Wednesday 2 January 2008

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
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