Dear Mom

An inmate writes to his Mother after completing a 13-year sentence.

Dear Mom,

It’s all the little things that I’m re-acquainting myself with that had been lost to me, which I am now rediscovering.

Yesterday I drove past farms with tilled fields, red barns standing out against the gray trees just beginning to bud red. Some trees are in their early greening stages. Dogwoods are flowering. I passed Hereford cattle grazing the dewy grass.

I’m wearing a blue, short-sleeved polo shirt, and whatever else I feel compelled to wear. I’ve changed several times already. Some things don’t fit, but I’ll be back down to size again.

What a nice experience, standing outside in the yard as the evening came upon us, watching a neighborhood’s activities, hearing its sounds—families piling into cars, kids running through yards, a local garage band practicing.

I walked down the street, unescorted, my hands buried in cash in both pockets. I’m amidst people, all by myself, and nobody is wearing a uniform. There are no handcuffs, no fat key rings, and no walkie-talkie chatter.

I’m chewing a stick of Juicy Fruit chewing gum, and I’m allowed to chew it. I don’t have to worry about being thrown into the “hole.”

My bed is so soft, and so much wider than what I’m used to. I slept 3-1/2 hours, and I feel refreshed, reborn, healing from years of torture and plain meanness.

Women are talking with me, introducing themselves, and I’m allowed to talk with them, openly, without fear of being thrown into the “hole.” The woman at the restaurant smiles and actually asks with interest, “What do you want? Is that all? Can I get you something else?” The food is real food, prepared to please someone. It has taste, aroma, and balance.

I walked up to a vending machine and bought roasted sunflower seeds. I’m looking in the phone book for restaurants, getting dining suggestions from the locals, and I’m checking bus schedules, and the price of round-trip taxi fares.

People introduce themselves as “Mary,” “Jessica,” Dave,” “Eric,” or “Mike.” Never as “Mr. Thomas,” or “Mrs. Howley,” or “Lieutenant.” We all dress alike and walk the streets together.

Standing out in the yard, in a family neighborhood for several hours, watching and listening, absorbing everything—that was a great experience. A little girl ran with her daddy in the backyard; friends arrived at a house and joined the occupants on the porch, to talk and drink things; a pickup basketball game materialized nearby and I helped stop the balls from rolling off into the yard. I touched trees, resting my hand on their rough skin. I went outside after dark, and I could have gone anywhere in the world. What a wonderful liberty.

I’ve heard people complain about only getting 60 days, or 30 days, at the halfway house, or less, and they say they are going to refuse the halfway house placement. All I can say is, “Even a day outside is worth it.” We get so used to being “inside,” deprived of everything, belittled and punished, harassed, and restricted, as we have been for so many years. It seems that subtle parts of us have to give up on the world in order to survive the inhumanity, the sadness, the brutality of prison.

Just being there is the punishment. The staff members don’t need to bark orders at us, humiliate us, punish us further. The punishment is being confined away from the world, the neighborhood, freedom, comfort, family, quality, and liberty. The added insult provided by staff is not necessary. The injury doesn’t need to be compounded. The suffering doesn’t need to be enhanced.

A single daisy in color against a black and white background.

I wish everyone would make an effort to be more humane, kind, generous, and peaceful. It doesn’t cost anything. (Photo by Matt)

I just wish everyone would make an individual effort to be more humane, kind, generous, and peaceful. It doesn’t cost anything. The alternative has, and continues to, cost us everything precious about living.

Maybe that’s what I realize now, what I missed the most—the kindness and dignity which can be afforded, and are afforded all of us, through humane living. I feel the kindness here in the air. I feel it awakening within me again, being rediscovered.

I regret every mean thing I ever wrote or said during my life, especially during the last 13 years. I realize now just how insane I’d become over those years. “Insane” is the proper word, because when human beings don’t cherish others, whom we are all connected with, then we certainly are not sane.

The sanity is blossoming again with the kindness. It is springtime throughout the universe today. It’s May Day and I am the May Pole, allowing life to wrap itself around me.

I pray for all those who inflict harm and for all those who are harmed. We are all one and the same.

With love and prayers,
M.

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