This last weekend was great. Not merely great….but GREAT!!! It all started with an unprecedented Friday off….the WHOLE Friday!! I had an appointment at 8am with my doctor at the V.A. After running all of her tests, my numbers and levels were all good. My Blood Pressure was elevated (140/92) and my weight is 361 (ouch!!) But my general health is good. Big relief!! I treated myself to a trip to my favorite tobacconist for 5 ounces of my favorite pipe tobacco (Lane’s Dark Red) and then to my favorite pipe store to see if Mel could create something similar to my other favorite (Casey Jones Last Ride- always on back order). I further felt the need for a pat on the back-so I went to a massage therapist. Feeling like total jelly, I put the top down on the car and drove the 50 miles or so home. I had a good visit with my Probation Officer and drove to a friend’s house to swim on his private beach. I spent more than 2 hours in the water and ended this perfect Friday on the deck eating BBQ chicken and smoking my pipe til well after dark and watching boats zoom by.
Saturday began at the Fairgrounds with my fellow probationers. I had volunteered to help with a community service project, painting and general cleaning. I was a bit apprehensive, being with other probationers, a few of whom were heckling me when I was in jail. To my surprise, I worked side by side with the worst of my hecklers. It turns out he was actually a decent guy out of jail. I was able to encourage him to pursue getting his CDL and looking for a trucking job!! I talked to a lot of people about how I made it post-release. Then, the unimaginable happened. The person whose family got me into this mess stepped up to me, shook my hand, and burst into tears. We both kind of did…. I doubt we will be the friends we once were, but for sure, new seeds were planted on Saturday. Another great thing was my Probation Officer, who sat with us and ate pizza and made sure we all had plenty of water and talked with each of us. Not like a probation officer, but as if we were fellow co-workers.
Saturday afternoon found me back at my friend’s house swimming and later, fishing. I spent close to 3 hours splashing in the water and in general, just moving. Not hardcore Olympic swimming, just….swimming listlessly. The fishing was good, a 5-pound carp decided the corn I was using for bait was tasty!! Finally, the pipes came out and hamburgers were on the grill….and later, I was home again.
Swimming was the beginning of something new. I realized I have been punishing myself over and over by eating wrong and avoiding all exercise. I went from 270 to 360 in a year and a half. I have tried to hide behind a disguise. It took time to see that. Recognizing that started on the 4th of July. I went to fireworks with some friends. Usually, I avoid going into town at all costs. I wear a ridiculous fisherman’s hat and sunglasses everywhere I go. It took going to the 4th of July to realize that I seem to be the only one that really cares about my registry requirements. The only people who REALLY care are the people whose primary daily goal is to find the TV remote and study the Mug Shot pages online. People walked up to me, hugged me, let me feel alive again. It is time to take a load off!!
In reality, the worst punishment I have suffered is my own punishment. I have carefully followed my Probation requirements, I have put my best effort into my job, I have relentlessly persued my hobbies and I have successfully stalked the carp I dupe into eating the corn on my hook. In 3 weeks will be my 2-year anniversary on the registry. I have spent 4 weeks growing an itchy beard for picture day, I have already made appointments with the sheriff department…. AND my barber….in THAT order. The last of my disguises will be removed and Jon will be back!!
Friends, it has been a 4-year journey. There has been a lot of heartbreak-a LOT of it. It takes time to regain trust with people who saw your worst days exposed. Some trust can NEVER be regained. I know that. It is tough, it is not always as sunny as I make it seem here. I have suffered being called out in public, spit on, my house vandalized, my tires slashed, backs turned on me, I had to leave 2 churches, I almost lost a car, I lost my friends, almost lost my nephews. I even lost control of my health and even nearly lost my sanity. At times, I felt like the carpet was continuously being yanked out from under me.
How did I rebuild? I had to count my blessings. I had my house, barely saved my car, I still had my job. I had the support of dad and my Deb-mom. My sister came to visit, I had at least 2 good friends to vent to. I had a church to go to with a mostly supporting congregation. As I gained confidence in me, so did more people. My first victory was buying the convertible-something I always wanted. I made more friends-and more came back to my side. I joined SOSEN and learned that I am part of a diverse and elite family. When I began to really bounce back, I learned that there IS life after registry. Friends, there IS life. Sometimes it is hidden, sometimes we have to look a little closer. Sometimes it is finding the big in the small.
In closing, I challenge everyone to seek out your blessings. It was difficult at times to regain dignity and pride-but remember, we have suffered and endured greater pain than most of those who persecute us-and finally-TAKE A LOAD OFF!! Love yourself again!! The worst punishment is not what others enforce upon us-but what we deal to ourselves!!