A place where all my personalities meet. Sometimes there will be just random thoughts, a question I am pondering, or complete chaos. Other times, you may meet one of the folks floating around in my head, wonder how I function daily, or think to yourself, "this chick is nuts!" It's where I just vent, babble, clear out the cobwebs, and attempt to regain sanity and control the craziness inside my head*. Feel free to follow, comment, and invite friends. Welcome to my life!
This is not the story of a man wrongly accused of a crime,
nor is it a story about how the system failed him. Instead, this is the story
of how my father, a 55-year-old shy rock and roller from Southeast Iowa
withstood being convicted of a crime. The nature of that crime is irrelevant;
as are the months leading up to his conviction. The relevance is my father
himself-his reaction to his sentence, his subsequent years in prison, and his
overwhelming love for life.
As a family, we were scared. Petrified he would die in
there. So many horrible prison stories played out in our minds. We were angry.
We were in denial. But my father never
showed that to us. He was strong. He accepted his sentence and worked with the
warden, who despite the laws surrounding him, tried to help keep his punishment
He first ordered that privileges be removed. It was
difficult for Dad to lose such an important part of life. Visits were still
allowed but kept to a minimum. The first six months were horrible. Dad was
physically drained and the stress was evident. He lost his taste for food. He
lost weight. The rules in Dad’s prison were that the hair goes. While Dad has
been balding for some time, what little he had left he hated to part with, but
he did. He begged and prayed they would let him keep the beard. Oddly, they
Dad never lost his sense of humor. He would not complain
though we knew it was hard for him. His cell mates would come and go. Some were
physically abusive. They would keep him awake at night. His sleep cycle was
damaged and he became exhausted. Some of his cellmates caused emotional
turmoil. They messed with his mind and caused him undue mental anguish. And
some were just irritating. Just a constant reminder of the prison he was in.
But, again, he never complained. He joked about them
sometimes. They became companions’ almost-like neighbors you can’t get to move-
so he learned to live with them. Occasionally, he would get a quiet one. And he
After the first year or so, he was used to his surroundings.
Used to the guards and the other prisoners. The food still tasted bad and he
would pass up a meal here and there. He wrote a lot. He became friends with the
warden. Together, they began working on a plan for freedom.
At the five year mark, it looked like Dad was on the road to
release. He looked good. He had started eating again and the warden and him
were pleased with the way the system was treating him. There was a report of
time for good behavior. Release was about to happen. We were close.
As a family we could not have been happier. My children were
young when this began and didn’t even know Grandpa beyond the walls of his
prison. Although he was the same man in or out, there was that sadness around
him that would only go away with freedom. We would rejoice in that freedom.
The news came and we did rejoice. Freedom was a lovely
thing. But, he wasn’t set completely free. He was still a convicted man. The
crime or sentence had not been taken. The only change was the walls that
surrounded him. He was paroled only. One false move and he would go back. We
knew the risk. We ran with it. We were ecstatic.
Our family was complete again.
And then it happened. The news came at a routine probation
meeting that his parole was being revoked. There was no warning. No indication
that this was coming.
Dad went back to prison.
New privileges were removed. And, new restraints were used.
Again, he lost weight. He became depressed. But he never complained. He never
lost his love of life. He never wanted pity. He was happy to be alive. It
didn’t matter where he lived.
He went to solitary confinement and for 85 days, he was poked
and prodded by guards. Taunted by them in a way that scarred him for life.
Physical signs of the pain he endured could be seen by the eye. The tire in his
voice was clear. But, again he never complained. He never felt sorry for
When he got out of solitary, he couldn’t decide if he wanted
the fizz of a Pepsi tickling his nose or the sweet taste of orange sherbet
caressing his palate. That’s what he thought of. Not of the pain inflicted on him.
Not the anger that should have been directed to the new warden that put him
there, or at the guards who furthered the error of the system. No, he wanted the
goodness in life. The good that he could always see, hear, and want.
The good that is in him. No matter what. That is what he
shares with his family and friends. He talks about his prison life-not in a
“feel sorry for me” kind of way, but, in a “this is my life and I love living”
kind of way. He is happy to wake up every day. He is happy to love his children
and his grandchildren. He is happy to love his wife; the girl of his dreams-his
He is a happy man and has lived a happy life. Even from
It’s been fifteen years. He is still in prison. He just
turned 70. He said it was the best birthday ever. He said the love of his
family and friends made him the happiest man.
Dad’s prison is cancer. And for fifteen years we have lived
outside the walls that Dad lives within, sharing his love for life and his
optimism to fight.
This is not the story of a man wrongly accused of a crime.
It’s the story of my father, a shy rock and roller from Southeast Iowa who has
showed his friends and family how to live. How to live good and strong despite
being surrounded by the walls of cancer.