To try to remember something from 11 years ago is difficult at best. I have a pretty terrible memory, so attempting to recall what my life was like 11 years ago is like trying to see through muddy water. I do this sometimes because that’s how long ago my loved one lost his rightful freedom. 11 years has passed since he last ate a home cooked meal, wore real clothes, or touched a real tree. 11 years is a long time to lose your freedom.
Think about your best friend. You know how you get upset for them when they have a really bad day? Imagine your best friend having a bad 11 years. That’s how it feels sometimes. It is eye opening to become close to someone who is living in prison. It is starling to realize how their reality exists not only on a day to day basis, but how tough it must be for him, knowing that he is innocent, to put up with all of it day in and day out. For 11 years. To truly suffer because of someone else’s choices having nothing to do with him, it’s simply baffling and I have no idea how he handles that. But he does.
As a level 3 inmate in a medium security prison he is told where to go, when to go there, what to wear, how often he can order supplies and only in limited quantities. His day to day is a scheduled rotation of meals in the chow hall, going out to yard, working at his job on an institutional cleaning crew, spending time in the day room waiting to get on a phone, and spending time in his cell. But this can be taken away on any given day without any reason in what they call “lock down” which means he does not get to come out of the tiny cell he shares with one other inmate- his “cellie”. Inmates have to stay on their toes, anything can change at a moment’s notice. Things that most people normally don’t even give a second thought to: taking a shower, having a snack, washing laundry, and making a phone call are all hanging in the delicate balance of the prison world.
You would think having to go through all that he has and deal with this on top of everything else would make someone really hardened. It would not have surprised me at all to hear him speak about such things in an angry, biter way. But remarkably, he is a really positive person and looks for the good in pretty much everything. It is refreshing to hear him be so grateful for little things I may take for granted, to be so happy sometimes despite his situation. It had rubbed off on me and we know it’s what God wants from us, that we should be grateful for what we do have and to live in each day with a humble spirit. For someone like me who can get bent out of shape over accidentally spilling my oatmeal, seeing his steadfast faith in God, in the good, and his total and utter belief that he will regain his freedom is breathtaking.
I see strength in him that I have used over the years to power myself through my toughest days. No matter how bad it can get, I know I can get through it because he did. And he still is, with a tender loving heart and big smile.