Sunday, 30 December 2007

Travel to London

I kissed Jon goodbye as he boarded the train for London. Sixteen years ago I’d kissed him goodbye on the same platform. He was taking the train to London then, and from London catching a plane to Phoenix.
“All my worldly goods are in that case,” he had said. Words that brought a lump to my throat.
"I might not see you again for another sixteen years," I said, smiling, concentrating hard on the moment. Trying to dispel flashes of events from those years filling my mind. He was a penniless graduate when he had left for the USA in 1991. Financially he’s in the same situation today. But the roller coaster ride of the last sixteen years meant that a very different Jon looked back as he waved through the window.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood


“It’s like science fiction the way technology has advanced,” Jon said examining a friend’s iPod. “There were Walkman’s with cassettes before, and that’s all we were allowed in prison. But now there’s phones with cameras, and email and music.”
“Was the last phone you had one of those big ones?” Dan asked.
“You’ll need a phone,” I said.
“I really don’t want one,” Jon said. I’m trying to avoid attachment to all this stuff.”
“You’ll have to borrow mine while you’re in London,” I insisted. “You might miss your train or anything could happen. And you’ll need to ring Kathryn to let her know when you arrive.”
Jon acquiesced and I gave him instructions on how to make and take calls and how to text, which he quickly picked up.

He was so into possessions and having all the latest gadgets and technology before his arrest. I wondered if all that would eventually resurface.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Boxing Day

Kathryn and Aaron headed south after breakfast to visit Aaron’s parents and enjoy more Christmas fare. Before they left Kathryn expressed her concerns about Jon. She had noticed his difficulty in make decisions, and a tendency to do whatever he is told to do.
“To a certain extent he’s become institutionalised,” I said, with a pang of sadness. “But that effect is lessening every day. You can’t get over six years incarceration in a week; being told what to do all the time and not having to make decisions must take away your confidence."
"It'll take time, but he'll get there. He's a strong character."
"How do inmates who are released, or thrown out on to the streets, survive if they have no family support?"
"They'd be prey to anyone who comes along."
"No wonder a lot of them end up back inside," I said. "Jon travelling down to London for the New Year is worrying me, especially as he has to change trains twice and get a bus from one station as the line’s closed.”
“It might be just the thing he needs to do to get his confidence back. You are probably smothering him here, without realising it. It will be an adventure for him.”
“You’re probably right. I’ll lend him my mobile, so he can ring you if he gets stuck anywhere. He just seems so vulnerable right now.”

We were invited to a party at Dan’s sister’s house this evening. Walking in the cool crisp night air, Dan, Jon and I arrived at her door, dressed in our best Christmas clothes, bearing gifts. We rang the bell. The hall was dark with no signs of guests. Sarah greeted us in jeans and sweater telling us that she’d text Dan to say her husband was ill and the party was off.”
“You should have text me,” I said. Dan doesn’t look at his texts.”
"Come in for a drink," she said laughing, hugging Jon.
Risking the germs we toasted Jon’s release with pink champagne.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Christmas Day

Today Jon posted a blog he wrote last Christmas, a stark reminder of prison life. Far from his jailers, in the warmth of his family home he remembered the friends he’d left behind. When I read how listening to the carollers made him feel: Briefly we weren’t prisoners any more. We were someone’s son, brother, father – we were human again. I cried. I cried for Jon and all he’d been through, I cried for myself and Dan and Kathryn, but I cried mostly for the men, some who I’d caught glimpses of walking across the rec field, others I’d waved to through the wire fence or had snatched conversations with in the visitation room, when we were visiting Jon. Whatever past deeds had brought them to that place, they are human beings.

Shutting out the cold,
inside, the scented warmth,
gifts with shiny wrappings,
smells of veg and roast,
family arriving,
eating smiling laughing,
wearing silly hats,
pulling Christmas crackers,
drinking to the future,
acknowledging the past.

Dan made a short speech before we ate our Christmas dinner. Close to tears he welcomed Jon back.

The first Christmas the four of us, Dan, Jon, Kathryn and myself had been together in sixteen years was a success. Dinner was shared with my sister Lizzy and Dan’s brother-in-law, Michael, who had both lost their other halves in 2006. Michael’s daughter, Jenny and her three year old daughter Corynne, and our son-in-law, Aaron made up to nine around the table. Jon ate his nut cutlet, veggies and roast, joining in the joviality. There were moments when the old Jon re-appeared, chatting confidently as though unmarked by the experience of six years incarceration.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 24 December 2007

Happy Christmas

Thank you for the kind words and support for Jon and our family.

Every day he gets stronger, and attended a get together last night with family and friends, downing three pints of Guinness.

I've only hit him with the frying pan once, and that was just a demonstration.

Tomorrow is going to be a very special day for us.

I hope it is special for you all.

Have a wonderful Christmas holiday


Sunday, 23 December 2007

Night out with the lads

Hammy planned a reunion for Jon with some of his old friends and schoolmates last Friday night at a local pub. I was pleased that he was going to get out of the house and away from the computer. I trusted Hammy, a loyal friend, to take care of him. But I was apprehensive about him drinking while he was on meds and making himself ill. I was also worried about the reception he would get, and whether he’d be treated like a circus act. He has a vulnerability that wasn’t present six years ago. I told him to ring me and I’d pick him up at any time if he wanted to come home. As he left I joked about him ending up drunk in a gutter. Hammy assured me he wouldn’t.

I wrapped Christmas presents and watched TV with Dan, but my thoughts kept straying to Jon. It was like the pull on the umbilical cord you get when your teenage son goes out alone for the very first time.

I’d imagined that he would want picking up, but as it got nearer to twelve o’clock I panicked. I didn’t mind him staying out late. I just wanted to know that he was OK. I rang Hammy's mobile. He was at his flat. I asked how Jon was and he told me he was fine, that loads of people had turned up to see him and that he’d had a great time.

“People were offering me drinks all night,” Jon said. “but I only had two pints of Guinness. I feel buzzed off that. Hammy keeps saying he’ll ring me a taxi, but it’s not happening. It’s only round the corner; I’m going to jog home. You go to bed.”

Hearing his key in the door, knowing he was safe, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 20 December 2007

A Good Night's Sleep

“That’s all that was wrong with me,” Jon said. “I needed a good night’s sleep.”
Two years on remand in Joe Arpaio’s cockroach infested jails, three and a half years in State prison, never knowing if his half time release would be confirmed, three weeks held at immigration not knowing when he’d be deported, three days in transit without sleep and two days without food are not going to be dispelled with a good nights sleep.

But that’s Jon. He is always positive. Visiting him in prison you felt that he was cheering you up, not the other way round.

The cold spell has meant that he’s not ventured into the garage extension, and is sleeping in the cosy warmth of the upstairs bedroom. He’s still jetlagged and once awake the lure of the computer, which is in the bedroom, becomes irresistible and he’s writing all night. But since taking the meds the doctor gave him he’s not been waking up as much, which means he’s staying awake all day. Wrenching him from the computer at any time is difficult.

Yesterday, we insisted that he come for a walk. He tried to resist, but we nagged him into joining us. It was a bright, crisp day. We walked an elderly neighbour’s dog for an hour around the countryside near our house. Jon admitted he enjoyed the exercise, but complained later that his face had been freezing and half an hour would have been enough.

A visit to the optician, confirmed that he is slightly short sighted, and needs glasses for distance vision, which is still blurred. It’s probably due to the ten-twelve hours per day he spent reading and writing in his cell.

Each day his mental and physical health are improving. His energy is returning but I’m still concerned that he’s trying to do too much too soon. But I’m fighting a losing battle.

Your interest and support is wonderful, but please be patient. It will take him a while to catch up on the hundreds of emails in his inbox.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 17 December 2007


This morning Jon had palpitations caused by anxiety and lack of sleep. His distance vision is still blurred. He sounded distressed as he related his symptoms. I got an emergency doctor's appointment for him at 10.30am. I went with him.

It wasn’t my usual doctor who knows the whole story, so Jon had to briefly relate his recent history. The doctor seemed apprehensive about Jon. He told him to start re-taking the anti-anxiety medication he’d been given in Florence and prescribed more meds for Bipolar, made him an appointment for a psychiatric assessment, and a full medical check up. For the blurred vision he said to make an appointment with the optician.
“I think he may have thought I was a racist,” Jon said, “with my head shaved and just coming from a US prison. Perhaps he thought I was of the Aryan Brotherhood. He seemed scared of me.”
“With him being Asian?” I asked. “Yes, maybe he was. You spoke very politely. I wasn’t very happy with his reaction, and he should have examined your eyes. But this is what you have to be prepared for when you tell people you’ve been in prison for six years on drugs related charges. Not everyone’s a jonsjailjournal fan.”
“He was only young. I’m not surprised. He did what was needed. I’m prepared for that reaction. I can’t let it bother me. I know who I am.”
“So you’ve got to start taking the meds again. You shouldn’t have stopped so soon after your release. You’re not superman. It’s going to take time.”
“The funny thing is I’m trying to stop taking drugs (medication) and they keep giving me more.”
“Yes, but you can’t get arrested for taking these.”
“Very true. Yesterday, I was running round ASDA Wal-Mart like a kid in a candy store piling up the trolley with goodies I couldn't get in prison. Now I’m a wreck.”
“You were still on a high yesterday. When we get home you can have lunch, take your meds and sleep. You’re banned from the computer. Forget about blogging or emailing. You have to heal yourself. Your blog readers will understand. He grudgingly agreed and went to bed.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The Prodigal Returns

We have all been deeply touched by your emails, comments and support for Jon. Thanks. He is starting to recover from the trauma of the journey home. We've told him to eat, sleep and recover for a few days before he gets seriously into blogging, but, in spite of tiredness, blurred vision, an allergy attack and shivering with the cold, he insisted on putting on a blog himself.

I'll fill in the posts tracking our journey when I've recovered from the tiredness created by the excitement of having Jon home.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Indian Meal

We are a family again, Jon, Kathryn Dan and me. After eating cheese on toast, shaving off half of his beard, showering and sleeping, we are going out for an Indian meal


Journey to London

13 Dec 07

Journey to London

Jon rang this morning tired and disorientated with lack of sleep, wanting to know if the Consulate had been able to find out what time his flight was scheduled. Four o’clock had been mentioned to him but he wasn’t sure, and wanted more confirmation. Hanging up to save phone money running out, he said he’d ring back later. He sounded disappointed, and I was saddened that I couldn’t give him any more positive news.

We made the decision to travel to London regardless of not knowing the flight he would be on. We wanted to be there for his arrival. I’d had a case packed for days. This included fresh clothes for Jon.

Before leaving Dan checked the email. There was a message from the Consulate saying that he would be arriving at Heathrow, Terminal 3 at 11.30 tomorrow. This news came like a pathway through a heavy fog.

It was dark when we left at 8.00pm. The journey would take around five hours. But this was the journey we’d been waiting to make for the last six years. The journey to pick up our son and bring him home. All tiredness was gone. I felt like an actor in my own play. As we were moving through the night, I thought of Jon travelling from another world, chained, cuffed and then freed. At what point would our journeys collide?

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Jon in LA

Jon arrived in LA this morning. He is expecting to get a flight home later today (USA time) and should arrive in UK on Thursday.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Rolled up


Wonderful, marvellous news! Jon's just phoned. He's been told to 'roll up'. He's on the move. He doesn't know when or where he's going, but he's leaving Arizona, after sixteen years. How must he be feeling? Sadness? Regret? Excitement? Joy? Freedom!

The clothes we mailed to him from UK arrived miraculously one hour before his roll up summons. The guard told him to collect his sexy underwear, referring to the Calvin Kline boxer shorts we'd sent.

I'm so indescribably excited. I want to run out into the street and shout, "He's coming home!".

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Still no Jon

The house is cleaned,
tree lit up,
decorations hung,
presents wrapped,
freezer full,
hamper delivered,
but still no Jon.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Waiting Room

We are waiting for a phone call. This call will tell us that Jon is on a flight or about to be put on a flight to the UK. The information is withheld for security reasons.

Last night we spoke to Jon. He is deliriously happy about his imminent release, but taking medication for anxiety, and cannot sleep.

In distant rooms, we are waiting.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Blog Slog

5 Nov 07

Dear Jon,

It’s wonderful to hear your voice so full of excitement about your imminent release. I can only imagine how you must be feeling, after nearly six years of being told when to eat, sleep, go to bed, wake up, get a shower. It will be like getting your life back, and it’s going to be great experiencing it with you. …

… I want you to understand our feelings about handing over the blog to you, and our love, hate relationship with it. It was D’s idea and would never have existed without him, after reading the Baghdad Blogger, suggesting it to you.

We have tried to maintain it to the very best of our ability, which in the beginning was very limited. For the last five years we have spent hours each day sorting out your blogs and letters; filing them appropriately; choosing which blogs to put on; typing them up, editing (some of the original Xena & Co manuscripts would make even a seasoned sailor blush); re-reading, checking for errors and putting in the hyperlinks to previous blogs; reading the emails sent to writeinside, replying to the emails, dealing with the media and dealing with demands for links and blog improvements from yourself.

Initially I was the most active in maintaining it, but when I got too stressed, especially when I worked full time D got more involved. D even attended a website class at night school so he could learn how to improve the blog and deal with any problems himself rather than asking other people.

Although it is a bind for us and sometimes drives us mad, it has been a link to you that we may not have had if it had never existed. In the early days when you were in Maricopa County jails under the care of the 'good' sheriff, it was heartbreaking to read what you and other inmates were suffering. Your conversations with other prisoners and descriptions of life inside have made us laugh and cry. We have shared your imprisonment in a way that few relatives of inmates ever could.

Before you come home and take over I want you to realise what a big part of our lives it has become. It’s really been a part-time job for D & I. It is your blog and we are just conduits through which your words have been transmitted. But you must understand our mixed emotions. Although we will be happy to hand it over to you, I want you to be aware of our concerns for something which in a way has been our baby, which we gave birth to, have nurtured and seen mature. A metaphor for your development, perhaps?

All your readers are going to want to know how you fare on the outside, so I’m sure it’ll go from strength to strength. Whatever happens it will be completely yours.

And if I'm not harassed enough with your blog, I go and start one myself! ...

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 2 December 2007


“Someone commented on Jon’s blog that I sounded as though I was preparing a nursery,” I told Susan. “The nesting instinct definitely took over as I was unpacking his clothes and preparing his room.”
“That’s a touching image,” Susan said. “Like bringing home a new baby.”
“Some baby.”
“No, he’s not a baby. He’s a man. But in a way it’s like a re-birth. As we said in the last session, you experienced a bereavement when he went into prison. That person no longer exists. A different person is going to come home to you.”
“Well, I’ve suffered the labour pains.”
“Are you still feeling concerned about how you’ll cope.”
“No. I feel more together this week. For the past month, I’ve been overwhelmed with thoughts of his imminent release, how he’ll adjust, how we’ll all get along, and worst of all whether he’ll… I find it hard to even say it… re-offend, take drugs again, let everyone down.”
“Do you still feel like that?”
“No. Perhaps I’m starting to use the strategies I’ve learned in therapy. It is no use worrying about something that may never happen. I’m concentrating every day on being positive, well, realistically positive. I know there’ll be adjustments for us all. It’s not all going to be wonderful, but it’s nothing so bad as having him in prison. He'll be here with us. I can give him a hug, make him a meal, talk to him.”
“You’ve probably mentally prepared yourself. A new phase in your lives is about to begin.”
“And I’m ready for it to happen.”

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood
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