Almost eleven years ago my dad shot and paralyzed his nephew. Ten years ago he entered prison, and tonight, Lord willing and April Fools’ Day hijinks notwithstanding, he will be released.
Most of you who already know me know the whole story; you’ve been with me for the past ten years when the sentence first felt stunning and surreal and then “just the way it is” and now, holy-crap-has-it-been-ten-years-already?! You’ll never know how much your support has sustained me; how nick-of-time those jokes, happy hours, hugs and “just because” or “don’t worry about it, I’ve got it this time” gifts were. Thank you. I really do know with my whole soul that I have the greatest friends and family in the entire universe.
As he has served his time I won’t get into trying to justify what caused him to lose his temper, but I will say that my dad is not a monster or some deviant hellbent on terrorizing people. He allowed someone to get the better of him in a moment that lived in an entire series of passive, festering moments. He’d be the first one to choke-laugh his way through admitting he hasn’t been and never was interested in being a saint. There’ve been too many hurts, too many familial fractures and too many untended wounds in his life … but that was then.
The most important thing I’ve learned these last ten years is that my parents are people too. Choosing to meet and see them as such has been the most challenging and affirming and wondrous thing I’ve yet to do.
I’m writing this post mainly so that any subsequent posts or social media snapshots will make some sort of sense to those of you who may suddenly be seeing my daddy and trying to figure out why I’m so relieved and glad about it. I know I’ve made it seem like he’s always been around in some kind of possibly weird, not totally present way. Now you know why. I’m also really happy and thrilled to show you what redemptive love will look like–Mags and Pete have had an interesting go at married life, but love has never been more patient and sweet to behold. See also how “fun” wedges itself in “dysfunction” for two very fine reasons.
I’m also writing this post because I may need more of your help if they don’t actually let him out tonight. Keep the prayers and good wishes and happy thoughts coming! There’s been a whole lot of passive aggressive and just plain strange messaging in the weeks leading up to his release–both inside for him and outside for us–and because I’ve dealt with this prison system for the past ten years I know well enough that power plays and last-minute-because-I-said-so change-ups are sadly and dangerously the norm. As far as I can see there’s no more reason to hold him–he’s served his time with better behavior inside than out!–but for certain people in positions of oversight and control it’s almost as if he’s been too quiet and too good for too long.
I’ve never heard of and have yet to meet anyone else who so wants to claim their loved one from prison more than I do. Ten years is a long time for a man who went in at age 57; for a marriage 44 years in the making; for two women in their early 20s and 30s. The four of us have become different people and the thought of having a reunion has filled each of us with more hope than any of us ever thought we needed to feel.
Which is why my dad telling me over the phone to take a dirt road to the left of the main driveway I normally use when I visit to pick him up at 3AM in the morning is so damn off-putting. We must report to pick him up at 3am but know that they can also hold him until 3pm. So there’s this 12-hour window where I need to be there OR they will detain him for another month.
I’m pretty sure Comcast and Time Warner both have better windows of service than this.
I’d also like to point out that I’m picking up a person. A beloved person, yes, but still a person. Not a pair of shoes or an additional cable line or a tax return, but a human being. Dangling him like a past participle in the middle of the freaking night after he’s served his sentence still seems to criminalize him in some way and worse, it dares to criminalize me and my happy, law-abiding existence.
This is just one of the things i don’t understand about how the prison system “works.” In no way do I wish or will I ever attempt to attack the services that are extended to victims of crimes, but I have to wonder, into which “class” of victim do I fall? I haven’t been able to call or visit my dad without being subjected to irascible correctional officers, and don’t even get me started on the mail. That’s a whole other post.
But where can I go where other people are talking about the added expense that some families take on to care for their loved ones? And before you even think about saying that prisoners live better than you do–just go ‘head and take it somewhere else. I’ve got bank statements and receipts from the inside that will tell you otherwise. They will sho’nuff tell you that you will want to know where your tax payer dollars are really going. Hint: it ain’t to this mythical, well-equipped gym, or the 50 beds/66 inmates dormitory ratio or the 3 “square” meals and they absolutely are not covering healthcare or these so-called prison industry positions. (They could be going to a doctor who may or may not have practiced as a gynecologist for 30+ years before becoming the primary care physician at an all-male facility though!)
At any rate, I’ve been struggling with this whole process FOR TEN YEARS and it’s just now starting to break free in my writerly mind and I just need to express myself and y’all are always telling me to write more anyways so … thank you :)