Building Bridges

Depending on how much halfway house time I am given I am between ten (eight months half way house) and eighteen months (zero half way house) from leaving here and arriving somewhere where I will begin my reintegration into society. With this comes many emotions: joy, curiosity, hope, depression, and a dozen more. The one I am feeling most though is FEAR.

Eighteen months may seem like a long time but, it’s really not. I’ve been incarcerated for 56 months and in some ways it has dragged slowly and in other ways it has flown by. It’s already been three months since the potential halfway house timing was communicated to me.

I’m in count down mode. I’m looking at the future now.

Time has taken on an almost human quality. It stands by my side and whispers in my ear, “The world is coming. I am bringing it to you. Are you ready?” Part of me screams, “YES! I am ready!” The other part of me whispers back so softly that only this companion, Time, can hear, “No, I am not ready. How do I return and find my way back? How do I do it?” It’s these questions, and their implications, that drive my fear.

The world is credited and accused of being beautiful and ugly, forgiving and condemning, inclusive and ostracizing, good and evil. We all know though that the world is clean and innocent. The truth is it’s the people who give the world its hues. Some hues make the world as bright as an English garden, others like an angry bruise.

What I know: I have, through my crime, created a bruise.

There are layers to the bruise: society at large, federal, state and local officials, local community, friends, family, my children, my wife…others. I want to heal these bruises.

What I know: some layers don’t want the bruise to heal, some ignore the bruise, some don’t even know they’re bruised, some want the bruise to go away but are afraid to participate in the cure, and I pray, that some have bruises already beginning to fade.

I could write an epic tome about the bruises to society, officials, and community and the current realities surrounding their willingness to seek and accept healing. I could also write lengthily about friends lost, family, and the bruises they carry. However, these injuries are not where I want to spend my time or my words.

Today I want to reach out to my children and maybe start the healing and to my wife as we watch the bruise begin to fade.

Here’s where the fear gets real, intimate, and consuming.

To my children: along with your mom there is no one and nothing I love more. I know this may be hard to believe given the choices I made that brought me here and broke the family apart. Yet, it’s true. I also know I owe you explanations and honest answers to all the questions you must have, apologies for all the time I allowed my issues to color my parenting in dark shades, and of course an apology for my crime and its impacts.

Please know, and try to believe, that I am truly sorry. They’re four tiny words but they carry my heart. I want to assure you that I’ll never again become involved with what brought me here and that I’ve addressed the issues within me that I allowed to drive me to become involved with those materials to begin with. How I wish you could hear me, see my eyes, and allow me to embrace you.

My fear where you are concerned is that the distance between us is really an abyss across which I will be unable to build a bridge that will bring us together. I’m afraid the bruise is an injury that will never heal, always be scabbed, and eventually turn into a scar that is so ugly it’s unforgivable. I’m afraid that my five plus year absence has made us strangers that will become acquaintances or friends but not family.

You’ve grown, matured, and added life experiences to your history. Sadly, it’s not a history we’ve shared. The result? You’re all new people that in some ways I don’t know. You’ve traveled, married, moved across the country, started careers, bought homes, and graduated college. How have all these things changed you; the you I knew?

I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing, do something that hurts you again or embarrasses you more than I already have. Why?

I’m different too.

No one can go to prison and not be affected by the experience. I’ve tried hard to grow in healthy, positive ways through it all and I like to believe I’ve been mostly successful. I want to share the new me with you but I’m afraid you won’t like me.

I know things can never be the same and they shouldn’t be. There’s just too much rubble; but I like to believe it can be a new and better intimate relationship. It will take time, effort, belief, trust and vulnerability for us all to get there. Which leads me to the heart of it all:

The real gnawing, clawing, fear: that either I won’t fit in your lives or worse, that you won’t want me in your lives.

What I know: I love you. Always have and always will. My heart is open.

Please tell me yours are too.

To my wife: you’ve endured for years and have always stood by my side. You knew me when I didn’t know myself. You saw in me something worth hanging on to though to me it’s always been a mystery. By the time I finally get home we will have been apart for more than five years. That’s a long time for two people in love to be apart. It’s the hardest thing I do each day; live without you.

Like our children, you have added to your history and sadly, also like me and the children, it’s a history we’ve not shared. You’ve been the only parent at two college graduations and a wedding, been the only child at two funerals, lost two dear pets, advanced your career, moved a child across the country, traveled, and more. These things have changed your outlook on life, what’s important to you, and how you want to live life. Fortunately, we write daily, talk on the phone several times a week, and visit monthly so I know some of your thoughts around these things but until we live together, I really won’t know your changed world and how you move through it.

Things won’t be the same. They can’t be. We’d never survive. You’d never survive. As you’ve changed, so have I. I’ve become much more objective about my past actions and now see them in an honest light. I try to objectively evaluate my present thoughts, emotions and actions and work to assure they’re healthy and rational. I consciously, and conscientiously, carry your desires and needs in my heart and work to weigh my desires and needs against yours in a caring and respectful way. I look at people differently now and care about them in new ways. And I have God and faith and hopes for eternity. I’m mostly new.

I want to share the new me with you. I want to be the friend, lover, and husband you want and need but I’m not sure how. I ask myself every day how do I reintegrate into a daily life with you and do so in a healthy, loving, and supportive way? What do I do? How do I do it? What do I say? How do I say it? What will it take for you to feel safe with me in all measures? Just as with the kids, it will take time, effort, belief, trust, and vulnerability for us to get there. Which leads to the heart of it all:

The real, gnawing, clawing, fear: I will fail you again.

What I know: I love you. Always have and always will. My heart is open. I want us as one. That by your actions you love me and want the same.

To my wife and children: I know my words here are clumsy. How do I actually capture all I think, feel, hope for, and fear in just a few short paragraphs? I know there’s a lot left out; a lot missing. Please don’t think I don’t know how complex this really is. In a real way you are also victims of my actions. I know this. The bruises, the wounds, are deep and painful. Please join me in taking that first step toward each other. Help me to build bridges across that abyss. We can move at whatever pace you like. We can run, walk, crawl, or sit quietly side by side.

My heart is open.


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