We picked a date, ordered a five-pound brick of silly putty, and the banonkey – with his toucan friend- was in the trunk along with everyone else's bags. I knew as we pulled out of our driveway that the bank had foreclosed on the house, we had been eating almost exclusively at JT's Pub through my Aunt's points, the credit cards were nearly maxed out, I might be repeating my sophomore year of high school if my credits didn't transfer over, and that Denny had tentative acceptance to the "big boy college" – provided the Brewster School District couldn't handle him, provided the Hyannis School District couldn't handle him. We'd just grabbed the chain that had been dangling in front of us for the last three years.
We left Henderson at 10 pm. My Aunt would do all the driving, and my Mom would sit in the back with Denny and Moo-Moo and Good Girl. My Aunt had rearranged her sleep schedule so that we would drive through the night because Denny loved sleeping in the car. We thought this was a foolproof plan. You see, we'd been told for the past 11 years that Denny had less of an IQ than Forest Gump. Well, we learned the hard way.
The first few hours went great, he had fallen asleep, and we had made it to New Mexico. I was in charge of navigating to our hotel for the night, an old Holiday Inn. As the clock on the dash read further and further past his bedtime, we thought everything was smooth sailing for the night. As we neared 2 am, Denny woke up to our phones as they blared a winter weather advisory. The first blizzard New Mexico has seen in nearly a decade was due to hit any minute, and boy did it hit. The roads were almost instantly covered as the skies opened and dropped a blanket of snow on the highway. We passed car after car that was caught off guard and had drifted off the road. We got behind a HiLife 18 Wheeler and stayed driving behind him.
"Kaitlyn how much longer till we get there?" My Aunt asked.
"Kaitlyn how much longer till we get there?"
Our game of "How much longer?", was a game of high stakes driving as my brother grew increasingly confused and the weather worsened we were worried the weather might have triggered him. I had done a 4 point psych hold in the van before – on a freeway overpass with one of the back doors open when the safety lock failed, and Denny, but never with it this packed.
"Kaitlyn how much longer?"
"Take the next exit."
We had made it; the first leg done and over. We wanted to be in Cape Cod by Christmas Day, and it was December 13th.
We walked in to see the hotel was on generator power. The handyman was plugging in a few extra things to keep guests comfortable and saw my brother and me.
"Hey, there, kiddos! Want to see something pretty cool that we got here?" He asked my brother and me.
"Sure!" I said and took Denny, and his brick of silly putty, over to him.
"Here we have a bubble wall!" He went on to explain to Denny the intricate workings of the machine and how to safely plug and unplug the machine to "pop" the bubbles. "Now that you guys know how to work it, I'll leave you to it! Each time you unplug it and plug it back in it will change colors too!"
This wall would be both the worst and the best part of the trip because if Denny had it his way, he would have slept in front of it for the three days we were there. He certainly got a good laugh when we realized that the only food that would be available for the next three days would be the Denny's across the street. The number of picnics in front of the bubble wall was too many to count.
After the weather cleared and the roads salted, we picked the drive back up. The next day we made it through to Texas. We had tried our "Sleep in the Car Technique," and we made it to Shamrock, Texas, before our luck ran out.
Denny had gotten up to readjust and saw the lights of a car dealership we drove by. We think he mistook it for a fair or something, but it triggered him something fierce. My Mom tried to handle him in the back while I tried to help my Aunt navigate.
"AHHH! I can't see!" My Aunt screamed, as I looked up from navigating and saw that Denny had slipped into a dissociative state and had his hands clamped around my aunts face, fingers squeezing at her eyes, as she was driving.
"Keep your foot on the gas!" My Mom yelled.
I grabbed the wheel, and my Mom pried Denny's hands off and tried to secure him in a hug hold. He threw his head back into my Mom's face, bruising her nose. She didn't let go. He threw his head forward and bit out a chunk of my Mom's flesh on her forearm. She let go to manage the injury. I jumped from the front passenger seat to the middle row of our mini-van and played goalie. As my Aunt was on the phone with the police, somehow we had gotten to a safe place to pull over. My Mom yelled at me and threw me something metallic. My Aunt was in charge of driving, my Mom was incapacitated, and it was just me left. Out of desperation, my Mom had thrown me the pole for the attachable table that came with the car.
"Hello, this is 911, please state your name, location, and type of emergency."
The unfortunate 911 operator must have heard all of our demented screamings as my Aunt tried to explain our location on a highway rest stop. We needed a police escort to our hotel. We refused medical attention. We refused behavioral health intervention. We refused fire and rescue. Shamrock, Texas was the next town over from another center that Nevada had previously threatened to send my brother to, and that my dad had seriously considered. Then we found out about the lawsuits. No way in hell were we stopping anywhere close to there because that would be the first stop any emergency responder would make with Denny.
My Aunt couldn't help but laugh when the police arrived. Denny had been subdued (don't ask – medically, and physically restrained and subdued about covers it because I still don't like myself for the things we had to do to prevent the car from crashing.) Two armed officers had arrived, one wearing a white cowboy hat and one wearing a black cowboy hat.
The man in the white cowboy hat knocked on the window first. "Hello Ma'am, how can we help you this morning? My partner is over there, and we heard from dispatch that we got a behavioral case here."
My Aunt went on to explain what we needed, and the police seemed more than happy to oblige. My Mom stepped out of the car to receive first aid from the other officer. My Aunt rolled the window to the back of the car down,
"Hey Denny, I know you are pretty scared of police officers, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm a good guy, see my white hat?" Denny looked over at him, some of the medicines were beginning to sedate him, but he sleepily gave a single nod. "Well, good, I am glad we understand each other. You see the guy in the black hat over there, well he's a police officer, but he is much scarier and tough, but he is here just in case you act up again. Can you behave while we drive you to your hotel?" Denny nodded again. The last place he wanted to be was in the back of a police cruiser, again.
The police officers then gave us a lights only escort to our next holiday inn. – My Aunt's travel points sure came in handy. We checked in, and it was a very quiet night, the shock finally settling in as the adrenaline wore off. An inventory of injuries showed that my Mom was the worst off, my Aunt second with some bruises around her eyes and a good chunk of hair missing, and myself in third with a wad of skin and hair missing from behind my left ear. It still hasn't grown back. Unfortunately, as Facebook so delicately put it, we had just checked into the middle of nowhere, Texas. My Mom broke out the first aid kit to clean her bite, and then applied steristrips to close it; there wasn't much we could do for the bruising unless they started to swell, which would be a sign of bleeding.
We knew we were halfway there. The meds would buy us some time, and we hoped we would make it to Oklahoma. We needed to refuel, repair, and reassess our strategy. Denny's incident had left the car in a special state. Our Town and Country looked like the Tasmanian devil whirled around inside, but Denny was stronger than that. During his episode, he would display a sense of strength that we couldn't comprehend. Somehow, he had managed to rip one of the second-row seats from its welds to the floor of the car, of the four two were broken. Air vents were dangling from their sockets. The plastic interior was dented in a few spots, and silly putty was dripping down the sides of the car. We all looked at each other and wondered how we managed to not break any windows, after all, we had been through at least 6 of the back 3rd-row windows, and five windshields since we bought the car two years ago.
I don't remember the drive to Oklahoma, only the sheer joy I felt when we pulled into the Walmart parking lot that abutted a Chick-Fil-A. We went into Walmart and stocked up; we planned to modify the car to the point where cast and crew of The Walking Dead would be proud.
We bought 200 zip ties, 1 Great Dane Car Fence, 1 Great Dane Dog Cage, pillows, blankets, a memory foam crate mat, and a few toys.
We unloaded all of the suitcases, toys, and pups from the car at the dealership. We had two choices, either they weld the seat back in, and we would never be able to remove it, or we could take it out and never put it back in. We threw the seat in the trunk and decided that having the extra room would be helpful.
We folded down the double seat in the third row and slid the fully assembled crate in the back over the seats. We threw the mat, blankets, pillows, and some toys in there. We tied it down to some security points in the trunk. We hoped we wouldn't have to use the crate but it was there if we needed it. We moved the suitcases back in the trunk, and then attached the fence with zip ties to the back of the front seats. The neon zip ties tried to brighten the mood, but as we pulled into the Chick-Fil-A drive-through, we worried the police would stop us. Stopped by CPS. Stopped by someone that could take Denny away in the middle of nowhere. We couldn't drive at night anymore, and we worried about what the next five days held.
We had become a prison transport: my Mom, the warden.
The next few days were a whirlwind of caffeine. On the morning of Christmas Eve Day, my Aunt turned to me and said, "Let's just drive until we get there." We were just south of New York. We stopped at a Flying J, my Aunt loaded up on coffee and caffeine creamer, and we both stayed awake to navigate. I don't remember falling asleep, but,
"Kaitlyn wake up, we did it. We are crossing the Sagamore Bridge."
Never in my life have I been more excited to see the ocean, big beautiful green trees, and light yellow sand. The Cape Cod Canal was our marker, our meter of success. Every time we have crossed the bridge since we still feel a sense of relief and healing as we cross into Cape Cod. Our new home. Our home.
A lot has changed since we arrived at Cape Cod. We rented houses, we lived with my grandparents, we had locks all over the houses, the police knew us on a first-name basis, and so much more.
About three months after we moved the school districts in the area agreed with our initial assessment that Denny requires 24/7 care for his needs. He had gotten his ticket to "big boy college."