Monday, November 8, 2010

Dreams Fulfilled!

I could feel the exciting building in me all week long. Today was going to be a day of perfection…of the completion of a dream. Actually, more than one dream. And not only a dream of mine, but of others that I love as well.

“Dreams are the seedlings of reality.” (Napoleon Hill)

It seems that dreams have become an important aspect of my life in the past six years. I think that’s pretty common for someone who has lost everything and finds himself in every sense of the word back at square one…or is it negative one? I recall the days in prison when I was surrounded by men who had either given up all hope of ever achieving their dreams, or men who were literally living in a dream world that just didn’t exist. They were making up life one day at a time. The dreams that I had were only vague…but I was always certain that there was going to be a life that was good for me in the future.

When my pastor flew to California to pick me up from prison when I was released, I had no idea what the future might hold for me. There seemed to be more uncertainty in my life than there was during my 1086 days behind the razor wire. I knew that I had temporary housing in a motor home that my former pastor was loaning to me but I had no idea what I might do for employment, or any type of income for that matter. I also knew that I was going back to a family that was fractured and I had removed myself from any kind of close relationship with any of them for the past three years or more.

As the years have passed since that hot August day in 2007, I’ve found myself re-establishing relationships with my sister Deb and my two brothers, Frank and Geoff. I’ve found forgiveness from each of them and have extended my own toward them. My heart has softened and I cherish the moments that I spend visiting or just simply talking. In all honesty, I never would have dreamed four years ago that I would be as close to each of them that I am today.

I was also blessed to get a job with a wonderful Christian man and his wife in the construction industry. The love and support for me they’ve demonstrated is well beyond anything I could have ever dreamed. And while the business is struggling, they continue to help me in any way that that can. I’ve learned much and I know that as long as our little business can survive, I’ll have a place here.

But it seemed that those dreams weren’t enough. There was still something missing…actually a “big” something missing. That is, until Friday.

She arrived just before 11:00 and we greeted each other with a hug and a kiss. She said that she had heard there was an antique business here and wanted to stop and see. Her mouth dropped open and stepped back a little as I pointed to the stacks of containers and boxes that lined the wall. “There it is”, I said. I’m not sure we’re going to get it all down there in one load though.

My sister had driven up to help me set up my case in the antique mall for my new business. I had made the decision several months ago to pursue a dream that had been fermenting for more than twenty years. I love antiques and the adventure of antiquing. And that passion has grown over the past couple of years. So I took the proverbial “first step” and got my business license and leased a space in a local antique mall. Today was going to be the first day of my new venture. Today, a dream was coming to fruition…and I was truly excited. And so was Deb.

But I’ve had another dream as well…and in many ways, a much more important dream. For the last two years, I’ve looked for opportunities to get all four of us siblings together somehow. In the past ten years, there have only been two occasions that we have all been in the same room. At a funeral for my brother Frank’s father-in-law and for a golf tournament earlier this summer. And this wasn’t only “my” dream, my sister has dreamed of a restored family as well.

As she stood in my little office area, looking at the wall of boxes and containers, we talked briefly about what the schedule for the day might look like. There were a lot of things that needed to be done. Not only did we need to set up the case at the antique mall with my pieces, there was also some shopping that we wanted to get done.

Finally I said, “I have a confession to make.” She looked at me with a slightly perplexed look.

“We’re going out to dinner tonight for your birthday.” I could see a smile forming on her lips. “And both of our brothers are joining us.”

I wish that I could have a picture of the reaction that I saw. It was something out of an old black and white movie. The “news” is delivered to a beautiful woman and suddenly, she appears faint and her hand moves to her face and she begins to fan herself from the overwhelming nature of the news. That was Deb’s reaction…and it was priceless!

When I realized that my sister was going to be here on her birthday to help me set up my case, I called both of my brothers and asked if they would like to take Deb out to dinner on her birthday with me because she was going to be here helping me. To my great pleasure, they both agreed. It was at the moment when I got the final confirmation from Geoff that my excitement began to escalate.

A dream was going to be realized…the hope and dream of a reconciled family! Frank and Clare stopped by the antique mall as we were nearing completion and helped us clean up. The joy and happiness that they extended at this beginning of my new business was genuine and filled with a type of wonder. I think they were even a little overwhelmed by the beauty of the antiques that were in my case…and the artful way the Deb had set it up.

We drove to the restaurant and Geoff and Lynn arrived a short while later. The next hours can only be described as magical. Even in my exhaustion, I could see the glow of joy and happiness as an aura around my sister. It seemed like all of us were just comfortable…and happy. There was no tension, no hesitation, no barriers. As dinner was coming to a close, both of my brothers and their wives gave me a tight hug, whispering a "thank you" for making this evening happen. It was a perfect evening. The only thing that would have made it any better would have been if Walt was there…and if I were still married and Paula would have shared the evening as well.

There are certain words or phrases that we all cherish…at least I believe we do. I was blessed to hear them as Deb was getting ready to leave Sunday morning to drive back home. We hugged and kissed and as she got ready to turn and walk to her car, she said “this was the best birthday I have ever had!” The magic in those words is that I believe they are true. It was a day of dreams fulfilled…not only mine, but hers as well.

Photos by Frank Lyons (group photo by the waitress)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I really wasn’t sure what it might be when it first arrived in the mail. I was a little excited because I had been waiting to hear back from Jamie (my probation officer) for a few weeks concerning appealing the remainder of my supervised release. I had a call into her, but she hadn’t returned my call. I opened the letter as I returned to my call and as I sat back down in the front seat, I began to read.

“As you are probably aware, Halloween is on Sunday, October 31, 2010. In order to reduce the risk…”

I could feel my chest begin to tighten as I read the words. A part of me wanted to simply wad the letter up and throw it away. But another part of me wouldn’t…or simply couldn’t. I numbly drove the short distance down to my little home and walked inside. I randomly tossed the envelope on the tabletop and sat down and reread the letter.

“…of either direct or indirect contact with minor-aged children, you are directed to remain at your residence beginning at 5:30 PM and ending at 11:30 PM, and you shall not answer the door to children.”

This is my fourth Halloween that I’ve celebrated (if that can even be considered the right word) since I was released from prison in August of 2007. Each year, the passing of all of the holidays seems to move me further away from that season of my life. From that time when there was nothing to celebrate, even if the “day” was marked on the calendar. Until today that is. Today I felt like I was back in “that” place…surrounded by the razor wire and double fences. And the sounds of the heavy iron doors and the clicking of the locks.

”You are prohibited from passing out candy and your outdoor lights should remain off in order to discourage children from coming to your door. I may be conducting random home visits during the evening hours in order to ensure compliance. “

I tossed the letter on the floor and sat there quietly, trying to figure out how I felt. It wasn’t really anger. Nor was it bitterness or frustration. There was a bit of sadness…but most of all, I think I simply felt insulted. I had never received a letter like this. I would have thought for my first Halloween out, it would make sense to send a letter like that…just for awareness. But this letter was just a reminder that “we” are all simply lumped together into one group! Each of us must be the same level of danger to our community. What should I expect in the mail tomorrow…a sign to post beside my house with large scarlet letters?

The holiday has passed, and all the kids in the neighborhood are safe (at least from me). I followed the letter of the directive and stayed back in my bedroom watching football and the world series…all of the lights turned out except for the glare of the television. I’m sure I can expect another letter next year…at least it won’t catch me off guard. And I won’t feel like I’m back behind the razor wire and lockdowns. One day…I might truly be free again.

Photo by liquidnight on Flickr