It’s been a trying couple of weeks. As I’ve worked relentlessly to get answers and try to live my regular life while worrying myself into hysteria, at times, I have been going through ups and downs. Aren’t those the beauty of life? Some days you wake up and even in the midst of darkness, you are able to find peace and hope. Then, other days are a battle to get out of bed and put on your pants and smile to the world when all you want to do is throw your hands up, throw in the towel and tell them, “OK, I get it. I’ll never win this battle because you’ve been doing this way longer than me.” But through it all, I keep believing that everything happens for a reason and my faith is unwavering. I feel like I have been steadfast in my attempts to advocate for Joe. The Department of Corrections is probably hoping that I do throw in that towel soon and just quietly disappear like I’m sure so many who have family on the outside world do, but I can’t. My 100% or 0% character flaw won’t let me. It has always been my one downfall or maybe it’s my one saving grace. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I don’t have a 50% bone in my body. I either care way too much and get way too emotionally involved or I don’t care enough and I am simply detached. It goes for every facet of my life, too. I think I’ve touched on this before, but it’s just the way I am, like it or not. Most people who have dated me, hurt me, and then tried to get me back, don’t like it so much. Neither do employers who have burned their bridges with me and think that I will stay for the money even if it goes against everything I believe in. But when I am in, I am all in, all the time, thick and thin, easy or hard, good and bad. This is where I’ve been since the beginning of the month. My life has been consumed with finding out what happened to my dear, Joe. I still don’t know. My days have been filled with lunch time and end of the day phone calls, late night emails, hours of prayer and meditation, lots of phone calls with his brother to keep his spirits up and, truth be told, I feel better when I talk to him, too, because it’s almost like talking to Joe. I have been relentless in calling the prison. I have called lawyer after lawyer to find one that will tell me what I want to hear. I have wracked my brain along with his brother to come up with a solution to get the information we need and through it all, we both have remained pillars of faith, it seems. Joe is a faithful guy. I don’t think I know anyone personally who is so in touch with the words in the bible, and with his own inner spirituality, and knowledge of other religions and rituals. I think that is part of the reason it is so hard for me to believe that he will not make it through this. I know a lot of people think I am wasting my time and energy, because all they see in their mind is a convict who had such a long time to go anyway that it’s pointless for me to even care. My boss told me that I’m too emotionally involved. He said I need to detach. He said Joe made his life choices and I shouldn’t be involving myself in trying to fix things. He hasn’t known me very long. Although, the irony of it all is that he should know that fixing things is what I always try to do. It’s what I was hired to do for him. It’s what I’ve been attempting to do since I started working for him and we are almost there. In a way, his comment was a slap in the face to me, but in another way, it was kind of eye opening, because it made me see even more how no matter how many ways I explain or try to justify this situation, some people will never get it and never know what unconditional love is or how to accomplish it. It is easy to love your children unconditionally, even though some parents don’t. It is easy to love your parents unconditionally, even though some children don’t, but it is not easy, apparently, for some to fathom loving a person who is not related to you by blood, unconditionally (especially if that person is in prison). Yet, I do. And I love unconditionally all the time. I actually have a lot of people in my life, who are not blood related to me, that I would fight for, give an organ to, take a bullet for, have a baby for, change my whole life for, really. And there’s a very good chance that those people don’t even know they are on that list, but if any of them were in the situation that Joe is in now and had nobody to advocate for them, in prison or out, I would be there for them, because that’s what unconditional love does. So even though there has only been small pinholes of light in this dark situation, I do know that with enough pinholes, it won’t be dark anymore.
I saved a honey bee today. He was floating down the river that I’ve been spending a lot of my time at just flipping and flapping his tiny little wings. I debated for a moment whether to help or just let him keep drifting along. Even though he was “just a bee,” I decided I should help so I scooped him out and laid him on the wooden dock next to me. He stumbled around for a second and then stumbled right back into the water. A second time, I scooped him out and laid him on the dock next to me. This time, he was a little more careful which direction he was headed. I watched in awe as he sat next to me for a while and dried himself. He slowly rubbed his face with his little legs. It reminded me of the way a kitten would clean itself. I watched his little hairy body drag along the dock and then he was still for another moment before he started walking along again. I felt so happy that I had saved his little life. I thought what if that was my one and only purpose for being alive today? I did exactly what I was put on this earth to do today. Maybe I gave his little life too much importance and maybe in the big scheme of things, my actions didn’t make one difference at all in the universe, but for a few minutes I was satisfied with myself. My happiness soon turned to horror as I watched him walk directly back to edge and plunge himself back into the water drifting away in the same direction he was originally headed. I said a little prayer for his little doomed soul and let nature take its course, sad that he didn’t just sit still long enough to dry off and fly away.
Possible moral of the story: No matter how hard you try to help, sometimes things turn out exactly the way they were headed anyway. And, quite frankly, I think that just sucks!!
I’ve never been one of those people who has a talent and knows it and pats themselves on the back for it. I’m actually usually one of those people who rarely recognizes a talent until someone points it out and I really can’t think of an argument and then I’m like, “well, damn, maybe you’re right maybe I am good at (insert whatever ‘thing’ here).” Parenting is really no different. I will admit that I never think of myself as a failure as a parent, but on the flipside I rarely think of myself as supermom either. Have I successfully raised two healthy and fairly well balanced adults? Yes. Do I think my third and final kid will follow in their footsteps? Sure. Do I give myself all of the credit for it? Not so much. As I was pushing my lawnmower today mowing the small forest that I had neglected behind the fence in my backyard, with every pass of the mower, I was thinking to myself why the fuck aren’t you making your kid do this? And then I had this whole internal dialogue with myself about why, in fact, I was not making him mow the grass. Some people might say that I spoil him. Some people might say that I’m too easy on my last child. Some people might say I’m not teaching him to be responsible and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with any of those people, but like everything else I do in my life, I raise my kids the way I see fit. And I guess my philosophy is this (and I know the majority will not agree and that’s ok, this is where we can just agree to disagree): I taught my kids how to be kind, how to be social, how to stand up for themselves, how to stand up for others, I taught them how to use a screwdriver, how to do the dishes, how to cook a meal or two, how to mow the grass, how to drive a car, I taught them that it’s ok to cry, I taught them that if they don’t do their homework, the consequences are theirs, I taught them if they don’t use a condom, those consequences will be theirs too. I taught them that it’s ok to love and get hurt. I taught them that it’s ok to make mistakes. I taught them that it’s ok to say I’m sorry. I taught them that it’s also ok to say fuck you and walk away. I may have taught them too much about independence and stubbornness, but I’m ok with that. I’ve taught them that it’s ok to help people and it’s ok not to. I think I taught them that their feelings and beliefs are valid even if nobody else sees things the way they do. I hope I taught them that they have value as humans. But what I never did that would have the whole parenting community up in arms, I’m sure, is make them do “chores.” My kids never had a “chore” list. We never had things that they had to do all the time in exchange for an “allowance.” I’ve always felt like I was the mom. I brought them into this world that, for the most part, really freaking sucks and they didn’t ask for that, so I’ve always felt like it would be selfish and irrational to force them to “do chores” With that being said, I am not saying that they never had to do the things that would be classified as “chores” but those things were more of a family contribution. Like I said, I taught them all those chore like tasks and when they needed to be done, I asked them to do them and they did, but I never really forced them to do it. Maybe a time or two I did, when I was still trying to prove my ability to parent to their other parents and grandparents, but they had the tools to succeed. If the day came that, God forbid, one day, I just didn’t wake up, I know that I have given them the tools to be successful. They can cook, fix things, deal with people, clean up after themselves, etc. But as a teenager, I don’t feel like my kid’s life should revolve around those things and I don’t feel like those things being done is contingent on my child being able to enjoy his childhood. Then again, I also don’t “ground” my kid for random things. I will take away privileges, but not his basic rights. I have never sent my kid to bed without dinner. I have never withheld affection because he/she did something that made me mad. I always tell my kids I love them just in case one day I can’t, they will know I always did. So maybe I am not supermom and maybe I have messed up ideologies when it comes to parenting, but I have pretty darn good kids even if I never forced them mow the grass or wash the dishes or scrub the bathtub. All that stuff going through my head as I mowed a little patch of grass. You would think I was out there all day pondering this….
As you know I’ve been going round and round with this prison trying to find out about Joe. The “Doctor” who is his caseworker is, well, for lack of a four letter word that starts with c- and ends with -unt has been less than pleasant with me for the most part. Again, I get it. She’s just “doing her job,” she can’t “get involved.” Whatever. I spoke with her Monday. She said Joe was having a procedure done but couldn’t tell me what. I assumed something was getting removed and not vice versa because of my faith that things were going to work out. So I waited the almost 48 hours she asked me to wait. I didn’t call one number on Tuesday. Not one. My phone didn’t have any idea what was happening and I’m sure the prison breathed a sigh of relief to not hear me in the other end of the line for a whole day. But, today was 48 hours or close to it. Actually, I think it was more than 48 hours. I lost a day this week. I’m not sure how or where, but today, I sent a text early in the day. Surprise! No response. So I waited until 4:45 Nashville time to give the good doctor a call. She was actually semi-pleasant to me. I think. She told me, again, that I would have to call back in a few days because they were moving him again and also he is breathing on his own she threw in at the last minute. So, when I asked where, she told me they were moving him to the medical prison, but when I asked if he was awake she said she really had no idea. She didn’t ask and she also hadn’t been over to the hospital to see him. Someone should give her an award. Maybe Doctor of the Year? I thanked her and told her I would call back in a couple days, which is Monday midday in my head. And I hung up the phone and bawled my eyes out, but it was different this time. It was a thankful, happy cry. I thanked God for taking care of him and I got my hopes way, way up about his state of being and even if I’m completely wrong, there was no feeling in the world that could have topped that minute of pure joy. It was better than what I imagine winning the lottery would be like. And when I got to tell his brother, it was like we both just breathed a sigh of relief. I know that it is probably premature and I don’t expect any miracles when I get to see him, which will hopefully be next week, but him being in a coma twice in his life and surviving is miracle enough for me right now and there’s really nothing that could rain on my parade tonight. I feel better than I have in weeks and hopefully soon I can see him and maybe I’ll be lucky enough that he will remember me, but even if he doesn’t, he’s alive and for that, I thank God.
I got home from work the other day and I was super exhausted. I got in the house, immediately put on my sweat pants, stripped out of my bra, threw on my favorite tattered old Bob Marley t-shirt with the rip in the front that I have tied in a knot and decided that my day was done. Mel, my kiddo, decided that it was not. He wanted to go to his friend’s house and he didn’t want to ride his bike so he asked me if I would take him. I’ve not been very mom-of-the-year like since this whole Joe situation happened. Even when I’m home, I’ve been distracted and although I try to be my normal self, some days I fail miserably. I figured the least I could do was give the kid a ride to his friend’s house and pick him up in a few hours. I dropped him off and was heading home when I drove by my favorite spot at the river. And it was calling me, “Angie…. come sit, let’s talk, I miss you.” And I thought, I miss you too, River. So I pulled into the parking lot, kicked my shoes off in the car and walked to the little dock that I’ve taken many a nap on. I will admit that it’s not the safest part of the river to be hanging out at. There is probably rampant drug use and prostitution happening there after dark, but it was 5pm and darkness wasn’t coming for quite a few hours. I got to the dock, pulled my sweatpant legs up and put my feet in the water. I know the river is filthy, but it’s my thing. That’s what I do. Then I pulled my feet out and laid back and watched the clouds passing by. I guess I was lost in thought because I heard someone say, “Hey, someone take those keys and throw them in the water.” That’s what got my attention. I turned my head and a boat had mysteriously appeared beside me. A pontoon with two guys in it and two guys still standing outside of it. I turned around and I see the guy who made the key comment. And then I look next to me and realize he’s talking about my keys. So I tell him, “you wanna see a girl in sweat pants jump into the river like a flash of lightning, go ahead and toss those keys.” And then, “hahah” we chuckled. Then I invited myself on the boat. Of course, he said, “sure, come on.” But he thought I was joking. I wasn’t. I got on the boat, made myself comfortable and waited for the others to get in. The guy introduced himself to me and handed me his business card so I would know a.) he’s not a killer or b.) the name of my killer. At that point I wasn’t sure how it would end, but I’m a pretty good judge of vibrations. Not so much character, because we all know how my character judgment usually turns out, but they all seemed harmless enough. And quite frankly, not in great shape. I happen to be a really strong swimmer so I guessed I could outswim them if they did decide to rape and pillage me. So we were cruising on the river in a pontoon and the guy who owned the boat asked me if I was married, I said no. He asked me if I was single. I said, I guess. He asked me if I lived nearby. I said yes. He asked me if I liked guys. I said yes. He asked me if I liked girls. I said no. He asked me if I had kids. I said yes. Then he asked me if I was a single mom (which should have been fairly evident from the previous twenty questions, but….) I said yes. Then he came and sat next to me and told me he could take my kid shopping for clothes through some program he’s involved in and then I was slightly offended that he would think just because I live in the hood and was a single mom that I couldn’t afford to buy my kid clothes. I didn’t take into consideration that I probably looked homeless in my ripped t-shirt and bare feet. Of course, I just entertained him because I was on his boat so I said, “that’d be cool,” not expanding on the fact that I don’t really let anyone around my kid because I’m the only permanent fixture in his life and everyone else is temporary and pointless. So we floated around in the river for a bit and turned around and they dropped me back off at the dock and I got in my car and went home.
It later dawned on me that I would, in fact, probably get into a boat with a murderer because I love the water so much. Actually, dude could have probably been wearing a Jason mask and holding a chainsaw and I would still be all like, “ooooh, a ride on your boat? Sure!! How long do you think we will be?” And he would be all like, (chainsaw revvvvving up)”we’ll be gone forever!!”(ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha). And I’d be like, “cool!” as I step on the boat and take my last breath. I keep thinking I am going to outgrow my impulsivity one day, but clearly that day has not come.
Very rarely do I ever sit around thinking, “man, I wish I had a marketable skill.” Today, however, as I called lawyer after lawyer and got basically the same numbers in dollars and cents, I started thinking, “why was I never a stripper?” Stage fright and pink eye, I guess is the answer. I guess I could have been a masseuse, but I only want to touch the people I want to touch, so I guess that’s out too. I could have been a painter, but I can only make pictures look like pictures when I am copying someone else or taking a class so that’s out. I once thought about trying to get into the card writing business, but not the lovey hallmark-ish stuff, more like “Hey, so your day didn’t turn out as planned, at least you didn’t find your husband in bed with another man,” and then you open up and it says, “ooh, my bad, let’s have a drink.” Or something like that. I didn’t really ever work out the kinks. I guess that’s why I don’t have my own “NOTmark” line of cards. I do have a small stockpile of hula hoops I made sitting in my room, but I’ve not finished them and there’s not enough to raise $3000 sitting there anyway. So I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to get a lawyer to help me with the situation I need help with, but I’ve pretty much decided that doing something illegal to get legal help would be a terrible idea. Not that I’ve ever broken a law in my life that didn’t involve a speed limit, but if I were ever going to be tempted, it would be now, which is kind of ironic that I would break the law to help a guy who is in jail for breaking the law. Eh, maybe it’s not that ironic. Maybe I could get a reality tv show. We could call it the 40 year old stripper. Or maybe that whole lottery thing will work out tonight, but you gotta play to win or so I hear. Either way, I’m still brainstorming and I am trying so hard to remain positive but the system is so fucked that sometimes it’s really a chore. And I want to have faith all the way around, but like I’ve said before, the system is not designed to help you succeed. It’s designed to keep you exactly where you are. That’s why it’s called a system. So I guess I will just head to bed and pray to wake up with a brilliant idea or a bucket full of money next to my bed. Or both.
Today was another mostly uneventful day on the Joe front, though I did get a little more information today and definitely got reprimanded by a chaplain, I still don’t know much more than I knew when I went to bed last night or the night before or the night before. What I do know: when you are in a situation that leaves you in a desperate state of mind and the only thing you can think to do is call any and everyone who has anything to do with resolving said situation, do that. That is basically how I spent my day off today, on the couch, on the phone. And I called pretty much everyone except for the governor and the only reason I didn’t call him was because I got a call back from the chaplain who was pretty frustrated with me for continuing to make calls after he said he was looking into things. In my defense, he also told me that at the end of the week before last and didn’t bother calling me back at all. I even gave him the benefit of the doubt and only left messages on three out of the five days I called him, but still nothing. I will give him credit for answering my phone call today, but I believe that only happened because I called once and didn’t leave a message so I called back to leave one and that’s when he answered, but he was short with me. I know they are frustrated with me. I am frustrated too so I can sympathize, but if any of them took one moment to remember that he is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s love, and put themselves in the same exact position, I don’t believe it would be acceptable by any means to not get one bit of information for fourteen days. And I’m not just selfishly talking about myself. They haven’t told anyone in his family anything nor called them. I understand the “policy” of not being able to tell me anything, and I’ve been really pleasant about respecting the rules in that way, but I was told by three different people that if I couldn’t get a special visit before the 14 day waiting period was over then I would get to visit in 14 days. So when that didn’t happen and it didn’t look like it was going to happen, I let my fingers do the walking. I called all the previous people I had spoken with except for the “doctor” assigned to his case who pretty much told me to go fuck myself the last time I spoke with her. I didn’t bother calling that number back, but all the others I called. I called the social worker, I called visitation, I called medical, I called the chaplain, in that order, when I didn’t get an answer, I called the warden and left a message. I didn’t get a call back. So I called the commissioner. His secretary seemed like she was trying to help and took all my information so she could forward it to the prison so they could call me back. However, everyone there already has all my information. I would say it’s a safe bet that they know my voice by now, the strong one and the weeping one. So I tried the social worker one more time since he was the one who originally promised the visit. He finally answered and acted like he had no idea what was going on and told me I would have to talk to the warden’s secretary. Then he gave me her number. She was very nice as well and took all my information and forwarded it to fourteen people including the chaplain who called me back to scold me for making moves on my own and not waiting for him. I will admit, he has been the most helpful. Well, he had been the most helpful until last week when I was dismissed by everyone including him. So when he called and was visibly upset with me because he had just received a not so nice email, I felt a small pang of something for him, but not enough to back down. He reminded me how he has been trying to help me and trying to do his job, which I didn’t argue. He had been trying to help me, but what he needed to realize is that I, too, have just been doing my job as an advocate for someone who cannot advocate for himself right now. The funny thing about love that the people running the system don’t seem to realize is that when you love someone with the heat of a thousand forest fires, nothing will stop you from loving them and fighting for them, ever. And so with no apologies, I waited for the call I’ve been waiting a week for. And when it finally came, it was from the not so nice “doctor” who I spoke with two weeks ago today. This time, however, she was much more “helpful” or trying to be. I still didn’t get a visit because he had a “procedure” today that made him “not up for a visit,” but when I asked if that meant that he was conscious, she didn’t know, because she’s not his actual doctor, she’s more like his caseworker with a PhD. behind her name. So now I have to wait 48 more hours while they come up with some other excuse to not let me see him, because I’m not quite sure how an unconscious man could not be up for a visit, but I have no other choice but to take their word for it and hope that it means he’s awake though I’m not getting my hopes up just yet, but my faith is at an all time high right now so I guess that can only help, right?