Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Letters to Prison... with love

Today we set up the Christmas tree

It wasn’t our idea, but Zachary’s. He wanted to set it up, specifically to help decorate it, then place the train on the tree skirt and play with the train. He is quite helpful and doggedly determined to do “something,” “anything” especially when his grandpa says, “Here, let me screw that in” or “wait, I need to…” the response is always, “No, I’ll do it!” This often becomes a battle of wills, as Zachary is left handed, just like you, so he wants to go to the left. Grandpa will calmly say, “right-y tight-y” and Zachary will adjust for the error.

Your father also bought one of those Christmas “music – light” show things that syncs the music and lights when turned on. Zachary helped your father put some of our Christmas decorations in the front yard. One would think that the entire design was Zachary’s idea and that he did all the work by himself.

Sometimes often my heart will catch when I hear your father say, “Nicholas…”

then shortly he will correct himself and say “Zachary…” Your father is so loving, so patient with Zachary (even when he shouldn’t be). Zachary gets something in his mind and he wants to do it and he wants to do it right now! We are trying to teach him the art of waiting for a bit. Patience is a hard fought quality, don’t you think?

We also find that it takes about one day in our home for him to use his manners and to lower his voice. He speaks very loudly when we first get him. It must be competition when there are three boys/brothers trying to say something all at once.

Your father picked Zachary and his brothers up on Wednesday afternoon. We have Zachary until Sunday. Last evening – the Friday after Thanksgiving was the downtown event where Santa comes to town – Merry Main Street, I believe it is called. I thought we’d never get Zachary out of the jumping castles. There were about five of them throughout Main Street.

I asked Zachary about school.

He says he hates school. I find that sad. He mentioned something about not having any friends at school and that made my heart hurt for him. He is sucking his thumb a lot. He usually does that when he is emotionally distraught. He does share the ‘alphabet’ and counting with us. I bought him a dry-erase set that has all the letters in both upper and lower case and numbers 0 – 9. He uses it and likes to have one of us over his shoulder while doing so.

While your dad was in Ohio, I got Zachary the weekend your dad was flying in. Since we had quite a while to wait for the flight, I took him to the Phoenix Children’s Museum. He had a wonderful time. He was learning and not even realizing it. He was enthralled with any and all lessons surrounding gravity. Young Isaac Newton, I called him. The museum took PVC plumbing pipes cut into sections, then applied magnets to them and had a metal half wall. The kids would connect the pieces and use the PVC elbows to make a trail from top to bottom. Then they would drop golf balls into them from the top. It was like something out of the McGee and Me videos! I believe Zachary would have stayed there all day.

They even had a tree house of sorts that utilized the same principle. The tubing for that was larger in diameter, went around the walls and ended up in a padded wooden crate with a rather loud ‘plunk’. This one used wooden croquet balls. I didn’t think he’d ever come out of that exhibit! Also along the wall was a display they had made using old pot and pan lids, wooden dowels slightly off center. It too, used golf balls. They would roll down the prescribed pathway and when hitting the pot and pan lids it was quite musical!

They also built an area that used those long floaty things for swimming pools. They hung them vertically and made it into a maze where they kids could follow the painted path on the floor. When they made it through the other side there were tents (for lack of a better term) made from various fabric scraps – with denim being the primary fabric. It looked for all the world like a gypsy caravan with such a cacophony of color! It was a place of quiet comfort since the tents were only big enough for one child.

The entire museum is a wonderful learning experience for children.

When you first enter there is a three story tree house that looked as if it came out of a Dr. Seuss book. It was amazing; all of it and Zachary enjoyed himself. We stopped in the gift shop before leaving. I had prepared Zachary for this by telling him he could select one item and one item only. It was a child’s delight in there! There were so many books; kites; science projects and yes, even his coveted Lego's  That is what he selected – a small pack of Lego's that had a Lego man inside! I tried to convince him to consider other items, especially a book on “Did Dinosaurs Fart?” but he would have none of it. Lego's were his choice. I did, however purchase a book with special paper for making paper airplanes. Sound familiar?

Perhaps you are wondering about the format of this.

I should explain that rather than putting it in an actual letter format, I am making it more like a journal entry, or a perhaps a chapter of a book. This is, after all, a continuation of a chapter of your life, isn't it? Don’t answer. It was rhetorical.

In your letter to your father you told him to tell me that you loved me and were sorry you were such an embarrassment to the family. Really? An embarrassment to the family? Is that the best you could come up with? You see, it isn't about you. It isn't about me. It is about those you leave in your wake. What kind of life are you relegating them to? They are being subjected to a life of poverty and that of state assistance. A life where they have learned that selfishness is the norm. That, after all is what they are learning and observing.

After my own 18 years in prison, this is what I know to be true: the vast majority of inmates are there because of selfishness. Their needs, their wants and their desires are more important than those of their families, or those of their children.

One of the greatest travesties in our society is how many children are fatherless. I'm not saying that single mothers don't and can't do a good job, after all I was a single mom with your sister for a substantial period of time. What I am suggesting is that children of broken homes and relationships have become the new orphans the Bible speaks so eloquently of.

The emotional storms

So here we are your father and I. Trying as it were, to clean up the debris of another aftermath from an emotional tsunami. Your tsunami. Trying to instill a sense of worth, a sense of importance and a sense of stability and love into the lives of your son and your daughter – when we are allowed to do so. When it is we are granted permission to do so. 

What do I know to be true? Probably that I won’t even send this to you. I will just write it out and hopefully that will purge it from my soul. Then I can be done with it.

In the meantime, I leave you with a quote from former inmate (now deceased) William Aberg’s poem entitled Devotions whose mother prayed “that I might find healing, keep healthy, have enough to eat. That I know how much she loves me. But that I never come home again.”

Love, from your mother

James 1:27

New International Version (NIV)
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.