I can remember the day Ron went to jail so vividly!
We woke up that morning and got ready for the day, just like any other day. We showered, brushed our teeth, got dressed, ate breakfast, and even had a small disagreement about a wet towel on the floor. As far as the boys knew, that day was just like any other day of their young lives. We knew it was not a normal day. We were headed into the second day of Ron’s trial, but we were feeling pretty confident Ron was going to be acquitted, so we chose not to say anything to our children about where we were going that day.
Blake was four and half years old, and Brandon was nearly three years old. They were excitedly preparing to go spend the day with their aunt and uncle. They never suspected that today was going to be different – that the events about to transpire would dramatically alter the course of their lives.
We dropped them off at their aunt and uncle’s house on the way to the courthouse.
As much as we had hoped and believed that Ron would come back home with me that day, he didn’t. When the jury began to read the verdict, Ron nearly collapsed from shock. I stood there frozen, listening to all the noises in the courtroom – the crying of my mother-in-law, the shuffling of feet, the creaking of the wooden benches as people shifted in their seats, the click of heels as some walked down the hallway outside of the door behind me, and the emotionless voice of the man reading off the guilty verdict. Everything around me was magnified and yet so distant, as if I were in a tunnel. The next thirty minutes were filled with tears, hugs, good-byes, and footsteps fading into the distance before the elevator doors closed, shutting me off from Ron. I turned to see that I was left standing alone in the hallway outside of the courtroom.
The drive home was a blur, my memory fogged by the overwhelming fear and anger I was experiencing.
As I pulled into my driveway, the haze lifted, and I realized I had to walk into my house and tell my little boys that Daddy wasn’t coming home; Dad went to jail today. I will never, ever forget that moment. It was the first moment I saw fear in my sons’ eyes. They did not understand what was happening, but the one thing they knew was that whatever had happened between the time they were dropped off and picked up was the cause of their daddy being gone. “Mommy, where is daddy? Why didn’t Daddy come home? When is Daddy coming home?” they asked over and over again. My words and explanations were not making sense to them. “Dad went to jail, and I do not know when he will come home.” I kept answering.
Finally, Blake asked a new question, “What is jail?” My heart lurched with pain. His innocence was painful because I could not protect him from this terrible assault on his wellbeing. There was nothing I could do to soften the blow from the loss of his daddy. I stumbled over my words as I tried to provide a definition they could understand. “Jail is like big people time out.” I told them. Relief flooded over his face, “So Dad will be home in 5 minutes?” he so sweetly questioned. “No,” I explained, “Big people time out is much longer than time out for little children.” And again I told him that I really did not know when Daddy was going to come home.
The realization that Dad was not coming home hit Blake hard.
He began to cry and grabbed me insisting that I go back and get daddy right now. Brandon joined Blake in weeping uncontrollably. I knelt down on the floor and held my 2 precious boys and wept with them for a moment. With all the self-control I could muster, I forced myself to regain my composure. I knew I had to be strong and steady for them. I began to comfort them and reassure them that we would see Daddy soon, that he was safe, and so were they. The questioning, almost accusatory look in Blake’s swollen, red eyes as he stared at me as the tears streamed down his face broke my heart. He could not understand how I could have let someone take his daddy away.
And I could not make him understand I had no choice. Both Blake and Brandon clung to me as if afraid if they let go, I might disappear from their lives as well. The night Dad went to jail was the night our lives changed forever.