Thursday, 29 November 2007

Phone call from Jon

The line was good. It was as though he was in the next room. He sounded cheerful and excited. His veggie diet had been OK'd so he'd eaten. Best news was he's been assured he won't be in ICE longer than two weeks.

Visitation is on Saturday and Sunday every week. Royo girl and her friend are going to visit him on Sunday. He was very pleased about the prospect of seeing her again before he leaves.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Cardboard Boxes

At the weekend Dan brought down from the attic ten cardboard boxes full of Jon’s clothes that we had boxed up and shipped home after our first visit. Claudia, his then fiancĂ©e, was still in the apartment in Scottsdale they had shared, and she helped us move out his personal belongings.

That 'what might have been' feeling hit the pit of my stomach once again, as I hung up two Italian designer suits, remnants from Jon’s stock broking days. Stylish but now out of date. Examining the cut of the jackets, I saw him showing Dan and me and Kathryn the notice board in his office. The feeling of pride that my son was the top earner.

I opened four boxes full of tee shirts, mostly black, but some brightly coloured with crazy motifs. Putting them carefully on hangers, I examined the symbols and signs wondering if they were his rave gear. I found cotton bandanas, purple, blue and red. And a long jellybean hat, fur trimmed with yellow and purple stripes and a fur bob at the end. The ache and the visions returned, this time of flashing coloured lights creating patterns around a room, vibrating music and dancers. Dancing, abandoned, waving their arms in the air, and taking drugs.

A pair of smart shiny shoes and three pairs of trainers were in the next box. He’ll need the trainers, if they’re not too out of date.

Boxer shorts by every designer, in every colour and material filled the remaining three boxes. So many that Dan and I had to go out and buy a chest of drawers to accommodate them.

As I released the clothes from their boxes, they expanded, breathed out their stale odour, and took in the fresh air. The room belonged to Jon.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 26 November 2007

More counselling

“It’s like a bereavement,” Susan said “when someone goes into prison for a long time. It’s as though the person he was before has died. And a different person will emerge from prison.”
“Yes. It was like the death of all my hopes and dreams for him. It was all taken away with a phone call.”
“Now you have to get to know the new Jon.”
“But people think, and have said to me that I should feel better now that its nearly over.”
“What you are feeling is perfectly natural. Don’t feel guilty. Other people, even friends, don’t always understand. One part of your life is over, but another is beginning. It’s going to be a period of big adjustment for you all. But you sound like the kind of family that will cope.”
“After we heard that Jon had been moved, I was initially happy, but then I felt flat, somehow numb. It’s scary. This strange mixture of emotions.”
“How does your husband feel?”
“He copes better than me. On the surface anyway. I’m sure he feels it just as much. Last night he looked so down and said, ‘Our son’s coming home, but not from a job abroad or a holiday adventure, or as a hero from war. He’s coming home from prison. Our son’s coming home after six years inside. It took me right back to his arrest, when I realised he’d been moved. Right back to the beginning.’ "
“Again it’s that feeling of loss he was experiencing.”
“For the past six years we’ve been supporting Jon in any way we could, and working for his release. It’s been the goal of our lives for six years. But now that it’s within sight we’re in turmoil. All the threads that have held us together are coming untied.”
“As horrid as it was having him in prison, you knew where he was and you’ve worked around that. A new dynamic is about to begin. And you feel uncertainty."
I told her about all that Jon had achieved in prison. How he’d studied and written stories, and how proud we are of how he has coped.

But it’s prison he’s returning from, like Dan said.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Romantic names

"Jon's been transferred to Florence," I told some friends. "But sadly not Florence, Italy."
"Don't the prisons in the US have romantic names?"
"Yes, the last one was Santa Rita," I said.
"Even the name of that cockroach infested hell hole, Madison Street, conjures up romantic images of New York," Dan said.
"I wonder who thinks them up?"
"Must have a sense of humour."
"Beats Wormwood Scrubs," Val said.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Jon rang last night

7.00pm UK time Jon rang. It was such a relief to hear him sounding normal again.

After being processed through the system, he was moved to a cell on his own where he'd been able to sleep soundly. His voice was cheerful and full of expectation for his release. Laughing about all the roast potatoes and chocolate orange he was going to eat at Christmas.

He'd filled in a form for a veggie diet, and received magazines from detainees on his block.
He'd had conversations in Spanish with Mexicans, whose offence had been getting caught crossing the border.

He asked us to send him some clothes for his release. It could take three to four weeks, but the embassy are going to try to expedite his deportation. He can ring us more often and there is a message service.

As a stock broker Jon's English accent was a huge asset. During the sixteen years he's lived in Arizona he's developed only a slight American accent, which he cultivated to make himself understood. Last night he sounded very English.

If readers want to write to him, which he said he would like, the address is below. Even though it hasn't got his barracks or cell number, it will get to him. Any mail arriving after his release will be forwarded to UK.

Shaun Attwood # A75693747
SPC Florence
3250 N. Pinal Parkway Ave
AZ 85232.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The Phone Call

Shaun's imminent homecoming has stirred memories of the day he was arrested on 16th May 2002:

Hearing, “Shaun’s been arrested,” I felt a sharp stab, followed by a sinking feeling as my stomach reacted to the shock my brain had just received. My body went numb.
Every secret suspicion, stifled emotional response, and unuttered word was confirmed in that second. This was it. What I’d feared for years was now a reality. But I was dead. I had no feeling. I continued the conversation, asking my sister-in-law how her children were, until I put down the phone.

I couldn’t cry, so I laughed. Kathryn and I laughed about pleading with the judge.

Until I heard Dan’s car pull up outside. I had to share the pain with him. He came in smiling, shouting hello Telling him made it real. His face took on a look. It became a mirror of all the hurt and anger, fear and concern, I felt. It reflected the misery of disappointed hopes, and a truth we could no longer deny. Our son was a drug dealer.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Waiting for news

The embassy sent an email last night to say that Jon had been moved to Florence. They spoke to him. He sounded tired but well. Our initial euphoria gave way to concerns about why he hadn’t rang us. Was he able to ring? Do they allow phone calls? It’s the uncertainty that makes creates stress.

7.00pm Jon rang. He sounded disorientated. Exhausted and elated. The night before they came to pick him up he didn’t sleep. At 6.00am he was told to get ready to leave. The yard was on lock down so he couldn’t say goodbye to his friends. He sounded sad about this.

Last night he slept on hard plastic sheets, in a big room with fellow detainees, mostly Mexican and South American, waiting to be processed. The room was so crowed he couldn’t stretch out. He had another sleepless night. There’s no vegetarian food. All he’d eaten was a bag of fries. He said he felt lonely.

He’d changed from orange into regulation prison blues. Pulling on the blue jeans, gave him flashbacks.

Once he is processed, he should be allocated a room or cell, he wasn’t sure.

He asked us to post his address as he’d like people to write to him. We will post the correct address as soon as we have it. He will probably be there for another three to four weeks. Mail arriving after he leaves will be forwarded home.

He said to thank all the bloggers for their comments and interest in him.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Picked up by ICE?

Yes, Jon was picked up by ICE today. That's all we know.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Hit him with the frying pan

In order to see how well I fared on the Beat the Blues program, and whether I needed further therapy, I was interviewed by a counsellor.

After the assessment she advised me to have further counselling. She felt I had unexpressed anger towards Jon and this was contributing to my depression. I told her that Kathryn had had counselling not long after Jon’s arrest, and the counsellor told her to express her anger by writing down all her thoughts. This was an exercise to help her, but if she wanted to send what she had written to Jon, she should. The counsellor advised her to ask Jon first, if he wanted to know. He did, and Kathryn sent the pages of sorrow to him. Later she showed me what she had written. Her anger towards Jon was mostly because of what his recklessness had done to us. She was angry that we should suffer so much for his misdeeds at a time of our life when we should be starting to take things easy. She said she felt better when she had written it, and better still when she sent it to her brother.

I have never expressed my anger to him directly. After his arrest Jon’s situation was dire. How could I increase the pain of someone who was suffering in Arpaio’s cockroach infested jails? My instinct was to support and protect him.

The counsellor warned that if I didn’t express my anger, it would be bubbling under the surface and could erupt when he is released, causing problems in our relationship. When I got home I tried to write something down, but it wouldn’t come. What is the point now? He knows what he has put us through and he is sorry. What else is there to say?

Perhaps I’ll sneak up on him one day while he's blogging, and hit him over the head with the frying pan.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Phone Calls Reinstated

Hearing Jon's voice speaking so postively about his release and future plans gave me a huge lift. We chatted about his visit with Royo Girl and how she'd like to come and visit us in the UK. And how kind it was of Barry to come to say goodbye.

I couldn't sleep last night. Excitement firing every nerve cell in my brain. I lay awake unable to dampen it down.

It's so close now. I can almost touch it.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 16 November 2007

Mexican Food

Met up with some friends at a new Mexican restaurant. The first in our town. It was fun to relax after such a stressful week, and stop regretting that Jon wasn't going to be picked up and transferred to ICE today as we'd expected.

The food was deliciously hot and spicy. Not in the same class as the food served in the Mexican restaurants in Arizona which borders with Mexico. But Jon should find an improvement from the microwaved cheese and bean burritos visitors purchase from the vending machines on visitation days. His special treat.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Friday's Off

Another message on the hotline from Barry. Jon won’t be picked up on Friday. ICE need seven days' notice. This means he should be picked up next Tuesday.

I went to lunch with a friend, Lucy, who has recently trained in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). She offered me some free therapy. I’m therapied to death I told her.
“Yes, but this is an entirely new approach,” Lucy said. “It’s not a counselling session where you sit talking about your problems, and it’s not Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, but we do use some of those techniques. NLP can work on your unconscious thoughts without you realising it. I use hypnosis as well. Being a psychologist, you’ll love it.”

I don’t know if Lucy was working her magic on me while we ate, but I felt lighter (in spite of the coffee and cake) and more positive about Jon, his release and rehabilitation.

She reminded me that we have done everything we possibly could for Jon since he’s been in prison. We are still doing everything we can to secure his release date. His life choices after his release will be his. Stressing won’t alter anything.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Pickup List

We spoke to Jon last night in a phone call via the embassy. He told us he is on the system for deportation, but the officer who said he wasn’t on the pickup list was correct. After various calls and emails to a very helpful lady at Timecom, he’s been put on the list for pick up on Friday.

Dan opened a bottle of wine, but instead of rejoicing, we argued. I screamed at him for nothing.

The closer it gets to Jon’s release the more my feelings are in turmoil.
All the strategies I’ve been taught to deal negative thoughts and stress seem useless just now. I’m battling to keep myself mentally strong. Tears well in my eyes at the slightest provocation.

If it's bad for us, how must Jon feel? I mean really feel, beneath the show he puts on for us. He sounded relieved, but positive. He always sounds positive. I can hear his voice berating me for my lapse into insanity. Then I start to feel guilty. If he can stay strong, so should I.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Breaking Point

Jon is set to be picked up by ICE on Friday and transferred to an immigration holding centre. Which one we don’t know. But we have been told by various ADC staff that everything is in place for his deportation.

We have received a message from Jon via a friend, as he can’t call us direct because of the phone mix-up. He said that a member of staff told him that his name wasn't on the pickup list on the computer.

Has the person been wrongly informed or are they just winding Jon up? Are all these last minute hitches mere coincidence, bureaucracy gone mad, or a plot to keep the thumbscrews turning until the very last minute?

I’m unable to concentrate on anything.

I’m at breaking point.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Phone Calls stopped

Just when we need to speak to Jon most about his release, his phone calls to us have been stopped. Barry, in Tonopah rang us after speaking to Jon. Confusion has arisen because we have two numbers registered in our name, one for our house in the UK, and the other through Inmate Phonecalls, a company who give us a cheaper deal on Jon's calls.

Inmate Phoncalls has given us a number in Tucson that Jon rings. This call is then diverted to our phone. Having a number in our name both in Tucson and the UK is more than the sytem can deal with.

Jon has had to re-do the paperwork to get our calls re-instated. How long that will take we don't know.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Faces of the Dead

This was inspired when our friend Peter kindly offered to burn DVDs from numerous old family videos. Many of the people on them are now dead.

Ageing aunts and uncles, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons drinking, dancing, laughing, frowning.
At weddings, christenings, parties, birthdays, anniversaries.
But not funerals. Never funerals. No one videos funerals.

Old videos, burned to DVDs. What for? Posterity? Immortality? Children, grandchildren to see and remember.
Or disregard and throw away.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Angry Young Man

“I bought Jon a dressing gown today,” I said to Dan. “It’s grey and fleecy. If it gets too cold in the garage extension he can sleep in it.”
“You should have got him a Noel Coward style gown,” Dan said.
“He wants to be a writer, doesn’t he? He could look the part.”
“Oh yes, I’ll get him a bow tie and a cigarette holder, should I?
“Forget the ciggs,” Dan said.
“Or perhaps a paisley cravat and a smoking jacket?”
“That’s silly,” Dan said. “I see him more as an angry young man, writing away, starving in a cold lonely garret.”
“The garage will be his garret. We could switch the heating off, and ration his food.”
“That would make him angry.”

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The Gym

I’ve been put on a 10-week exercise program. Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel good. I had a choice of swimming, aerobics or the gym. I can’t swim. Aerobics involves too much jumping up and down. I chose the gym. I’ve never been to a gym. I didn’t know what to expect. Visions of toned muscular bodies clad in Lycra. Designer sweat trickling down shiny bronzed limbs.

In between 1-400pm the Healthy Life clients attend. Most wear baggy tee shirts and trackie bottoms, hiding a lifetime of abuse, or illness. We are all there to be beaten into shape, physically, mentally, or both.

It is friendly and I feel comfortable there. Matt, my fitness instructor, worked out a program with a warm up on the exercise bike, weights to strengthen my upper body, ten minutes on the country tracker and ten minutes cool down on the treadmill.

It is hard. I’m 4 weeks into the program now. I feel stronger. But I’m not sure if pumping iron is for me. As soon as I can do the exercises comfortably and I start to enjoy them, Matt ups the weights, highers the resistance and increases the speed.
“You’ve got to get a sweat on,” he tells me at every session.
He seems to know when I’m pretending. Ignoring my declarations of pain, he insists, “You’re doing fine on this program. We’ll up it next time."

At yesterday’s session an overweight woman was pounding the treadmill next to mine. In between breathless pants she introduced herself as Sall. Her face was red and shiny. Sweat ran down her cheeks. Her hair was soaked. But she determinedly continued. I admired her dedication.
“I’m trying to lose weight,” she said.
“Have you lost any?” I asked as politely as I could.
“You will do, if you stick at it,” I said, trying to offer encouragement. Without provocation she told me what she eats.
“I had two bacon butties for my breakfast, washed down with three cups of sugary tea. At lunch time I had sausage, chips and gravy in ASDA canteen. Tonight I’m cooking a spaghetti bolognaise. I nearly bought a cheesecake for dessert, but I returned it to the freezer,” she said smiling.
“Well done!” I said, smiling back.
“What have you eaten today?” she asked eyeing me up and down.
In an almost apologetic voice, I said, “A bowl of porridge for breakfast, a humus salad for lunch, and tonight we’re having vegetarian cottage pie.”
“Hmmm,” she said quickening her pace.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 2 November 2007

Final Computer Therapy

The Beat the Blues computer therapy program came to an end last week.

Intially, I thought the whole idea a bit of a joke – having a computer-generated voice sympathise when I’d had a bad week – but as the weeks progressed I found I’ve benefited from this kind of structured approach. You can’t digress with a computer in the way you can with a real live counsellor or therapist.

Afraid that the computer-generated graph of my depression and anxiety would plummet too low, I’ve completed the projects each week monitoring my thoughts, battling to change the negative to positive. Winning more often now. Some days easier than others.

As the time for Jon’s release gets closer, I feel as though my sentence is coming to an end too, and I’m scared of how I’ll cope with rehabilitation. Jon has been in prison for nearly six years, but he’s not lived with us at home in England for sixteen years. There will be the initial euphoria, but what will follow?

I have to think positively.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood
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