18 Nov 07
Release (8) letters to parents
Spent the morning rereading the Resettlement Handbook issued by Prisoners Abroad. On page 5 is a quote:
"One thing where Prisoners Abroad may have fallen down, they should make it clearer to people before their release and warn them it’s not going to be easy. Especially for people who’ve been away for so long. England is a foreign country to me."
I’ve often wondered whether England will seem like a foreign country because I’ve been away for over 16 years. When I see things and people in my hometown that are familiar, what kinds of memories and associations will be triggered? In my mind, I sometimes try and age the faces of people I haven’t seen for years, and then doubt my accuracy and visualise the faces much older and younger than my estimates. These faces include those of friends, teachers, school bullies (how would an ex school bully come across after you have been living with and befriended by assorted murderers?), and girls I had crushes on in my schooldays. I don’t imagine the faces of family members as aged so much as I’ve seen most of them on photos, and you’ve both aged well in spite of all the worries I’ve put on you.
I also wonder how my hometown has developed, whether the old shops and pubs still exist or have fallen foul to globalisation. We didn’t even have a McDonalds when I left. I remember you driving us seven miles for strawberry milkshakes, but I think you told me you now have two McDonalds and a KFC.
Back in the PA Handbook, Chapter 8 is titled "Welcome Home?" It touches on your pet worry, Mum: adjusting.
"You may have been away for so long that you feel totally disorientated and out of touch with life in the UK."
Yes, that is true, but at heart I am an adventurer. I see the unfamiliar acting as a stimulus. Look how excited I was coming to America virtually penniless. Challenges trigger my industriousness. In terms of the game of Snakes & Ladders, I was near the end of the board, complacency and wildness set in, and I slipped down a massive snake that’s taken me back almost to the square on which the game starts. And now I get to play the game all over again but with the knowledge and maturity I’ve acquired.
Chapter 8 includes "Change of roles."
"Parents of children who are now grown-up may have found that they have resumed a responsibility for their son or daughter’s welfare that they have not had for many years." Remember how I mocked Cliff in Cheers for being so old and living with his mother? See the karma I created. I know a bonding time is in order and it’ll be fun living with you for a while, but I hope to find the means to not be a burden to you and to get my own place at some point, perhaps in the latter half of the first year or in the second depending on how things turn out.
The handbook continues with a list of things that can help:
"...taking it slowly, allowing time to get reacquainted, not expecting it to be the same as before, some privacy and peace, honesty and openness."
They all make sense. If, like Sartre claimed, hell is other people (or at least other people you wouldn't choose to be around), then going from being constantly surrounded by people, including some loud people, to the peacefulness of your garage will be like going from Hades to the Elysian Fields. Oh, to wake up whenever I want to! But will Mum require I make my bed as tidily as ADC regulations require during morning cell inspections? Cells must be in compliance (including beds made) by 7:30am.
"Some returning prisoners have found being in a small room difficult; others find opening and shutting doors strange; many find it hard to get used to everyday life with its bills and worries. Most experience feelings of vulnerability, isolation and feeling like a stranger." Regarding the latter sentence: I’ve always felt like an alien and I’ve learned to live with such thoughts. I like isolation, that’s why, unlike most prisoners, I’m perfectly relaxed during lockdowns or periods of solitary confinement. The prisoners joke that I’m the only one on the yard rooting for lockdowns. Regarding the former sentence: I won’t know how I really feel about getting used to such things until I’m confronted by them. I imagine it will be strange but also exhilarating.
Only two more days.
Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them below
Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood