12-07 LETTER TO JACK

Thursday 12/27/07

Hi Jack:
First I want to again thank you and your whole family for a great visit last Saturday. I was such an unexpected pleasure to see the whole family when I stepped into the visiting room! They too obviously sacrificed a lot on the Saturday before Christmas having just arrived from points all over. Many thanks.
Also, I should have gotten this out way before now, but I was really feeling down after your visit. I was so hoping my family would come up, but they were unable to make it, so I will not see Ben till who knows when. I may be able to see Cat on New Year’s Day – I hope. I have to realize it is so difficult for them for many reasons, more than the normal person. They hate to see their dad locked up. They also are still working through everything, especially in Ben’s case. They have to drum up the energy to come to a place like this, which, during the holiday, proved too difficult. Here they were home from their other worlds, trying to come back “home”, but that has surely changed and lacks a great deal, turning it into a bittersweet event. At least they are talking to me – I ran up the phone bill in the last couple of days – so I know what they are thinking. When I didn’t see them, and of course I couldn’t hear from them unless I called, I was really down. If I lose their affection and caring, I most definitely would be lost. Time, Ben reminded me, is about the only thing that will help, time to work through the pain, etc. and for me to build back the relationships, though they may be different. All three of them agreed, and when I talked to them last night, it finally put my mind at ease. I feel a whole lot better today and am be able to write this to you. The hurt is still there knowing I have hurt them so deeply and irreversibly. All I can do now is try and take care of myself so they will have a healthy father whenever I do get out.
Sorry to unload on you, especially when you are probably still riding the holiday high of having your family together again. But I was in no way able to do much from Sunday till today, and my sleep suffered as did my work. I was snapping at people, kept to myself and just wasn’t good company at all. I now am typing this at work in the afternoon mod as all the preparation for tomorrow is done and I am waiting for the dot matrix printer to finish it’s job. By the way, there is no right margin or correction tape in this typewriter, so no grading for errors!!
I am not sure when you will receive this with all your planned travel. I do hope you find your brother doing better and his family coping as best they can. From my vantage point the travel weather looks to be OK, I know my nephews from Virginia wanted to come up to snow this holiday, but my brother, who you met after the visit, said that Sherburne lost all of it’s snow with the previous rains. We did get 1-2” today, but now it is raining again.

Interestingly enough, when I was really down yesterday, it was sunny so I decided to go to the outside yard in the afternoon since I was off work. After walking around the track ( ½ mile or so) a few times, I sat on the bleachers and cried my head off. Later, another inmate walked by and commented on the weather or something, then later sat not too far away and started talking. At that point I was or had been telling myself to give it all up to God and watch for what comes. Then here comes this guy talking about his parole, his family when he got out last time, and the death of his mother and father close together, kind of a love ‘em when you can type of thing. I knew there was a reason he walked by and we were talking, and I knew I had to call my wife and the kids that night where previously I didn’t want to do it. Who wants to call and find out no one wants to come visit them! I enjoyed the day so much more after that, and walked around the track more before heading back. The call, as I said, was so worth it, and I know I probably wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t talked to that guy in the yard. Truthfully, I could fall over him and I wouldn’t know him – one of the many angels God sends, I think, if we are open to them. Believe me, I was sitting out of the way, overlooking a snow covered soccer field, and here he came. I guess I am telling you this because you also have helped me think through a lot of things when you write and I may not have told you how they helped me get through things at the time. I guess I am a little slow sometimes when it comes to critical thinking, especially when I am involved!! Reflection is good too, and the good weather helped clear my mind a bit yesterday too.

Well, back to pen in my room. I felt good in our playoff game tonight, scoring well, rebounding real well, but my pride was in my numerous steals. No one figured OT was the factor till the end, but now they labeled me the “best cracker (white) big man in the jail!” Well, the semi-finals will tell as we play a much younger team all around rather than just 2 or 3 young ones. I had to play the whole 40 minutes as we only had 6 guys, so I guess I am in shape. I want better, but then that is the way with everything – better food, shorter sentence….
Let’s hope ’08 brings peace and joy throughout the land and relief in those may parts of the world with civil unrest. Pakistan sure is a mess now with the assassination. Unfortunately not too many intellectuals to talk politics in here, but NPR is great to tune in at various times when I could.
Thank your whole family (and you) again Jack for your continual support and “walking the talk” of spreading the ministry outside the church walls.
Peace,
Van

TRANSITIONS

I definitely had landed. Why had I had such little faith that I would? I guess I am not real good at trusting the Lord at this stage, still relying on my own efforts even though my mantra of Proverbs 3 v 5-6 are constantly running through my head: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” I chuckled as I remembered how I tried to reason with the CO’s and how I panicked when I was not on the last bus out that Tuesday. God must have been chuckling too, knowing all the time what the outcome was going to be.

Who knew I would so soon be playing organized basketball again. I may not have been moved down from the top bunk a week and a half after landing here, but I am on a team in the over 40 league. That is what happened after I finally had a chance to showcase my skills during rec time.

I remember back when I first got to the reception dorm, remember returning to my new dorm after supper and talking with others about what was available at night for activities that Thanksgiving night. I sure was not one to lie around on my bunk or watch television. There were actually two TV’s as we were joined to another dorm, kind of in the shape of the letter ‘I’ with the bathrooms, microwave room and television rooms in between the dorms which were on the outside. They also had a laundry area where you could do your own. But the best thing was the individual showers. No more wearing underwear! I was told we could sign out to the yard, gym or library, so I headed to the gym hoping to not only check out the facility, but also get some hoop in.

Once in the building, you had to change into your sneakers in order to go to the gym. Going in one of the two weight rooms that flanked the CO’s bubble did not require any shoe change. I checked out the free weights, then looked at what machines were available in the second room. Then I went into the gym which I had already noticed was packed.

It was a full size gymnasium with two games starting going cross court. Teams had been picked as I pushed to the front of the crowd, but of course nobody knew me and even though I was tall, after all, I was OT – old timer. So I waited and watched. The obvious better quality games were down on the right interestingly enough where the baskets were more level and seemed newer. The games on the left had so many turnovers and air balls I did not think they would ever end. Winners stayed on, so I had to get picked in the next five to run. Guys had already picked ‘next’ and I was not included in either game. So I did what I am getting used to in here, wait.

Finally I got in a game though it was on the weaker side. I felt if I showed well, I could “graduate” to the quality side soon enough. Problem was, guys didn’t pass very much, trying to dribble through two or three guys or just jacked up shots from anywhere. Fortunately, being 6’3″, I was able to procure several rebounds. After passing it away and never seeing it again, I finally did my own thing and took it down, shot and scored. Then again. There were several whoops and hollers about OT which I had gotten used to at Fishkill. All I wanted to do was get in the better game at the other end. But, alas, it was time for the go back, time to return to your ‘home’ for the night. How did I know? The CO’s came in and turned off the lights!

But as with most things inside corrections, word must have spread. In this case that OT was a baller. Soon after that first week of recreational pick up games where I finally was chosen and given a chance – on the better end – to showcase my abilities, I was approached by an inmate asking if I was on a team and if not, would I like to be on his. I had no frame of reference or alternative options at that point so I said yes, jumping at the chance to play organized basketball again as I had at Fishkill. Now I had been playing at least three times a week on the outside in two different leagues as well as pick up games at a local college. The latter I had been doing with the same core group of guys at lunch time for over 25 years. The idea of playing one night a week in league play was nothing for me as I prided my self on conditioning if nothing else. More obviously, it would help pass the time and make this Jumaji world seem more normal if only for the 40 minutes the games lasted, not to mention any connections with others I might make.

Work was also going well, with my boss pleased with the way her call out office was now running and me pleased with the freedom the job provided. I was no longer tied to a desk, but could roam some when going or coming from the delivery of our product. Some times I could also visit the transitional services office just across the large lobby from my new office. It was there all the phase facilitators had desks and worked on stuff for their classes, even sometimes in the evening like I had done in Fishkill’s grievance department. Once again I was back on the computer, able to use my free time to type letters for myself or my co-worker. I also was teaching him about using the pc and what it could do even without any internet connection, and more basically, how to type. I never thought “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” would come into play again, but here it was, a primary tool used to teach him the key board.

Turns out he was down for an alcohol related crime, so I knew he’d be heading to ART at some point, a mandatory class for all drug and alcohol inmates. He said he had no problem with me and my crime, as he knew several others also waiting to get into the program. Seems other inmates would often make fun of guys in the sex offender program dorms and, then after a few weeks, end up there themselves. But I still kept most of my cards close to the vest as previously advised.

I did manage to get on the religious call out for Monday and Thursday night Bible study where outside people came in to teach us various Bible studies. You can attend Sunday religious services without being on the call out, but all evening studies required your name being on the list, so I made sure I went through the proper channels to do so. A couple of guys with older numbers – meaning they had been inside corrections for a while – told me the nights where the civilians coming in were really good, so I signed up. It took about a week before the pastor brought the list down to our office for his religious call-outs. He actually remembered me from church and we had a decent conversation before he left. I was quite looking forward to the studies and he even suggested I check out the Sunday night one as well. Wow, three nights of it might be a bit much, but I knew I could only attend Thursday nights when I didn’t have a basketball league game, so I thought Sundays would be fine. Besides, what better thing did I have to do?

Other than that I was laying low, hoping not to make any waves as suggested my my old roommate back at my previous spot and get in and out of the program as quickly as I could so as to hopefully make my earliest parole opportunity. It had only been a little over three weeks since I arrived and I knew government wheels turn slow so I was pleasantly shocked when my boss, Ms Sowich, came and told me she had heard I would be going into the facility’s Intensive Sex Offender Program, ISOP for short, right after the first of the year. Another prayer being answered and I surely didn’t deserve it. She said she didn’t understand it, how I was being moved so quickly, but that was good for me she guessed and that I would have my job back whenever I graduated from the program. I thought it must have been all the letters Albany had received over the past few months from me, my friends and family trying to get me in it so I could get out.

That would mean another move into the SO dorm and all day classes, so no more work or roaming around. Total structure, but a means to an end in my book. Things at home were strained as my wife was not only still adjusting to me not being there but my income loss as well, so a quick completion and early parole might help. But my manufacturer’s representative company that I had started and built up over the last 16 years would have to be sold and proceeds used to keep my daughter in college and my wife in the house and four acres I had bought. To that end I had recruited a guy, with the help and guidance of an old business partner, to take over my business and pay me and my wife over three years. I had been working on the plan the last few months once my head cleared from all the initial trauma and drugs. The latter was done but the former kept gnawing at me, keeping me pretty focused on getting out as soon as I could. Selling my business to him would ease a burden I had little control over inside corrections. In reality, I had few alternatives.

So this last week we had inked a deal where he would buy me out and pay monthly to my wife just as I had hope and prayed the deal would be worked out. Hallelujah! So many blessings happening all at once it seemed. My nightly prayers included a review of the day, and it really was another day of thanks giving. I had recently seen my wife, received a good package, got to work out, show some guys what I could do on the court and even get on a team, besides hearing I would be getting into the sex offender program sooner than anyone thought. Also, I was not being hassled about anything at this point. So much to be thankful for, but I was embarrassed because of my doubt, my unbelief. That brought with it more shame about even being inside corrections and my instant offense – my crime. I kept letting God know how grateful I was and found myself in an old position, crying myself quietly to sleep, knowing that God was surely good and I wasn’t.

NEXT

Why is it so hard for me to believe God has His plan for me? I still feel like I am the one to make everything turn out all right, even inside corrections. But here I am, in the facility I wanted to be in, getting the job I wanted, closer to my family and none of it because of me, as far as everyone tells me. I am a pawn in the system. And a system that doesn’t care about anything or anyone but itself I am also told. Keep it rolling, keep ’em coming, keep our jobs. So I obviously do not have much say or pull in this system, and in reality, can only rely on God. I am learning to. Slowly.

So Monday comes and I report to the building where I was told to report, where Transitional Services is held. In the New York State Correctional System, Transitional Services provides the same programs in each facility. Phase I is an introduction to the facility and what to expect inside corrections there. It is a week long and, as I experienced the last two places, facilitated by inmates. It runs every week as guys are constantly coming and going, so there is always a demand, even if the attendance is low.
Phase II is a more intensive program, running anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks, (usually about 12 but depending on the facility) and covers life skills such as decision making, moral values, life planning, family beliefs and other relevant topics, also facilitated by inmates and thus, subject to their whims and desires. A civilian counselor is usually present during these daily sessions.
Phase III is right before inmates are getting released, usually at least 6-8 weeks prior, and lasts about a month, again depending on everyone’s schedule. In this phase, again facilitated by inmates with a civilian counselor usually present, guys learn job and interview skills, resume work, and work on reintegration skills and topics. Outside people often come in to help discuss different reentry issues.

ART is aggression replacement therapy, not art as everyone thinks at first, although that might be valuable to some. Here, inmate facilitators work on different strategies for releasing aggression in appropriate ways, especially working on new skills that will carry to the outside to avoid reentry. Again, a civilian counselor is present during these daily sessions.

All of these programs are mandatory for all inmates with the exception of ART, though most end up there by the simple reason they are in prison and obviously need to control their aggression however subtle it may be. There are other drug,alcohol and sex offender programs, but they are run by the counseling departments.

Another department under the auspices of Transitional Services is the call out office. Here inmates put together a list of names to be called out the next day or later in the week for all activities and classes. Things such as all Transitional Service classes, Bible Studies, any musical meeting, physical educational activities such as games or meetings, any clubs or organizations, church services, counselor meetings and the infamous grievance hearings are all put on a daily log distributed throughout the facility to let everyone know who is and who is not allowed to go to these activities and functions. Name not on the list? You don’t go, no matter how much crying, whining or fighting you do. Inmates send notes to the required departments in advance to get on the list, and a counselor or civilian director has to sign off on each person prior so they may attend. Most all other activities such as the law or regular library, any medical needs, or recreational workouts and the yard are handled on an individual basis with passes from the dorm CO. So this is an important job. Screw up a name on the list and things can become heated from many directions – inmate, counselors and CO’s. Putting someone on the list that doesn’t belong can earn you an all expense paid trip to the SHU – special housing unit, aka the box, hole or isolation as had just happened before I came. That is why I was needed in this office as an industrious gentleman was putting unauthorized guys names on lists for a fee. That was his hustle. Obviously, as with most departments, people were scrutinizing our every move and double checking to make sure things run smoothly. I guess he was smooth and ran it for a couple weeks before being figured out.
So I reported and was told the basics of the position. Another inmate and myself were to gather all the necessary data, arrange it on a sheet, have it reviewed by the CO outside the small office, then take it down to the printing office where it was duplicated and later distributed to all dorms and offices for the next days call outs to the various functions. Pretty simple really. My organizational skills of teaching and running my own business kicked in right away.

First, I suggested to my new co-worker who was hunting and pecking at the keyboard that maybe I could do that job while he organized the various lists since I type much faster. Then, instead of cutting and pasting paper lists which was done previously, I set up various templates on the computer for the days of the week so we could save re-typing time since many lists were duplicated for a week or more – such as the Phase classes mentioned before. It was fun and different, and I felt like I was serving a valuable function. I ran all the changes I suggested by Ms. Sowich, my new boss, who stopped in regularly to check on us and often verify different lists. She had no problem as long as everything was checked and double checked and it was done on time. Inmate names and ID numbers had to be accurate or guys wouldn’t be allowed to move, so that was really important. It had to be done in about two hours so it could be delivered to the printing office. Before I came I learned this was often a problem, getting it done in time. (That’s also how my predecessor was able to sneak names on the lists – last minute add-ons after the CO had approved it.)

After a final check by the CO, which usually took some time, we were given a pass to take the completed lists down about a half mile walk to the printing office which was right behind the package room. What a cake job I thought, even including a free walk outside! I thought things were starting to look pretty good for me right now save my living arrangements.

I also had been moved to a new dorm, out of reception, which wasn’t too bad. The thing was, I was placed in a six man room on a top bunk. Now I am pretty athletic and in fair shape, but at going on 57, I didn’t like climbing up every time I wanted to sit as there were only two chairs in the room, or sleep. I had heard there was a rule about not having to get a top bunk if you were over 55, so I inquired with my dorm CO. He said he’d look into it. Right.

A week later I was still up there and found I needed to write medical to get excused from climbing up there because of my age. Now I normally do not like getting older and even put off joining AARP on the outside because I said I wasn’t THAT old. But this time, I readily used my age to hasten getting closer to tierra firma. Hopefully that will work and Mid-State would live up to the rules of Corrections, and I would see another manifestation of the hand of God smoothing the road ahead for me.

I SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS

Editors note:

This letter was previously published but is timely, so it’s worth another go.

I say Merry Christmas. To me, the day is to celebrate the one God who was born, the Christ in Christmas. The reason for the season for me. So I say Merry Christmas.

Now if you are of differing opinion, as I might be if you said Happy Kwanzaa, then you nod and move on just as I would do if you were greeting me with your religious views. Oh, I really would probably say Happy Kwanzaa back to you, not because I know much about it or believe in it, but rather because you do and it seems important enough to you that you name it. I would want to wish all the best back to someone who at least believes in something or someone besides themselves. (oh, did I write that out loud?) and truly hope they have a happy Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, or birthday (well maybe no one is objecting to that one – yet) anniversary or Thanksgiving.

I would want that other person to feast on all the joy and wonder that particular day (or season) would bring. Why dilute that for them or me? Why blandize it (that’s a word isn’t it) and genericize it (ditto) and say Happy Holidays like I am going to celebrate them all, attend all the ceremonies, eat at them all, well, you get the idea.

Merry Christmas and Merry Kwanzaa are totally different celebrations, especially to the participants. Lumping them all together with all other holiday celebrations just isn’t right. How far do we go? Do we go back to include Thanksgiving? Columbus Day or Veterans day? Do we go forward to include Martin Luther King Day? (How about my birthday, that’s in there somewhere too)

Are we that bland, general or universal that we cannot use some thought when remembering dates important to some particular people? I would want to have my wedding day remembered because it brought me great joy. Similarly, the birth of Christ to me is important and, in my mind, needs to stand on its own. Are we so incapable of feeling for that other person that we just lazily quip some general holiday greeting?

As mentioned before, Christ’s birth day celebration is special to so many. (I know it’s not his true time of His birth as it was lambing time, with flocks in the field – important because He was the ultimate sacrifice, the “Lamb of God” who came to save all believers from their sins) Thanksgiving is also important to me, though it may be lost in the general “Happy Holiday” salute. It’s a day (actually one of many) when we need to reflect on all the many blessings we have and most often take for granted.

Let’s be specific. You are not harming me with your “Happy Holiday” greeting as I do not know of anyone who died after hearing (or saying) it or Merry Christmas for that matter. Don’t you hear other things during a typical day that offend you? Do you ban the radio or television? Or do simply change the channel? (BTW, it’s a great teaching moment for young people as they say when any of the above greetings are said) If you did hear something you didn’t understand or know about or appreciate, you probably move on and don’t apply it to your particular life or beliefs.

Do you not say gesundheit because you do not want to offend people that are not German? Or manana or adios because of Hispanics? No more merci or Ciao then! Nope. Gots to robotically reply “my name is” or, as they say in My Fair Lady only talk about yourself and the weather. Pretty boring.

So let’s resolve to be real as well as tolerant this and any holiday season celebratory time, for all our sakes.

And I do wish you a very Merry Christmas.

WHAT’S NEXT

The first week in a new location is pretty much the same for everyone – attend all day meetings on what to expect in the new facility, the rules and who is who. Counselors and civilians are paraded through according to their position so that we are given a view of not only the players but what they do as well. So I joined the other roughly 30 guys in a large room to listen and learn.

The director of each department came or sent an inmate to describe what they do there and the procedure for getting into each area. The education department came and talked about GED’s and similar work. Industrial arts came with similar information. An inmate from grievance came and talked about the life I had led at Fishkill with a few twists and turns particular to this facility. There were several others throughout the week, with morning sessions breaking for lunch and returning for more in the PM. In between presenters the inmates facilitators would give some talks, pointers and answer any questions guys might have. Rarely was their a CO or civilian in the room during this time, so some of the questions hit real topics. Of course, most of us newbies didn’t know if they were blowing smoke or not. It seemed like a pretty cool gig, one I thought might be a great change from grievance. Besides, we were told there was no opening presently there anyway which made my decision easier.

So after about the third day when the head of Transitional Services gave her talk, something awoke inside me and urged me to go talk to her about a job. I approached her during a break to tell her of my background and interest in working in the department, and of course my crime. I wanted it all out in the open up front. I had been warned that she was a no nonsense woman not to be underestimated despite her very short size. Moreover, her husband was an sergeant in a nearby facility and she was well versed in all the rules. In fact she really lit into a guy for what she deemed his “eyeballing” her, having him removed from class. I was wondering if he would come back but realized that was his problem and I had to keep my focus.

After talking with her briefly she instructed me to write all this down and send it to her via internal mail. Nothing would happen before next week anyway, so that’s what I did. I felt a bit of excitement as she had indicated they did need a couple of guys for the call out office, something I really didn’t know much about but was willing to learn. Besides, she liked that I could type 45 – 50 words a minute and knew my way around a computer. When I told her of my desire to get into the SO program as soon as I could, she said that would take some time and not to get my hopes up.

Despite the cold temperatures I enjoyed the long walks from the reception dorm up a small grade to the mess hall and our daily class. With meals and sessions each day I figured I walked over five miles well before working out in the gym or yard. I was able to check out the yard on my first Saturday. It too was over a half mile walk and had several grumpy CO’s checking us in through the gates. A pass from our dorm CO was required, so I presented mine and walked through the metal detectors and entered.

I was told this was a typical yard for corrections, with a weight pit located under the far end of an open pavilion which also housed several picnic tables and a couple of fuzzy, old televisions. There were two basketball courts, a volleyball court and a softball field, and other green areas all surrounded by a dirt path that served as a track for some willing to tempt their luck on the uneven surface. The double 15′ fences spaced 15′ apart topped with razor and barbed wire were a constant reminder of where we were. Plus there always seemed to be a couple of CO’s walking around the track path as well to keep an eye on things as well as at least one CO in the guard tower. After my first visit I figured I would be out here often, enjoying the outdoors and ability to look skyward without interruption. I knew my programming and/or work would keep me occupied during the days, but weekends – the days I hated the most because there was no real schedule save meals – would include treks outdoors to keep my mind busy and help pass the time with something that seemed “normal”.

The week finished with nothing going on much of Friday morning and nothing in the afternoon, but we were still scheduled to be there. I had met a couple of guys that were interesting to talk to, so in the afternoon I sat closer to them so we could continue to talk. I hadn’t realized someone else was sitting there in the morning session, and since there were no assigned seats I saw no problem. He did. He was big, and had a real gruff look to him and an even gruffer mouth. Partly egged on by my new friends, I said it was open seating and I wanted to be near my new pals. He started talking real tough and I wondered what I was getting myself into. I figured if I stood up he would take it as a sign I wanted to give it a go, so I remained seated and didn’t give him any eye contact. Fortunately the facilitators came to the rescue and asked him to find another seat as there were several. I hoped I had not made an enemy and done something I would later regret.

Later that evening, I reflected on it and saw what a bozo I was. I definitely didn’t call on the Holy Spirit to aide me or even initially consider any consequences. How was I being a Christian once again holding my ground, doing my own thing, using my own strength. While I was definitely taller than he was and know my way around a fight, this was prison and guys didn’t fight fair or with any consideration for anyone’s future. Besides, both parties would be awarded a trip to the box and things only sorted out weeks later. So I made another of many mental notes to pray more and use His guidance more than just in the major decisions like my work or getting on with my bid so I could get out.

Fortunately one major decision was made real when Ms Sowich, the head of Mid-State Transitional Services department, called the dorm CO and said she wanted me to start Monday morning in the call out office. Hallelujah. Some things seemed to fall into place. Thank God – which is exactly what I did.

SETTLING IN

I definitely had landed. Why had I had such little faith that I would? I am not real good at trusting the Lord I guess at this stage, still relying on my own efforts even though my mantra of Proverbs 3: 5-6 are constantly running through my head: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” I chuckled as I remembered how I tried to reason with the CO’s and how I panicked when I was not on the last bus out that Tuesday. God must have been chuckling too, knowing all the time what the outcome was going to be.
So, here I was in the new facility in the reception dorm with about 30 other guys. Some guys were young and green (hey, I was green too!) while others were savvy, returning for another bid or on a violation. Once released guys returned on violations of many kinds, often not that long after getting out. That fact often puzzled me as I thought I would never want to come back so I would do exactly what I was told to avoid any possibility of it occurring. Seemed simple enough, yet there were many violators among this crowd.
Thanksgiving came with some turkey roll for lunch, but I was at my visit and missed it. I did not like the cold cuts but the potatoes and dressing would have been nice. The visit with my wife went well considering the circumstances. It was difficult for her being away from her family and not having any celebration or thanks giving. I was giving thanks for my new temporary home and the fact that God seemed to have me on the right trail so I could make my first board. So there was some tension with that and the fact that this was her first visit in some time. She was happy about the closer location which meant less driving. Plus there was a Wal Mart just down the road which made getting food for my package much easier. While I am not a real fan on that behemoth of retail, it sure does serve a purpose. Her visit seemed to fly by and parting was more difficult than usual I felt, even if only on my end.
Returning to my new dorm I talked with others about what was available at night for activities. I sure was not one to lie around on my bunk or watch television. There were actually two TV’s as we were joined to another dorm, kind of in the shape of the letter I with the bathrooms, microwave room and television rooms in between the dorms which were on the outside. They also had a laundry area where you could do your own. But the best thing was the individual showers. No more wearing underwear!
So I headed to the gym Thanksgiving night hoping to not only check out the facility, but also get some hoop in. Once in the building, you had to change into your sneakers in order to go to the gym. Going in one of the two weight rooms that flanked the CO’s bubble did not require any shoe change. I checked out the free weights, then looked at what machines were available in the second room. Then I went into the gym which I had already noticed was packed.
It was a full size gymnasium and games were starting going cross court. Teams were being picked as I pushed to the front of the crowd, but of course nobody knew me and, after all, I was OT – old timer. So I waited and watched. The obvious better quality games were down on the right interestingly enough where the baskets were more level and seemed newer. The games on the left had so many turnovers and air balls I did not think they would ever end. Winners stayed on, so I had to get picked in the next five to run. Guys had already picked ‘next’ and I was not included in either game. So I did what I am getting used to in here, wait.
Finally I got in a game though it was on the weaker side. I felt if I showed well I could “graduate” to the quality side soon enough. Problem was, guys didn’t pass very much, trying to dribble through two or three guys or just jacked up shots from anywhere. Fortunately, being taller, I was able to procure several rebounds. After passing it away and never seeing it again, I finally did my own thing and took it down, shot and scored. Then again. There were several whoops and hollers about OT which I had gotten used to at Fishkill. All I wanted to do was get in the better game at the other end. But, alas, it was time for the go back, time to return to your ‘home’ for the night. How did I know? The CO’s came in and turned off the lights!
Once back I showered and ate some nuts before turning in. I was told Friday would be a free day, free of programs and school, none of which I was scheduled for as yet, so I could go back to the gym for more of the same. So after I returned from breakfast and the half mile walk each way I planned to do just that.
My nightly prayers included a review of the day, and it really was a day of thanks giving. I had seen my wife, received a good package, got to work out and show some guys what I could do on the court and was not being hassled about anything at this point. So much to be thankful for, but I was embarrassed because of my doubt, my unbelief. That brought with it more shame about even being inside corrections and my instant offense – my crime. I kept letting God know how grateful I was and found myself in an old position, crying myself quietly to sleep.