When John took our daughter, he did it to get even with me for having divorced him.
It set up a situation that affected her whole life.
It was 1961 when John and I got married. I tried to back out, but my father assured me that pre-wedding jitters are normal. The groom was a good man from a socially prominent family. I was a college graduate and it was now my duty to marry.
To onlookers, we looked like the all-American couple on the fast track to the good life. We were working professionals, buying our first home in Friendly Hills. Our daughter, Carol, arrived before our second anniversary. She had a nurse attending her.
My concerns about the man I married did not lighten when he crashed three cars the first three years we were married. John was a drinker who drove. He also exhibited little respect for monogamy. Coming home from LAX from a business trip, I stopped at a restaurant on Century Blvd to grab a bite before the drive back to Whittier. There, in a back booth, my husband was canoodling with his secretary.
There was no confrontation. I went home, quietly planning my escape. I paid off my personal debts, changed the title of the car used by the help to just my name and checked out places where my daughter and I could live that would be least disruptive to her life.
A year later, while John was at work, I spent the day moving our daughter and my possessions out of our dream home into a nice apartment near Carol’s preschool and caretakers. John met me after work for cocktails. As my attorney was also my colleague, his joining us did not unnerve my husband. Not until the divorce papers were served. John screamed, “You can’t do this to me!”
In the days before no-fault divorce, the process was longer, arguably making more opportunity for viciousness.
John’s parents, being of the privileged class of former East Texas landowners, were not used to any type of rejection. One night, when my grandmother was babysitting, his mom drove to my grandmother’s house. She demanded more than to just see the grandchild they shared.
She used the opportunity to call me every bad name in the book. Later that evening, my grandmother suffered a stroke.
When the divorce was granted and custody agreed to in a California court, I thought this would be the end of that level of acrimony. I was granted full custody of Carol, with visitation to be arranged between John- who was taking his professional career back to the land of his ancestors, Texas.
Travel between California and Texas was by air. The first few visits went off without a hitch. Then John called me from Mexico at 3 a.m. to let me know he had remarried.
After that, the complaints started coming in. He was paying too much child support. He didn’t think I dressed our daughter well enough. Maybe it was a mistake, but I thought I was a pretty good mom and I got into an argument about this on the phone with him.
Still, nothing prepared me for the summer when Carol was five. I drove to LAX, waiting for her to get off the plane from an exteneded trip to see her father. The plane landed, but Carol did not disembark. Her name wasn’t on the manifest.
There were no cell phones then to get in touch with everyone immediately to track down the adults I counted on getting my daughter on the plane. It is more accurate to say that I was annoyed with her father’s game playing than I was afraid that something sinister was up.
Back at home, I called John’s house. His phone was disconnected. In the morning, I called John’s office. I was informed that he was out of the country on business. For all intents and purposes, my ex-husband had disappeared off the planet, taking our daughter with him. Any doubt that I deserved to be panicked dissipated when 24 hours later, a lawsuit from Texas to revoke the California custody agreement was served.
While I had led a nun’s life since separating from John, with only female relatives visiting my daughter and I, on the 17 pages filed with the Texas court were 17 pages of salacious accusations against me, including that I ran a whorehouse with my daughter present.
I would like to thank the long-time Diamond Bar Resident willing to share the story of her and her daughter. While the story took place in the 1960’s- before cell phones, GPS and modern technology, the issues surrounding parental abduction remain the same. Part 2 will go into the attempt to bring her daughter back to California. Lydia