a couple of days, since the day after Father’s Day.
Those events ran through my mind. The arms wrapped around me that felt like lies my whole life, how everything was off, just a little, just enough to never feel safe, to never feel loved.
All my life I had been told: “I love you but…”
What came after the but was never a surprise. Either, “I’m busy,” “I’m tired,” “I’m drunk,” or “you’re not good enough,” ‘you’re not strong enough,” “you’re not smart enough,” “you’re not here enough,” “you’re not something enough.”
After I survived the forced sexual encounter, on Father’s Day of all days, from the unprotected man whom I’d shared so much of my life with, Adam, I gathered my children and got the hell out of the house. I suspect that wouldn’t be the last time he’d bruise me or that wouldn’t be where he’d stop.
Our marriage, based on lies, and only held together by our shared children, just met its fate. I wasn’t raised to take that shit. Over the years, like a frog in water, he’d turned up the heat slowly. He chipped away at my soul. So, I ended it.
I went to work the next morning, after fleeing the scene of the abuse seeking refuge at my father’s house. I had stayed up all night holding my pistol waiting for him to come to the door and try to finish me off. He had a tarp laid out in the yard that morning, and straps in the back floor-board of my truck, along with wheels in the back of the truck that didn’t belong there. I’d just lived through a rape, with my children only feet away, and I didn’t want my final fate to be drowning in the Tennessee.
He didn’t come to my dad’s house. I call it a house, it’s a concrete fortress and
I bet that was why he never showed. My dad lives in an apartment he’d built onto the shop that was blown away by a tornado when I was a little girl.
I tucked the boys into bed, and stayed up all night. My daddy Jimmy Wayne may be a few things, but pussy, he ain’t. I knew he’d protect his little girl if it came down to it. He stayed up to.
The next day, Adam did show up at my little hometown store when I was by myself. He was concealing his weapon in the back of his jeans. He sped into the front parking lot, slammed on the breaks, and stormed in the front door.
I pointed the pistol at him. I clearly stated, “This is my land. I never want to see your face again.”
Adam puts his hands up and backs out. I follow him to my mama’s car he’d been driving for weeks. Then, he left.
I wasn’t harmed that day but I came within a quarter of an inch of killing a man. I would have done it too. I know I have that within me now. You ever wondered if when it came down to it, would you kill a man? If you had to protect yourself, could you? Well, I know I can and will. I couldn’t in good conscience shoot him when he put his hands up and left but if he would have come after me, I know I would have emptied that chamber.
I took my boys down to the courthouse to file a Family Protection Order. I had been advised that was the thing to do to keep us all safe. My hands talk through the form and spill their proverbial guts. Writing it out, so clear, so obvious, I’d been married to the devil for fifteen years.
That’s a tough pill to swallow. After running him off with my pistol, and filing the Family Protection Order. All I could do was wait. “Go back home” the clerk’s office told me. WTF?
It takes weeks to get a Family Protection Order approved. I couldn’t file a restraining order because we were married. None of this makes any sense. I went back home. I waited like a duck on water.
At the time, I was having trouble sleeping. Adam had cleaned out the bank accounts but I still had my store account, and my store money, and I was very close to broke. Staying alive was the top priority, feeding my kids was the top priority.
Try feeding three boys on nothing. Try having to return to the place where you’d just lived through the most traumatic events of your life and try to live.
Add on top of it that my ex had been carrying a clip board around visiting all my family. One by one, pleading with them all to have me involuntarily committed for my own safety. And one by one they all turned their back on me, the single mother of three boys, the hometown hero, the creative loving humanitarian. All because they “love me, but…”
At this point, days had passed. I slept off and on. My boys and I were staying at my father’s house. Paw paw Wayne made sure we ate. He made me milkshakes because we both thought I was eating for two. I was trying to heal. Adam called me constantly, so I had to put my phone away. There was barely any service in Wayne’s fortress anyway.
I was trying to live. I was trying to continue in my daily tasks and routines and it was hard. I had an interview with John Prine’s guitarist and a ticket to see Amanda Shires and Prine play at the Travoli theatre in Chattanooga. I had been involved in the music business some for the past few years. I had a popular radio show, held concerts at my store, and did some music journalism. Prine is a legend, and my friend Michael Burns in New Orleans suggested months earlier that I attend the concert and write about it.
Wayne agreed that I needed to clear my head and get some air, so I did go to Chattanooga for the day. I drove around, through Chattanooga and its sites. I went to the Travoli theatre but it was too early. Beginning to feel tired and wondering if I should have left my boys I walked past the ticket counter and through the doors. John Prine, his guitarist, and Amanda Shires were on stage warming up. I’m sure I looked ragged and horrible. I didn’t care at that point. Amanda Shires Isbell was very nice to me. She knew I’d just let myself in. I told her who I was and John Prine’s guitarist denied having an appointment with me. Thanks, a lot. I thought and just stayed. I didn’t get the interview but I got a front row private show from John Prine himself and Amanda Shires Isbell.
Shires was playing songs off her latest album, “My Piece of Land.” I smiled and listened. I had just told my abusive and neglecting husband at gun point that he was standing on “my land” and it was beautiful.
I stayed the whole time they were warming up. When it was time for the concert though, I went home to my babies. I couldn’t get a better show that what I’d just received.
My boys were fine. They had been playing all day with their paw-paw, great-grandmother, and great-aunt. I had to go feed my chocolate lab Cocoa at my tiny house behind the store so I left Wayne’s fortress to tend to her. She is a good old dog. I felt as if everything was going to be okay for the first time in weeks.
But when I drove up to my store and tiny house, there were trucks all over and the lights were on. Someone was inside. I was being ambushed. I didn’t know who all it was or what they wanted. It was a surprise attack from my ex. I had just made him leave and demanded to never see his face again a few days earlier. If I was ever going to be able to return to my normal life I couldn’t live in fear that he would show up anytime he wanted and take anything he wanted.
“It’s okay.” My old self-proclaimed witch neighbor Lighter told me. “Me and your uncle Wendell are here to make sure he only gets his stuff.”
Oh, Lighter Mae, it is not okay. Neither she nor my uncle had my permission to effectively take ownership of all my property to be able to supervise over Adam taking any of the things from the house or store.
My great-uncle, really? Blood betrayal is what I saw.
I ran them all off.
I was aware that Adam had been sending my address to people I didn’t know and I had no way of knowing who was in the accompanying trucks or what they were loading up or what they were doing to my house. I was tired of being made to be afraid in my own house. I was tired of being ganged up on. I stood my ground, again.
All this time, I had been waiting on the system to work. I went to the bank to make sure Adam couldn’t clean out my little hometown store account, I went to the Fyffe Police Department to ask for help. I explained to an older lady at the front desk a little about what had happened. She told me to make sure I had my pistol on me, at all times, just in case, and to go to the County Sherriff’s office to find out if I could have the Family Protection Order hurried along.
It seemed like honest advice from the older women, so I took it and went to the DeKalb County Sherriff’s office to ask for help. To seek protection from my abuser. Adam Brooks, the man I had been married to for a span of fifteen years had slowly gained control over almost everything, often putting me down, making me feel worthless, told me I couldn’t sing, told me if I ever left him, I’d die in a cave alone, and had crossed the line from mental and emotional abuse into physical abuse. And I don’t say that lightly. My whole world shifted when that happened.
At the Sherriff’s office, they informed me that Adam Brooks was there and he has issued a warrant out for my arrest. So, yes, I was afraid, I cried. Weighing in at only 110 pounds, likely pregnant, I was booked. But it was because he “loves me.”
I just did what I had to do.
My Way Out
At the end of “Telling Hands” I was ready to do something. I was dreaming. I was basking in the sun and wondering what could be next in my eventful life.
I put Adam through college. I worked the whole time. I worked till his college loans were paid off, but that was back before we had children.
I had been blessed so much to be able to stay home with my children for the past 10 years. Bless their little hearts, they needed me. We tried Alabama’s failing public school system with all its problems. I knew I could do just as good, likely better, at educating them, and certainly couldn’t do any worse. So, I started homeschooling my three boys and wanted the chance to get a degree in business. I could take the classes online and when the time was right, I’d start a business.
I looked into taking some college courses in business. My husband Adam didn’t think that was a good idea. He said it would cost too much and wouldn’t agree to help me further my education or career.
I found myself stuck with no support system, and half the state away from my family.
Adam had prescribed to another faith. As a Libertarian leaning person, I saw no threat to his decision taking over my rights to worship freely. Over the past few years though, it had and I started pushing back.
Then, one day we went camping back home in Grove Oak, AL, at the local state park, Buck’s Pocket State Park. We were visiting family, and forgot marsh-mellows. The closest store to the Pocket was fifteen miles away and on the way there, we passed the old Grove Oak store, known as Smith’s Grocery back in the day when it was open. The store had been closed for 12 years and had a for sale sign on it.
Diane Smith was a brute of a British woman picked up by a local trucker on the road somewhere, who settled as a transplant to Grove Oak. Some local men called her Lady Di, some called her Tits. I expected to have to deal with her to inquire about the property but come to find out, it wasn’t ever hers. The old store was owned by her brother-in-law who resides in Atlanta.
Diane was mauled by a pit-bull and suffered from a stroke, and the years of drinking had caught up with her, is what I had been told and was actually relieved to not have to deal with her.
So, when I called to find out what the price was on the property, I knew full-well that George didn’t want the old abandoned store in Grove Oak. I cut his already very low asking price in half and bought the store outright.
A state park was sure to bring in enough traffic to keep the bills paid. I’d just bring Grove Oak back. Skipping business school altogether, I started the renovations, focusing on keeping overhead as low as possible. I could home-school my boys and run it. I’d be close to my entire family and leave Adam in Montgomery.
I’d found my way out.
Determined as hell, and ready to leave his controlling, ‘living for the Jones’ lifestyle behind, I held another mentality: do what you’ve got to do. I was leaving him…for myself, and for my boys.
Adam had a cushy job of BMW Service Manager. He thought he’d bought me. I guess what he didn’t know is that I ain’t for sale.
I didn’t want him treating me like he owned me, and he couldn’t take that.
He sold his quarter of a million dollar new house, quit his job, and followed me back home. It seems his job of constant manipulating and managing people had gone to his head.
He wanted control. He fought me daily for it. He knew I was tough, he knew I was mean, he knew I was a Godwin. He’d just let himself forget it.
Fighting is something I can do.
Writing took me from uncertainty to certainty. I wrote my first book and could see it. I could see the things I hadn’t seen before. When you’re honest in your writing, the truth will unravel itself as you go like a ball of yarn.
So, I moved and started my own business. It went really well for several months. Until, the governor of the state of Alabama, Robert Bentley made good on his threat to close the local state park, Buck’s Pocket. He used our public park to get taxes raised then closed it.
Bentley, when I confronted him about the issue, publicly thanked me for being the backbone of America, then privately pulled me over to the side and patted my head and made empty promises to pacify me. Just like a politician.
When I was in the fifth grade at Henagar, in Mr. Stewart’s class, I thought I wanted to be the first woman president. After studying Lucy Stone, the out-spoken advocate for women’s rights and suffragist, to write my first book report for Mr. Stewart, I had some hopes for being able to make a difference in my lifetime.
As I grew up though, the thought of actually running for office hasn’t offered the same feeling of hope.
Mr. Stewart would also let us listen to Garth Brook’s “The River.”
“You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes”
We’d sing along sometimes and I guess it stuck with me. I haven’t known where I’m going but I still believe that its going to be wonderful. I told someone recently that I’m positive like the sunshine.
Buck’s Pocket is where I was baptized and where I had birthday parties, it’s old Cherokee land. I wrote an article saying that the ol governor may have the power to close the Pocket, but he couldn’t close me down… in the usual Jamie fashion.
I knew my marriage was done and my business was going to slow way down. I tried to forge my way another gig and started hosting a radio show for the internet channel American Crossroads Radio with a friend from Texas, Joel. He had the idea but not the vision, so I became a Creative Producer as well and started rowing.
Joel is like a little rooster. He gets worked up and thinks he’s bigger than he is. He started picking at me about my song choices. I pulled from different genres to fill the need for female artists. I believe the female voice should be better represented in the music industry. Joel no longer respected my freedom to play what I wanted to. It was in the contract that I would have complete creative control over my own show. I played an Alicia Keys song and he had a come apart. So I walked away.
I’d started writing some music blogs and entertained the idea of being a television show host for a local production. As it turned out the man who wanted to put the tv show together couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I slammed that door. Sorry Fort Payne, it just didn’t work out.
I played around with the idea of song-writing for a little while, trying to fill the need to help provide for my children. I watched the local musicians, looking for a place I might could utilize my strengths. I played some local songs on my radio show and used my store as a venue for songwriters nights and musicians to play.
I had read Rick Hall’s autobiography and met him once. He was a tough man and his book told of a tough music business. I got a taste of the ruthlessness via some musicians I thought were my friends. Eh, it was what I expected, and no skin off my nose.
I continued to write, run the business that was beginning to slow down so much, even while taking care of my sons who have juvenile cataracts. I wrote a second book inspired by a so-called musician.. it was really weird. I don’t think he liked it. It was my second novella “More than Nothing.” He pretended to like me some and I called his bluff.
Pretty sure he wrote some songs about me, but Chance wouldn’t bother to talk about it with me last I saw him a few years ago. It was all very peculiar.
I wrote a third inspired by my imagination and hopes for a better relationship, one day. “The Music of the Stars.”
I began writing when I was stuck in an abusive relationship. I couldn’t talk to Adam and I needed to be heard. I needed to say things. I have read somewhere that writing is the fight against silence. I think that is how my writing began. Talking to Adam was like stepping in fresh dog shit, it really was.
Adam had his mask on and slithered in close to several of my family members. He started carrying a big gun. I asked him several times to put it away, because I was afraid of him. He wouldn’t. So I carried one too. I knew it was going to end and I’d hoped to get another job going before it all blew up. Adam was acting more erratic every day and I was getting more desperate to get away from him, with neither myself or my children being harmed. He’d isolated me and I didn’t know if I could trust anyone.
I had asked Adam to leave. Many times. I told him I wanted a divorce. His response was that if I ever left him I would end up alone, living in a cave. He always told me I couldn’t sing.
The last few months was nothing but one continuous fight over all the problems we had. I wanted to provide a safe place for my vision impaired children. He started leaving the Skil Saw plugged in, laying on the ground in our path. He started building a detached garage out of the kids trampoline safety net poles. He had the boat resting on a peanut can. He took his gun out and played with it. He wouldn’t help me. He wouldn’t clean it up. He wouldn’t clean up the broken glass around the burn pile. He wouldn’t fix the lawn mower. He wouldn’t stop leaving that saw out. He broke my truck door’s keyless entry, both of them. He had cut me out of financial decisions, and hidden our money. He has a disable BMW five series on faulty jacks, on gravel, in the driveway right in front of the tiny house I had purchased to get away from him.
On Father’s Day of 2016, sleeping in my bed, I woke to Adam forcing himself on me. I wasn’t safe. I wasn’t safe anywhere. Overwhelmed and in shock, I went outside. I had to breathe. I had to come to terms with what had just happened.
Adam had made plans for Father’s Day. He didn’t make plans with his children. He made plans with an old high school friend, Russell Lingerfelt. He wanted a have a picnic with Russell and some woman. Russell was a family counselor or something and we talked about travelling. His friend was a counselor of troubled teens. I gave her some advice. It seemed like Russell was angry with me and tried to monopolize the conversation. I didn’t let him.
After the picnic was over I told Adam that would never happen again. I meant it. I don’t know if I realized then that I was referring to the forced encounter, the picnic, or the past 15 years. But it was definitely over.
I had to get away from Adam, but I didn’t have anywhere to go. The next day while he was at work, I made my get away. I went to Wayne’s shop. The place that always felt like home. My Daddy’s. I was scared. I was hiding. I barely had enough time to consider the possible pregnancy.
Adam called when he came home to an empty house. He sent messages. He sent emails. He said he contacted everyone, even the police. I couldn’t talk to him. I didn’t want to. I didn’t have to. I just wanted him to leave me alone. I didn’t sleep. Daddy Wayne didn’t either.
I went to open the store the next day after Adam had enough time to go to work in Huntsville. I was trying to resume my life, running my store, selling things to provide for us. I had turned my phone off. I didn’t want to have to face my abuser. But he sure wanted to have it out with me. He rushed in, pistol on him, and started straight for me. I had no choice but to defend myself at that point.
Concerned only for the safety of myself and my children, I went straight to fill out a Protection From Abuse form then went back to the shop.
You think that it’s over? You think that’s all it took, huh?
People who assume they are in power work very hard to stay in power.
My kids and I had to endure Adam’s wrath.
We stayed at Wayne’s a few days. I couldn’t sleep, ate barely, didn’t have money cause he had cut off my access to any. I know Adam had been talking to my mother, my brother, my uncle Shannon, my great-uncle Wendell, my cousins, ect.
He had to give the court 15 names to petition the court to have my mental competency checked. He sought to have me involuntarily institutionalized. He had been discussing legal maneuvering with his friends. One Amy Slayden instructed him to fill out a PFA before I had the chance to in order to cancel mine out. He was never abused. He was confronted. He was stood up to.
I’m not a mental health professional, but I think I understand the word “projection.”
He gave my address out to Albert Hicks in Birmingham and I don’t know why.
Adam texted “You are loved” to me. Exactly the same words Russell Lingerfelt’s “girlfriend” said she was taught to use to set boundaries with the children she counselled. Exactly the same. Hmm..
I couldn’t file a restraining order because we lived together. It was going to take literally weeks to get the Protection Order looked at, thanks to Pam Simpson’s office not issuing an immediate approval. Maybe she held it against me that my hair looked messy. Maybe their office is used to turning their backs on crying women with children looking for help.
So, he came back again. I ran him off again. Don’t regret it. Best thing I’ve ever done is stand up to that idiot.
I reckon he felt threatened and complained to Zac Aldridge, Groveoakian and the county deputy who took the report.
I went to Fyffe Police Department and talked to Jo Nelson. She sent me to the sheriff’s office where I walked right into custody. They held me overnight on a reckless endangerment charge for an appearance at the Court House in the morning.
Porter and Porter in Scottsboro, AL was the law firm Adam hired to do his bidding and use the system as leverage against me.
If I’ll just come back to him though, it would all go away.
Ms. Millican interviewed me, my lawyer wasn’t present. I refused to visit with my mother or my brother who were sitting with Adam, waiting. I talked to my Daddy though who bailed me out of jail.
Ms. Millican asked me about the time my brother Jason Godwin body slammed me at my mother’s house. About how he sat on my back and pulled my head up saying he was going to break my neck again. I told him he was going to have to kill me. He said he would. All this is because I didn’t have my own deer meat processed the way he said I should. I know, I know.
Jason came to Daddy’s shop the night before I went to jail. He was crying and then screaming. I know he’s on prescription meds but they don’t seem to be helping him. He acted like a basket case. I stay up late listening to him clobber over some bullshit because I was afraid he might commit suicide if I didn’t listen to him. I guess his conscience was getting to him. He had been collaborating with Adam, you know.
Guess what, y’all? I’m perfectly sane. Ms Millican said I seemed fine. Well, I knew that.
While I was being held in custody, Adam took my boys from my Dad. He held them at Rita Brooks’ house a few days until the judge ordered he return them to me. One of the ladies I knew that worked in the jail, told me that stuff happens all the time. Good grief.
I burned a few things. Things that reminded me of the awful traumatic time I had just lived through. I don’t regret that either.
We went to court finally. I had filed for a divorce but Adam was hoping to somehow make me remain married to him and filed for a legal separation. I have voice mail messages from that time where he was calling me leaving serenading messages, one demanding I stop telling people we were going through a divorce that I “was the one TRYING to divorce him.”
His lawyer Porter resigned citing that Adam has “unrealistic expectations.”
I was given full legal and physical custody of my three boys and was told to live my life. Adam picked up a billboard lawyer who threatened and cussed my lawyer, Steve Bussman in court. It was a little like my grandmother’s funeral service when two of my aunts got in a fist fight at the funeral home. Security had to be called. It slowed everything down.
Adam asked me to marry him again after calling me a great mom and amazing humanitarian, at Jack’s in Fyffe’s parking lot. He had a card and a ring and everything.
I told my mother of the things that was happening to me. I tried to find some common ground a few times. First, she was only concerned with me being in trouble, then she wished me luck in court. That was the extent of the support I received from her for a year and a half.
My sister, Hannah, didn’t have time to talk to me and only said “people go through divorces everyday.”
Wayne kicked us out of his shop. It was tough love. He was pushing us out of the nest so I’d fly. When he complains now about me not answering my phone, I just say I was flying. I’m sure he loves that. Wayne comes by now all along to warn me about something or help me with something or run an idea by me. He told me I had balls. So, I’ve got that going for me.
He says, “A man will just jump out in the middle of the woods and get by on nothing in a divorce but a woman usually always already has a man lined up to move on to before she’ll divorce. ” That is a compliment coming from him.
My last remaining grandmother might be afraid of me.
Lighter Mae, the old woman across the road keeps to herself now. She was called to testify against me. Pretty sure it helped me instead of doing damage. Lighter said I ran over and told her “I had to defend myself.” Well, I did.
The boys and I have been doing better than ever. They have grown so much and I have been able to put my weight back on. I found out that I have a low blood sugar problem. I’m sure that didn’t help things when I wasn’t eating much.
As it turns out, I wasn’t pregnant. I would have carried that baby and raised it and loved it but I wasn’t pregnant after all. I’m convinced Adam was trying to keep me barefoot and pregnant, so I’d feel like I had to stay with him. The radio show was really beginning to take off, I had so many listeners I was shutting down the TuneIn App.
I tried to employ a band once, the manager wouldn’t even give me a price to come and play the grand opening. (I had money back then) Same band manager refused to let the band be featured on my radio show. Refused an interview, refused to work with me at all on writing or anything. It was all very peculiar.
Russell Lingerfelt hasn’t been back. But I did receive a phone call from the Gadsden Mental Health Facility where his girlfriend is employed. Whatever her name is. I just hung up.