I clearly remember sitting in my car in the driveway after Ron went to prison.
However, I have no recollection of driving home. The last memory I have before sitting in my driveway was me looking out the second-story window. It was the memory of watching a sheriff put my husband in the back of his car. The next thing I knew, I was in my own driveway sitting in my car, thirty miles away. The haze of shock had consumed me.
I have no idea how long I sat there with the car running before I realized it was still running.
Raising my hand to turn the ignition off by all means seemed like a huge task. I slowly reached for the key and turned the purring engine off. My hand dropped back into the safety of my lap. I was home. Now what?
Getting out of the car and walking into my home was a daunting task.
I therefore had no desire to move. I felt as alone and out of place as the single tree standing by itself in the middle of the farmer’s field, as dry as the grass in my yard from the drought, and as empty as the broken-down barn I could see in the distance. Frozen, I couldn’t even think past what I had to do to open the car door and get into my house – turn the handle, step out of the car, walk 20 steps to the porch, and 5 more to the door. I wasn’t sure I could move beyond that moment.
I had to tell my little boys that Daddy wasn't coming home.
I had to keep going. I had to get out of the car and go into my house. Unbelievably, I had to tell my little boys that Daddy wasn’t coming home. A whirlwind of emotions and thoughts rushed through my head as I considered what I would say. I decided the truth was the best option. I took a few deep breaths and forced myself to get out of the car and moreover get moving.
I had to keep going.
Since I felt like I was moving in slow motion, I had to tell my body what to do every second, “walk. Turn left. Put your foot on the first step. Now the next foot on the second step of the porch. Turn Right. Walk. Open the door.” I walked in and saw the adorable, innocent faces of my sons, as I then felt the pain threaten to burst out of me in wails and tears. I pushed it down and reached out for my boys. Consequently, our journey into the world of being an inmate’s family began that day.
My family was shattered.
My life, as I had known it, was over. The mundane business of living didn’t matter. All I wanted to do was to hold my children close to me and then hide from the world. Thankfully, I had my lists. I faithfully followed my lists, even when all I wanted to do was tear up my mail, throw the garbage in the yard, and sit in a chair in my pajamas. The pain was suffocating. The grief was crushing. As I checked off the last task each day, I would think, “Well, I made it through today on my own – I wonder what tomorrow will bring.”
Each day got a little easier to live.
As time passed, living started to come naturally again. The road was still hard, and the burden still heavy, but the fog was lifting. A tiny sliver of hope began to emerge. I had hope for a better future for my family. I started creating my own lists that went beyond the business of living. It was then that I moved into the business of hoping, dreaming, and planning. Each day, I then scribbled a list of things I would do that day. My lists went from “sign up for welfare” to “get off welfare.” Hope overtook grief, and my pace then began to pick up!
Shuffling became walking; walking turned into jogging; jogging created the momentum to run. I was sprinting toward my goals! Indeed I worked hard each day to build a new life for my sons and for my family. Indeed nothing was going to stop me from making a new foundation for my family. I was relentless. I was manically focused on our success as a family.
Time passed slowly as we spent years growing together in prison visiting rooms. The time we spent during those years was spent LIVING and creating memories together.
Ron is home now, and we are living out our dreams of helping other families indeed overcome every obstacle they face. The journey is not always comfortable, but we are ready for the challenges because we built huge resiliency muscles during Ron’s incarceration. I am so grateful that I found the courage to get out of the car that day and start my journey back into the business of living!
I am rooting for you!