Sunday, January 14, 2007

a reunion of sorts

I brought M with me when I went over to the shelter last night - and when we got there it was time to set up the room - basically lining the floor with rows and rows of narrow mats with about a foot in between. M immediately jumped in, dragging mats around and making the old guys who were trying to set up laugh. As they went along, another guy came and started helping, and it struck me there was something familiar about him, but he had a lot of tattoo ink on his face and that wasn't something you'd easily forget, so I didn't really make much of it.

A bit later he came up and commented on M, saying, man, she's cute. I haven't seen my own son in six years. He went on to say that he was happy because he had a guy storing his stuff for him and when he went and picked it up today his prized possession was still there - the only picture he has of he and his son.

At this point I say, you look really familiar to me. He said yeah, I was thinking that too but I've been in prison for the last six years so it's hard to say. And then he went on to ask me if I wanted to see the picture. Of course, I said. And so he dug it out and started to unwrap it.
He handed it to me and it was like a freaky bolt of lightning. Not only did I know this cat, but I am fairly sure I am the one who took the picture he is holding. He's sitting in front of an old family shelter I used to work at, and I was this dude's case worker.

I said, whoa, is your name _____ ? And he said, uh, well, shit... no one's called me that in six years. I go by Blue now. And I said Hey man, this might sound weird but I think I took this picture.....And we sat there for a minute dumbfounded and realized, yep, I did. We both remember it exactly the same way.

I mean, plainly put, what a fucking trip.

I remember when he went to jail. He was already on parole and stole a package of lunchmeat to feed he and his wife, got caught, and got six years. Six years for lunchmeat. I remember how outraged we felt back then. (And please know, I realize he did other really bad things or he wouldn't have been on parole. But they were non-violent charges, at least. But still, I know. But still. Lunchmeat.)

After a while I decided to run M home and then I came back and we ended up spending an hour or so catching up. He's different than I remember - cagey and a bit defensive, urgent to prove he's not a bad guy. A hell of a lot of ink on his face, symbols and sayings and god knows what else. I can only imagine what six years in prison does to a man.

He saved all of the certificates he earned and wanted me to take a look at them. I was surprised to see they had a hell of a lot of programs. I am not sure what job will look at Certification of Completion at the XXX State Penitentiary in a kindly fashion, but I'd imagine having a resume of some sort after six long years means a lot to him.

The last few days has re-opened my eyes to some things I've been missing. Some things I want to do differently. It's been good, despite my whining. I see more possibilities now. Or I've found a new energy. I've allowed for some missed opportunities out of laziness this year. It's been good, these last few days. I needed a whack in the head.

32 comments:

Lucia said...

I know, parole and all that, but going to prison for lunchmeat just isn't right.

Every day, when we wake up, we never really know who we'll meet or what will happen.

Penny said...

Awesome reunion story!

Lunch-meat. Hmmm. I am so confused.

Laurie said...

Lunch meat...mind boggling. You'd think they would save jail space for people who've committed real crimes. Sheesh. But still, what a reunion.

Tabba said...

I agree. 6 years for lunchmeat is a tad harsh. Systems always work against themselves, for some reason....Anyway.
What a story, Jen. Possibilities. Everyday. Endless possibilities.
We all need that veritable whack on the head from time to time. Because even when we think we are at our most aware, effective state, we can always kick it up a notch, eh?
Good for you. Also goes to show that our toils are not always fornaught. What a wonderful thing to see that. Not all of us do.

Lots of love right back at ya. You smart, hotty, hot, hot YOU.
You always make me all aflutter ;)
And make me want to travel around the Bay Area & see if we would bump into each other....in the least stalkery way possible.

Z said...

Darling, you need a whack in the head like you need a wh... - hang on, that doesn't make sense. Anyway, you don't need waking up, you make us wake up.

I wonder what happened to his wife and son. I hope they were cared for. I hope someone gives Blue a chance.

Julie Pippert said...

What a tale, on so many levels.

Aren't you in a "strike out" state?

Did he even have an attorney who bothered to show up to court? Or talk to him beforehand?

I know, rhetorical questions.

Anyway, very interesting, and disturbing.

deb said...

When I was reading your story and got to the part where you realized that you had taken the photo of the man's son, that was his most treasured possession, goosebumps.

Lunchmeat equals six years in jail, that is fucked up.

You inspire me to do more to help others.

meno said...

That's insane. "Steal lunch meat, go to jail." I feel safer knowing that a dangerous bologna thief was off the streets.

Sigh.

What an amazing coincidence.

J Fife said...

Wow. I think you can sleep at night knowing that your life has not been wasted.

Kati said...

Yeah, echoing others, the lunchmeat thing really doesn't seem fair. Jean Valjean, anyone?

It's pretty cool that you ran into him, though.

NotSoSage said...

Now I'm so totally embarassed by my last post, complaining about the tiniest of irritants...small potatoes, mini, microscopic potatoes, even.

The last two posts are so inspiring, and I love that you are taking M with you to the shelters.

Your reunion reminded me of another amazing reunion that I read on theflyingmum's blog.

You're inspiring.

Thailand Gal said...

Re: the guy who stole lunchmeat...

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." Anatole France

That just popped into my head. The other thing that popped in is that you need to write a book. Seriously.


Peace,

~Chani

jen said...

you guys should all the the folks making decisions. seriously. just think of the better world we'd live in.

and z...sadly, the wife (i happened to work w/ her a few years ago) - is not well at all. the son, though, is thriving in foster care. same adoptive parents for the last several years even.

QT said...

Wow and wow Jen! Not much for me to say that hasn't already been said. I'm glad that something positive has come out of this for you dear heart.

ecm said...

How amazing that you reconnected with this guy after six years! It seems a little light in the dark world.

Oh, The Joys said...

Getting directly in the work is always so much better than holding your poker face with the "powers that be."

cinnamon gurl said...

Wow! I think it's great taking M with you.

Some people's stories are heartbreaking. And it's almost never a simple question of someone being Bad. I think it's important to hear their stories, and really see how it's not just a matter of bad/good or even bad decisions/good decisions.

That photographer whose link I sent you the other day... the stories of the people are haunting for this reason, and his images stayed with me for a full 24 hours.

Thank you for sharing this and your other stories.

Anjali said...

I've benefitted a lot from recent whacks in the head as well.

Great post, as always.

De Aufiero said...

I feel sad about the certificates. Seems like he did the best he could and no one is going to take that into consideration.

I find it hard to imagine you = lazy. But I'm glad that you've found some insight by working through this difficult situation. And I know we'll all benefit.

mamatulip said...

Wow.

On all accounts.

Jenny said...

Lunch meat. God. Sounds like something out of Les Mis.

Jo said...

Wow...it must have been something to look at that picture and then to remember yourself taking it...

Well, if you needed it, I'm glad you got your whack in the head.

Hmph - can't say I've ever said that before:)

Pendullum said...

What a weird reunion...
And to think you took the photograph... it sent chills down my spine...

It is such a sad plight...
I used to volunteer in the jails for women....
And a whoppin 75% of them were sexually abused before the age of 12 and 8%in custody were in for violent crime... The majority of the women in jail are in jail because they are poor in my country...

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Bob said...

the store that pressed charges over a package of lunch meat - for a homeless man & his family.....I don't want to shop there.

Every day I read your blog my admiration for you and your work grows.

KC said...

ditto what bob said.

Clarity. It seems like these few days have given you some. Some energy to make magic potions for the soul.

I love it. There has to be restlessness and disorganization before renewal and restructuring.

urban-urchin said...

how tragically sad that a man is sent to prison for trying to feed his family. that is outrageous

ewe are here said...

What a strange circle.
I hope he finds the help he needs this time around.

crazymumma said...

lunchmeat. yet a corporate criminal gets diddly. or a rapist gets squat.

You were meant to meet him again. Isn't the universe an incredible place? When worlds collide?

I hope he can remake himself on the outside.

Momish said...

That is wonderful you got to meet up with him after all these years. I am sure he appreciates having you there for him again! And, of the all the heads in the world, yours is the last one that needs whacking sister!

Ally said...

What a trip to meet this man again and figure out that you took that picture of him and his son! Wild!

And lunchmeat. Dear God.