IN THE LAST DAYS

Well, the program was going along fine and guys were generally upbeat because we were all near the end of our bids. Each week guys were going home and new ones replacing them. It was that way that I didn’t stay on the top bunk for long and was moved to my own cube. Heck, at this point I would have slept in the hall for my last 90 days.

Some of the program was on computer, learning the basics and how to write letters and such. Because my IO was on the computer, I was “excused” from that work each morning. Truth is, I was glad as it would have been so very repetitious for me. I felt it was humorous that for the last three years I was working on a computer, developing forms and writing letters for staff and others but computers now were verboten.

It also seemed many guys wee taking advantage of the State Health plan and getting last minute check-ups and operations prior to departure. It reminded me of my knee operation back in Utica Hospital. Because it was after basketball season and I had nothing better to do that I felt I should get my knee operated on to correct the floating meniscus that was bothering me, especially at night while sleeping – or attempting to. Ever since I rolled it back at Fishkill on the outside uneven pavement it had bothered me and seemed to be getting worse. I hadn’t known what to do, and in truth had prayed about it since it happened. The thought came on me a morning soon after the parole finding, so I felt I could use a change of scenery too I guess. I knew it would be a big deal getting everything arranged and take some time for everything to be worked out no matter the outcome. My new job in OMH was not to start for another few weeks, so now seemed like a good time, and I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to do it.

I went to an outside doctor who performed preliminary tests, then was sent to a specialist, who after reviewing my MRI, said I was on the borderline of operating or not. The tear was about 7 mm, the range where an operation might help, certainly not hurt, but could not guarantee full pain-free utilization. I felt it was worth the risk, so he ordered the operation. That would involve a special trip to a local hospital and actually would take the whole day. Other guys were going out on the same bus for various tests and procedures, so I had a good deal of practice in waiting. Each time I went out, it was a long day, with breakfast, if you wanted to eat, at 6:00, then down to the infirmary to wait for the bus. Obligatory strip search – wouldn’t want to smuggle out anything and give it to others – then handcuffed and leg irons attached, boarded the bus, then off to collect guys from the other two local facilities and finally arrive at the medical facility. Each time we went I felt I was getting better at doing nothing, practicing my non-resistance. I would often talk about my faith to others if allowed, but the CO’s usually kept us from talking, especially when they were trying to watch the television in the waiting room. Certainly on the bus talk was prohibited. So I daydreamed of life as it might be when I was finally released.

The date for my operation was set after the results of the MRI were reviewed and discussed, which involved yet another trip outside, to a real doctor. At least this time it would be a on a Van with two guards. The doctor, and I use that term lightly, at the infirmary there at Mid-State was, well, let’s just say, lacking in professionalism. He would set at his desk and talk to you about your problem, never looking at any notes or history, and not taking any notes of your symptoms or problems. Some rumors had him being fired from his previous outside position. Others had him being a failed veterinarian. Whatever, the secret was to push and push till he would recommend an outside “specialist” (never would he say doctor) to examine you and see if they conferred with his diagnosis. Right. He never HAD a diagnosis for me or anyone I knew who went there other than ibuprofen. Tooth ache? Forget the dentist, take ibuprofen. Cut? You don’t need no stinkin’ bandage, just drugs, etc, etc. I had been forewarned of his antics, so I persisted. Once I went out for an initial diagnosis, he was basically out of the picture and I simply went by the outside doctors wishes and timetable.

It was to be an in and out operation, no more than 20 minutes, the hardest part, I was told, was waking up from the anesthesia. It turns out I was to be number 4 of the 13 knee operations this doctor was doing that day, not sure how many were inmates. Of course there were two CO’s assigned to me at all times, except in the operation room. Guess they felt I couldn’t escape if under anesthesia.

So the day arrived rather quickly for state work and I was off to a local Utica hospital to go under the knife. The CO’s could have pushed my bed as they escorted me everywhere, but then I think they would have wanted double pay. The doctor came in, talked with me briefly and reviewed why we were all here (except the CO’s), even writing on my right knee “cut here” as a joke, but I think with so many on his schedule it was to remind him who and where to cut. Then I was drugged up, but not before the handcuffs that were on and off me so many times as I was prepared for the surgery were transferred to the bed. No escaping on their watch, drugs or no.

Next thing I knew I was slowly waking up. My leg was numb, but I felt good. Later the doc came by on his way to prep others and asked if I had any questions. All I wanted to know is what restrictions I had and what might speed up the recovery process. “Do everything you can, as soon as you can, as often as you can without causing any pain or discomfort if you can” was his advice. He also informed me of some stretches to aide recovery. Crutches? He advised them on an as needed basis, but certainly until I got back to the facility. After that, have fun. I wanted to remind him I was in state greens so fun was not on the menu, but felt it better to hold my tongue.

Before I got dressed, a nurse came by with paperwork and to ask me any if I had any needs. I said I was hungry since it was mid-afternoon and I couldn’t eat any breakfast prior to the operation. Thinking it would go no where, I asked if I would get a sandwich. The guards said they didn’t care as long as it didn’t take long as we were still waiting for the second inmate they were transporting to also finish. I had a real tuna fish sandwich with lettuce and tomato and chips, a real treat I must say over the usual bag lunch. I know the nurse saw my pleasure at receiving it.

Then I was uncuffed momentarily as the guards watched me dress, then cuffed my right hand to the crutch as I couldn’t very easily be cuffed hands together as when I came in. They also by passed on the leg irons that had been a fashion statement for me upon entering. Then off to wait for the one other guy, then very quickly onto the mini-van that brought us here and back home to Mid-State.

I was to stay in the infirmary that day, Thursday at least, and more if I needed. But because I was expecting my wife to visit on Saturday and bring a package, I knew I was going home Friday. I had not seen her since receiving the news of my being hit by the board, so this was an important get together.

Friday morning came, and after the paperwork was completed and I could get a nurse practitioner to release me, I prepared to leave. It would be great to get back to the Honor Dorm and my own room and bed even though I hadn’t been gone that long, it seemed like I had. I declined the crutches, and they were placed in a closet with at least 30 other pair. That’s the state for you. They could have easily taken a set with us to save, but now had to pay for more, for which the taxpayers would have to pony up.

My prayers were finally answered on what I needed to do about my knee, in God’s timing I knew, and I was feeling quite good as I walked, a little stiff legged but pain free and smiling all the way back to my dorm. Maybe following His plan wasn’t as difficult as I, and most naysayers, made it out to be. I was very thankful for what I did have and again vowed to make the most of my time left.

And that was exactly what I was trying to do now, follow His lead in all things. Of course I had to check out the basketball situation as soon as I could in the evening. Guys were picking up teams as I entered and, as usual, I was overlooked. I did recognize one guy who wasn’t a bad player but had a very big mouth, but he didn’t acknowledge me. Other than that, I had to prove myself once again. Once guys saw my game, I was a regular pick each night.

Because of the ever changing status of most inmates here, teams were being set up but constantly in flux. That proved good for me to get on a team, which was all I wanted as I would be long gone before the season was even half over. I was in good shape by now and it was so good to run and play, still running past the younger guys, most of whom smoked.

All I had to do was behave, follow the rules, work at the re-entry program and leave whole in three months time. That didn’t sound too hard, even for me. I was sure praying that all would work out for me and these other guys on our last days inside corrections.

THE RE-ENTRY PROGRAM

So, Albion here I come. Located about an hours west of Rochester, it would be my final home inside corrections, where I could gather last minute instructions and tips before leaving this enforced time out to whatever the new normal would look like.

The bus ride was so very long. I was reminded of my Thanksgiving debacle getting to Mid-State, but fortunately, with several periods of non-movement, this one was simply just drawn out. I and a few other inmates had an early breakfast after being called out for transport. “Van Wagner, on the move” was what I had wanted to hear for so long. Strip searched, packs inspected, we boarded the transport bus, a medium size one, wearing our favorite jewelry though not joined to anyone this time. Too many stops with single departures I guess.

Seemed like we stopped at so many upstate facilities, then headed down to Elmira in the southern part of the State. I only hoped we wouldn’t have to spend the night there. But again, we were fortunate to only discharge and take on inmates. After what seemed like several hours there, we departed. It was also there that we received the infamous bag lunch. I traded what I could and gave most away, though I was not really sure when I would eat again.

I would say most acted bored on this trip. They may have only been trading one facility for another while in the midst of their bid. I was looking forward to the end. But I knew I best not share this good news with others as there always seemed to be someone who wanted to derail any such departures while they were stuck inside corrections. Odd, but it was true. I knew of several, often lifers who had nothing to lose, who sacrificed time in the box to fight with someone so the other inmate wouldn’t go home.

Another sweet move was to plant something – a banger (knife) or other contraband in the belongings of the guy soon to leave so that he would get jammed up and have his time extended. What better time or place than when on a move?

Bags were placed around and moved from bus to bus. And though they had a seal type wrap around them so any tampering could be detected, it was not a fool proof system. Hey, these were criminals, they knew how to short circuit the system to get what they wanted. CO’s usually looked the other way any way as long as they were not in danger. Or they looked aside for other reasons. How else could so many drugs of all kinds, not to mention pornography, (in a SO Program Facility no less!) make there way inside if not with a little help from friends.

So I was as vigilant as I could be not to tell many where I was going and why as well as to keep an eye on my belongings as much as I could. As with so much of my time inside corrections of late I felt invisible to others. Or maybe I had learned how not to stand out better than I had when I first came in.

Finally, after the sun was setting we were getting close to arriving. I could see some scenery out the front windows of our bus and recognized where we were as we neared the small town of Orleans, about an hour west of Rochester. Thank goodness, as I was having a difficult time feeling anything below my waist from all the sitting. The few guys left who were staying here went to one of two reception buildings for the usual search practices. I gathered the re-entry program was separate and thus had it’s own areas for living since we all did not go in the same building.

Once through with the normal rigmarole of inspection I went to my new and final home inside. It was a large room, bull pen style housing, with small dividers separating beds and bunks. At least we had pretty good windows. I landed on a top bunk of course and politely told the CO of my age and need to be removed. The State had determined anyone over 60 should not be on the top bunk. Of course he did little to change things and informed me the regular CO would take care of it when he came back. I was just happy to have a bed at this point. Meals were long over, so I brushed my teeth, made the bed, climbed up and curled up for the night. Only to be awaken for the night time count.

It seems at this facility, unlike others, the early night count, around 10:00, was made by either standing or sitting up in bed, no exceptions. If you were lucky enough to have fallen asleep, a neighbor would help you arise lest the CO’s have to do it, usually by banging their night stick on your bed frame or even your bed, hence the preference to have someone close awaken you.

The next day I went through some orientation and was matriculated into the re-entry program. In it, we would learn skills to aid reintegration into society, to behave like regular citizens and act so as not to return. It seemed the State knew and was tired of the revolving door for felons and was trying to do something about it, oddly enough. This was a relatively new program, only in it’s second year, so they were still learning. A good deal of what I was told they would be going over was what I had done for guys in the Phase III courses I facilitated back at Mid-State. Resume work, job interviews, work norms, changes in society since there incarceration, things of this type and more would be covered I was told. No sense trying to change anything, so I smiled and agreed I would do my best.

What was new was we were going to meet face to face with the parole officer we would have when we got out. After all, we had to report to someone who would watch over us during the completion of our bid on the outside instead of the inside. This would be good and an opportunity to see what I would have to deal with out there. Would they be like the CO’s in here, or like regular cops out there? Time would tell, but it added an air of expectancy to the program.

They also said they would be helping us get housing so we could be settled before leaving. That would be a big help to me now that I was to be homeless upon leaving. I was actually banking on them assisting in that area. They also would help put us in contact, if possible, with employers who might hire felons and give us the second chance we so badly needed.

In truth I was practicing being non-resistant. I surely needed practice in this area as pride often got the best of me, even from way back. After all, it was a mechanism I had used to forge ahead during difficult times as a child on the farm as well as in school. Being proud of accomplishments and striving to be the best wasn’t in itself bad or a problem as it fueled the fires to be better and accomplish things in the next level, whether in academics, sports, music, or other things I was involved in growing up. I learned it also kept my father off my back when I did well, so that in itself was a motivation.

The problem was the arrogance that crept into my being as a result of doing things well. It led to my thinking I could get away with other things, that I deserved things, that the rules didn’t always apply to me and stuff like that which caused the problems. Only when consequences occurred or were threatened did I seem to change, hence my desire to be proactive and cut the dance short. I do admit, prison was the shocker that taught me something needed to be done, something had to change else I could be back or cause more harm as I had by doing what I did. It could not go on as before, and for some time I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to change.

It could only be done from the inside, from wanting to change, then doing it. All the programs in the world could not bring it about if I wasn’t ready and willing to change, so that’s what I was all about at this point. Now I would have help from these new counselors in planning strategies that would help me, and everyone willing to do them, outside corrections. So that was a good thing and I looked forward to it. Anything to help.

I truly believed God had a better plan for my life than the existence I had been living prior to all this. I just wanted to be ready when he laid it out for me and willing to lay aside my plans for His. All the work I had done and was continuing to do on myself in learning deep seated reasons for my acting out and selfish behaviors as well as learning new behaviors would be useful from now on. I knew He wanted me to do the best I could at everything I did, especially being a follower of His son, Jesus.

So I was including that as part of my re-entry program and went to sleep thinking of doing just that.

PLANNED MOVE

My transfer to the re-entry program was approved, so I would be relocating to a new facility for a fourth time. The date was set for early August, but no one would give me a firm date so, you know, we wouldn’t plan any escape attempts or other shenanigans.

I had definite mixed feelings on the move. I was in a real nice groove here at Mid-State and back in the Honor dorm 35 days after being removed. I had to start at the door bed in the two man room outside the single room, by the way, but I was back. Most of the same guys were there with a couple exceptions. One or two had gone home, a couple were in fights and won free tickets to the box. Also, one was admitted into civil confinement, something nobody wishes on anybody really as you never know if or when you might be eligible to get released from there. So we knew he had done something really bad.

I was still struggling with things though was feeling a great deal better after returning upstairs to the honor dorm. I had also had the ying/yang feeling of watching, actually helping, my best friend William go home. I was able to help him carry his bags to the building where he would be released – after being strip searched of course. Wouldn’t want him taking anything out, as if he would want to! We chatted for a final time, not really knowing if we ever would again. We hugged, and he received the normal $ 40.00 and a bus ticket, in his case, to New York City. And then he was gone.

I have been busy putting the finishing touches on my brochure for my home maintenance/handyman business I thought I might start when I got out. I had heard how difficult it was for felons to land jobs, and I knew self-employment would provide an alternative. Being near retirement I knew companies would not want to hire me compared to younger workers. So I had put together a tri-fold piece of literature to hand out. I though of calling my business Doc’s, as in the old bugs bunny cartoon, “what’s up doc?” In reality, it was a slam against DOCS, the Department of Correctional Services, my little joke. There was little to no corrections going on in here, and then only what individuals did for themselves. The programs offered good information, but if guys didn’t want to hear or help themselves, it was useless. So few were corrected inside corrections.

Another reason correction was low was because guys saw through the hypocrisy of the counselors. Aside from their affairs and out of wedlock babies, one sex offender counselor was living with an ex-inmate who was still on parole, a violation of their rules. Then the parolee started to blackmail her when she wanted him out, so he sent photos of his name tattooed on her derriere to her boss because she wouldn’t pay up or let him stay. The civilian I had worked for and grown close to showed me a copy and told of this and other sordid tales right after she was transferred.

One female SO counselor was popular among the CO’s, especially after a few beers when she would grant favors of a certain nature in the parking lot, or other places. Or at work after their shift. One also had a live-in boyfriend who was caught with 22 garbage bags of weed in their basement. She denied knowing about it the newspaper article said. Hey, the smell of that much marijuana would almost get them high. She was transferred to another facility. And these were only the ones I heard about in the sex offender program. I am sure there were similar stories in the ASAT Program. (Alcohol and substance treatment) So guys weren’t too keen on having moral-less people like these instruct them on doing the right thing, hence my claim about lack of correction inside.

But pretty soon I would be transferred to spend the last ninety days in a reintegration program where I could focus everything to get me back into society, specifically for the Rochester area. There was a similar one for the Buffalo area as well. The transfer would put me closer to home, but unfortunately farther from my brother. I thought it might offer aid on getting back to whatever normal would be, especially employment help and places to live. It was around this time my wife informed me she did not want me returning to our 2800 square foot house, the home I had worked so hard to get and enjoyed so much. I knew things were getting bad, but this was a big blow, as inmates had a much harder time getting out when they were undomiciled – had no place to go. Shelters were often at capacity, and finding an apartment was difficult enough from the outside let alone the inside, especially without having a firm release date and no idea of income. I had really counted on landing at home, then moving out as soon as I could find a place. After all, I had moved out after being arrested and out on bail, so I reasoned I could do it again upon release from prison.

I was all mixed up emotionally: high that things were getting close, low about most everything else. One constant amidst all of this was the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear to trust Him and not worry. Civilians at my Bible study’s or retreat weekends offered similar advice and said they would pray things would work out favorably for me. All I had to do was stay faithful, listen to the Holy Spirit’s nudging and pray myself. I had been doing a great deal of that for some time, not just about being released, and had seen positive results, so it was not a difficult thing for me to do. Still, I was nervous. Not anxious really where I couldn’t sleep or eat or concentrate, just nervous that I would find work, housing, a normal life, not be threatened as some had reported, and other factors.

Another thing that played on my emotions was the trip to my mother’s calling hours. It helped me in one way, especially in retrospect, put closure to things – like her death, prison life and my sentence inside almost coming to an end. At least the part at Mid-State, three years worth, was ending, but that also was a good/bad thing.

The trip outside to the calling hours was with a couple of CO’s who kind of knew of me and knew I had only eight months left, something we all agreed I didn’t want to screw up and have more time added. I was the only passenger in the State transport van as we went from Mid-State down to central New York and my home town. I had not seen it in over four years, so things looked a great deal different. I was amazed at some of the changes in houses and businesses along the way too, as I knew this area well because this was in the heart of my sales territory where I had spent a great deal of time traveling prior to my arrest.

Once at the funeral home, I was allowed to go inside, still shackled and handcuffed, but at least not hands to feet as when transported. I was able to view my mothers remains and visit for a short time with my siblings before others would show up. It was quite embarrassing for me, as I am sure it was for them, especially my brother who still lived in our hometown. He would have to deal with his convict brothers crime and punishment almost as much as I would in whatever area I landed.

I spent time with them, and time kneeling and praying at my mothers casket. It was very sad and I was sad too. My one sister had visited me inside a couple of times, but my oldest didn’t drive that far, so seeing her was a delight, jewelry and all. The time went too quickly, and then I was whisked back to Mid-State.

I was yet again blessed when one of the officers whispered not to tell anyone but to go ahead and leave to my dorm after the chains and handcuffs were removed. No strip search this time, thank the Lord. As I walked back, it felt like a dream and I wondered if the last five hours had really happened or I was just wishing they had.

So my emotions were all over the map. It was funny, I thought, how so many guys had told me when they returned on a violation or new bid and were close to getting out – again – that they would do whatever they had to in order to remain free and not come back, and here I was thinking the same thing. I did not want to return inside corrections no matter what.

As July neared it’s end, I began getting rid of a few things that I didn’t want to transport, basically carry in the small gunny sacks provided to pack up for your move. Cooking utensils, some clothes, books and other personal items went to guys I thought needed them. I have to be careful giving things away that have my din number etched into them, as guys could get into trouble having something with another inmate’s number on it. Fortunately,  these items did not have any ID on them.

So I waited for this special planned move and the day to arrive. I would be notified the morning of the move, I was told, so I could pack up and go to the reception area for checking prior to departing. There again inmates would go through my belongings to make sure I did not have any contraband (which they would keep) or items not allowed at the new facility (which they would also keep). Fortunately I knew pretty much how the game was played so I thought I’d not have any problems this time. Plus going home, or close to it, offered a different look on things overall, I had heard and we were allowed a little more leeway.

Summer was getting close to ending as was my bid. I can sense the similarities and feel the changes coming. I feel the transfer to the new facility will be like a practice run, where all things will be different and I have little control over most things and have to learn to deal with all the newness that my IO (crime) would cause. The same would be true when I got out of prison in a little over three months. So pay attention I told myself.

Now I would be moving into the last phase of my incarceration, a last move before getting out. At least this time, the first time, it was a planned move. I worked at not letting my mind get too far ahead, especially with where I would be living and working. I needed to stay non-attached to things, non-resistant to all the changes, and non-judgmental of good or bad and leave all in God’s capable hands. I knew what would happen if I tried doing it all myself – been there, done that too many times, even just recently. And I needed more time to get it right.

So now I was practicing that which I wanted to achieve on the outside, total reliance and dependency on God, and His work, not man’s. His will, not mine. Surrender and service, not arrogance and pride.

As the move neared, my prayers increased, and oddly enough, so did my peace. I knew I would get excited the day of, but for now, I needed to stay focused on the moment and make sure not to back slide, only listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. But as with all my work on gaining control of my addiction, practice will make progress, not perfection, and it is definitely easier said than done.

SURPRISE MOVE

Well, if you think there is no justice in here you are wrong. I sit in general pop, having been removed from the honor dorm, a victim of justice. It all was so simple.

I was showering, trying to get the substitute CO to turn on certain showers, two of the eight that worked well and didn’t just drizzle, which was what he did at first because, as I said, he was a sub and didn’t know what was what with all the shower controls in his office. I had shouted out “please turn on 7 & 8”, something I usually did to the regular CO who would comply directly. But this guy only turned on the first two, one of which drizzled, the second of which shot a single stream.

So I waited a couple of minutes, then repeated my request. Nothing. That was when I draped a towel around me and opened the shower room door to catch any passerby to have him relay my request. No one was around, as it was well after 9 o’clock. I had gone to the gym to play hoop and had a good work out and really was looking forward to my shower. I waited and peeked down the hall and saw the CO’s arm as he stood down at the end of the hall watching television. It was quite a ways down and I didn’t want to shout to him as blue shirts hate being called by green shirts. So I took matters into my own hands and went across the hall to the kitchen. The kitchen had a door that connected to the CO’s office, so I helped myself and turned on the appropriate controls. I then returned to the showers and did my business, thinking no one saw me.

About the time I was finished, an inmate knocked on the door and said to see the CO when I was done. I knew what was up and wondered what I ought to do. I had already taken matters into my own hands not even thinking of consequences. After all I had been through, all that had happened, all the growth I felt I had made I reverted to my default position, being master of my own situation, thinking only of myself and doing what I wanted. I knew I had to tell the truth.

Well, the CO rightly read me the riot act and said the sergeant would be contacting me shortly. Long story short, he did and I was told to pack up as I would be moving. Thankfully it wasn’t to the box, which it could have been, but rather to gp and a bunk bed, fortunately the bottom with no one on top.

A drive by. The CO was a sub from another facility who was simply filling in. Most of the blue shirts knew me and I them. I had never had any problem with any of them nor they me. It is very interesting that for all my prayers, plans and desires, I regressed to my old arrogant ways, and was once again paying the price. When would I get it right? Would I ever get it right?

I didn’t get it right at my second parole hearing either. This time it was only one woman and one man. There were supposed to be a total of three in case of any ties, but then again they do what they want. I did no preparation this time, no packet, no letters, nothing. It did me little good the first time, maybe even hurt my chances, and I just had a feeling I would not make it anyway. So I went with no apprehension, no pressure, and frankly, no hope.

The woman was maybe a little over four feet tall, and stood the entire time, walking back and forth as she did all the talking. She asked me about my charge and why I was here, my victim and what I was planning when I agreed to meet her in person. Nothing was mentioned about all I had accomplished since then, what I had learned, what I planned to do to correct and prevent future lapses of judgment. She then said something that told me the results were already preordained: “Well you CR in November anyway don’t you?” I wanted to say that was not why we were here today and other pointed things but decided to remain silent.

Guess after this most recent incident that bounced me out of the honor dorm I had not learned much of anything and was right back to square one, so I guess I deserve to still be here. Great job again, James. Sure didn’t listen to the Holy Spirit on that one. How was I ever going to do better on the outside with all the pressures and freedoms there?

The only good thing was time was still passing. It was late March, and November, when I would parole on my conditional release unless of course I continued being stupid, was only eight months away. Actually guys told me I made out pretty well with my faux pas, as I didn’t get a ticket, which could postpone my release, or go to the box as some have, and only received loss of recreation for 30 days. Oh I could still go to the yard, but after everyone else in all dorms were there, which reduced my outside time to roughly half an hour, as I was not able to stay for both mods. No gym or weight room either. And worse, no packages. No whole food and fresh fruit and vegetables for a month. So I planned to do a great deal of reading.

Maybe I was still messed up because my mother had just passed the end of February, though it was not a reason to be so arrogant. I was working in the OMH Ward when I was contacted by a CO and told to come to his office right away. I did and was told to go to see Father Weber directly.

Now I knew of Father Weber, the Catholic priest who conducted services for the Catholics, and actually had several conversations with him over my stay here, especially because I would sometimes visit Reverend Ellis who’s office was right next door. Anyway, he told me to come in and sit down and very quickly and sadly told me of my mothers passing the night before. He didn’t have any details, but told me he would call my brother so I could talk to him and learn everything I needed to know, and he did so right away.

I was in shock. I was too surprised to even cry at this point. I had just talked to her a week or so ago, and my brother had said she was wondering if I was really that happy and at ease with everything or was just faking. (My brother told her he thought the former)

Anyway, my brother told me she had died peaceably in her sleep from an apparent heart attack at the nursing home where he worked and didn’t appear to suffer at all. I asked how this could be as she had a pacemaker. He said he was told if she had had a new one with a defibrillator she might have made it. As it was, she died three weeks prior to her 89th birthday. The funeral was to be a couple of days from then.

Wow. I was still stunned and could only listen. The only saving grace for me was that she was a believer and liked my new born again beliefs. After I hung up with my brother, Father Weber instructed me on the usual protocol for attending such events. My request to attend would be submitted and I would be informed as to whether I could attend or not. I could chose to get a couple of hours at the calling hours or attending the funeral – complete with full jewelry of course – handcuffs, leg irons, and an escort or two CO’s. I opted for the calling hours visit where I could get some alone time with my mom and also my brother and two sisters.

Then it hit me and the dam burst. I cried like a baby right in front of Father and couldn’t stop. I think I was crying for many reasons, but manly because I had hurt her so much, and she would not see her changed youngest a free man again, something I had truly hoped for. Consequently I was very depressed.

It was during this time that I beat myself up pretty badly, still grieving my loss as well as feeling my pride had never gone away but had only been dormant for a while. Taking matters into my own hands was just what the devil wanted, what he urged. Just as he directed Adam and Eve, he assisted me on my original offense, with my consent of course, and now this latest escapade. His whispers in my ears were louder than the nudging of the Holy Spirit once again. I sure had a long way to go to solidify any lasting changes, something I thought I had previously accomplished and people on the outside would see, especially my mother. How disappointing. No wonder I was in a funk.

I knew I had to make this surprise move work for me and teach me to slow down and give time for consultation with God and, basically, common sense. As Buck Henry famously said, “Common sense ain’t so common.” It certainly wasn’t with me. I definitely needed more inside corrections and now had time to work at it while still inside corrections.