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Susan Creamer Joy

Susan Creamer Joy
Location
Paris, Iowa,
Birthday
September 30
Title
Retired Domestic Space Cadet/Current Arbiter Of Midlife Dysfunction
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Not often
Bio
Artist, Poet, Writer, Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Lover, Seeker, Follower, Listener, Communicator, Found, Forgotten, Sainted, Sinner, Struggling, Sentient, Surviving...So far, so-so....... Unless otherwise noted, all of the artwork accompanying these posts was created by and is the property of the artist.

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JUNE 18, 2010 8:25AM

Sentenced, But Not Shamed

Rate: 59 Flag

 

 

In a few hours my daughter and I will make the hour and a half drive to a small Kansas town and to a modest, slightly antiquated jail to visit my only son; her only brother.

He has been housed at this particular detention center for just under three months, although he has been a resident of two others previously since his arrest in early December.  So far, this one has been the worst.

I've groomed my outer sensibility to adjust to our visits ,such as they are, in these dim and claustrophobic places, and I've even acquired a sense of humor about the situation to help ameliorate the raw reality that begs my attention then mocks my attempts to sustain it. 

 As I sit in the waiting area beneath the high front window where the visitors of the inmates must sign in and relinquish their driver's licenses or I.D.'s, I can look through the glass partition past the bored and mechanical movements of the officer on duty and scan the black and white security monitors that canvass the various sections of the facility.  

I do this every time hoping to catch a candid glimpse of my son as he moves among the caged populace.  I want to see if he is smiling or laughing perhaps or whether he is in conversation with anyone.  I want to make sure he is not alone.  

He is a very large young man standing nearly 6 foot 6 inches and weighing well over three-hundred pounds, so I comfort myself with the thought that certainly his size alone might help keep him safe.  I purposely don't make an effort to find out visually if I am wrong. 

In spite of his physically mammoth frame picking him out from a grainy image among a dozen or so identically-clad men is more difficult than one would think.   

When I see him we joke that far from the illusion of making him appear even larger, those horizontal stripes tend to produce the opposite effect. In this jungle that uniform is camouflage.  In this jungle, he disappears.

I have been making these journeys to various facilities for three years now with the exception of a short year-long respite between his first eighteen months and his current term.  

As an addict to prescription pain medication, he cannot seem to quiet the accelerated cravings or stem the rampaging voices within him that tell him he is no good in this world just as he is, so that before too long, he is back in the crooked and loudly mad game of prescription fraud, outwardly hoping he will not get caught; silently praying he will.

I know far more about the conditions and protocols of detention centers than I ever wanted or believed I would know.

I know that when someone you love with all of your soul is locked inside, you also reside there. 

I know that when you are looking through bullet-proof glass into the eyes you have known since birth and yet are unable to touch the hand or face  or feel the faint trace of mottled air against your cheek after a son's kiss, holes are rent in your soul that applied optimism cannot repair.

I know that people judge; that in spite of themselves they can't overcome the grimy prejudice that those who heave in the belly of iniquitous delusion are immured by a mendacity only God can forgive.

I know that the guilt of the sinner is distributed among his loved ones like boxed meals of sorrow to be eaten without shame and carried without complaint.  It is the sacrificial supplication.

But out of reach I know lies the simple promise from The Cross.  The one that admonishes saints and sinners alike to put aside all pretension and disband the belief that in order to get to what is holy and good in this world one must be perfectly holy and good; that one must live only among the blessed and serve the meek.

I've seen the hollow eyes of ignorance as I move between the commonly accepted practice of moral living and the disturbing impenitence of those who share with my son the stagnant air of consequence in these inhospitable pens. 

And I know now that these barbed and self-righteous appraisals of who is just and who, condemned, are far more abundant outside of the prison walls. 

I do not fear the gaze from those others sitting alongside me in this sad institution awaiting our fifteen minutes of feigned happiness with our sons, daughters, husbands and fathers.  We greet each other in the subdued and humbled voices of the exposed.  

Why we are there is never questioned.  How we survive the ride home always is.  But we don't speak of that.  It is rare that we speak at all.

But today I am making the long drive against the flat landscape of the Kansas plains and against the acceptance that I will be making many more of these sodden trips for an indeterminate period of time.  

My son had court this morning and rather than being remanded to the extensive inmate rehabilitation program as was recommended by two other courts, he was sentenced to prison.  

In August he will turn twenty-eight years old.  I will not know him again as a free man until he is well into his thirties.

There is a weighted measure of redemption here in spite of the staggering burden of hope denied, however; and it comes in the form of dignity.  

To find within ourselves that thin offering of grace as it evolves within the purgative splendor of deep grief is crucial and is the determinant factor in a life well lived.  

To recognize the inherent perfection of every soul on earth and refrain from judgment actualizes this principle.

To forgive is imperative and necessarily unceasing.

To know these things and to live by them liberates everyone no matter which side of the penitentiary walls we course.

Today will be hard, but not allowing myself to become transformed by this journey would be where the real shame would lie.  I can shoulder the rest. 

p3213832_edited-1

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I hope you find some blessings in your day to bring you strength, Susan. Nothing can rend a parent's heart like a child's pain.
When you write so deeply from your heart, I see into your soul. I will think of you especially today. You may not be able to physically touch, but I hear in your words, that you speak with your eyes as does he. He will know and so will you.
"I know that when someone you love with all of your soul is locked inside, you also reside there." That pretty much says it all, Susan. My heart goes out to you and to your son. Unconditional love is a powerful force. R
No prayers on earth, are stronger than those of a mother for her child. As a mother, I send my thoughts for your child, knowing that they join the flames of love you send forth on his behalf every second, every day. Peace on your journey, Susan...today's and each day ahead. Wonderful, strong writing...it is your soul...it is your reality...it is your truth. r
"I know that when someone you love with all of your soul is locked inside, you also reside there."
Susan, I can relate and understand because I've been in similar situations with my middle son. It's so hard and so challenging to our souls to see our children hurt, suffering and imprisoned....especially when we see the abounding goodness and love within them. Addiction is one of the great evils in our society.
I'm so sorry for your pain and suffering. I'm sorry for your son's pain and suffering.
My thoughts and prayers to you, your son and your whole family. That got to be one of the hardest things that mother could see happen to their child. That unconditional love will help you make it through it all. Love, thoughts, many prayers and a whole lot of {{{HUGE HUGS}}} to you and your family.
((((((Susan)))))) Those are Angels wings to wrap you up and help carry you through.. My heart goes out to you.
What Dave Rickert said.
I live within walking distance of Sing Sing Prison. On Saturday mornings, I see people filing off the train at our station and walking over to the prison for their weekly/monthly visit, and I'm overcome by sadness. I always ponder how I would handle that situation, forcing myself to trudge off to such a somber meeting. Thank you for putting a human face on this with your thoughtful words. Much love to you and your son, and may the ordeal be over soon.
Ah Susan. You write this with such exquisite pain and love.
Sending you love._r
You are a picture of grace and dignity Susan. Bless you.
Susan,

A very wise man told me, that if our problems were are own 'personal suitcase' and someone accidently switched suitcases with you, that the two of you would desperately search out for your own persoanl suitcase.
Apparently these problems we have are tailor made for us, and they stare us in the face everyday. There is no subtlelty in the message. Your son will have to muster all the strength to dig deep and confront this, and with your support and love it can only add to his self esteem and fuel the internal fortitude he needs to overcome this
So much is written on the wonderful piece of yours...so much of your heart on these lines.

And of course, no walls can block the indellible human spirit and love from getting to your son from you.

In the act of loving your son through all of this, and of "humanizing" as much as possible this ordeal, you en-noble us all.

God speed my friend.
Your writing screams talent; your heart screams love.


rated---
There, but for the grace of God, go I. Your pain is so palpable, I wish I could give you a hug. It's hard to understand how some of us escape that particular misfortune, while others like you must endure it. My heart is heavy for you.
Lezlie
I can feel how caged you feel when you are at the prison or not, having a son there. Addiction is a sordid hand to be dealt for sure - I know it very well growing up in it and then becoming an addict myself. Consequences are one thing, judgment is entirely another. It baffles me why people are not offered hope through treatment versus a consequence of pejorative measures. To me, treatment should be offered first.

I wish you all peace and healing Susan.
I am so very sorry for this pain, Susan. I wish you and your son peace, not really sure what else to say, except I hope the writing of this sheds a small light.
Oh brave woman for writing.... and I agree so completely with Mark R. Trost's comment...
I can imagine you coming back from your long trek to so many OS posts that are supportive. Thank you so much for sharing. It comes very close to home for me and I think you are amazingly strong. I was reminded of a powerful OS post I read and found it for you.
http://www.open.salon.com/blog/buffyw/2010/04/26/a_son_writes_home
This essay both filled and broke my heart. From one mom to another, I share your pain.
"To find within ourselves that thin offering of grace as it evolves within the purgative splendor of deep grief is crucial and is the determinant factor in a life well lived.

To recognize the inherent perfection of every soul on earth and refrain from judgment actualizes this principle."

Words to live by, wise and beautiful even (especially?) for their painful origins. This is an astonishing piece of writing that I wish you had never had occasion to create.
Heartbreaking Susan How we survive the ride home
I am deeply sorry for your pain and your son's.

"Why we are there is never questioned. How we survive the ride home always is. But we don't speak of that. It is rare that we speak at all."

Beautiful writing. I wish you a safe journey.
It is stunning the kinds of courage and pain I read of here, and your journey is an example of such poise, compassion and grace. Your inner well of strength must be bottomless.
“And I know now that these barbed and self-righteous appraisals of who is just and who, condemned, are far more abundant outside the prison walls. “
Love this post! Amen, you preach it sister!
We’ve gone from seeing crime as human misbehavior to being a foregone addictive lifestyle from which almost no one can ever be rehabilitated. Why? Well, the laws themselves assure that no one ever “pays their debt to society.” In the information age the criminal background check is just a click away and numerous occupations, licensing, housing, education and loans are forever unavailable to the ex-con. The revolving door assures that many will return for violating parole or probation (which can mean being seen in a bar or with the wrong people – things that aren’t a “crime” except for the ex-con). The ones who do succeed have to lead lives of endless contrition focussed on what they did wrong. The permanent record that matters is not one of accomplishments but the rap sheet. A mother’s love, a family’s support can die with the individuals but the State’s judgement follows the ex-con to the grave.
so bravely written! unconditional love is all we can give to our children at times.

worry no longer about the judgments of others as they look at you; you are loving your child as he is, where he is. bearing his pain along with him. i wish you strength for this journey.
I look forward to tonight when I can re-read this. Please, keep writing about this SCJ. It is something most don't know about and it must be good for your soul to turn into into this poetic post. Warmest wishest and gratitude to you and your family.
My brother has a serious drug problem. There is not much worse than watching your loved one slip into the abyss of self-destruction that ultimately leads to a total loss of freedom. I'm sorry your boy is so troubled. I hope he finds his healing. I hate drugs.

Hang in there, Mama.
I really hope that the judge who put him in this place recommended that he attend a drug rehabilitation course. Judges who believe in warehousing inmates with no concern of what they will do when they get out are an abomination to the justice system. I'm glad you are there for him. Some parents seem to think that he did this to "them". Drug addiction is something I know well and I really hope he gets the right kind of treatment for his problems. It is a long road to recovery and I'm glad he's not making the trip by himself!
Peace, strength, hope, love -- these and more for you, your son and daughter.
R
Nothing means more to a person in your son's situation than a mother's love. Thank goodness he has you.
People should not be put in jail for choosing what chemicals to put into their own bodies. I'm sorry your family has to go through this.
You heartache comes through to us, the readers. I don't believe you will find anything here but compassion. Godspeed to you and your family.

R
"I know that when someone you love with all of your soul is locked inside, you also reside there. "

That is so poignant and heartbreaking. I hope that your son finds the strength to conquer his demons. It's obvious that he has the love of his mother.
This is a very difficult road, for you, for him, for people who care about both of you. It is my firm hope that he does reclaim his better self in the process and if you can, remind him that he is loved and who that is. R
My son died at 18, you are the lucky one.

Rated excellent for candid eloquence!
"I know that the guilt of the sinner is distributed among his loved ones like boxed meals of sorrow to be eaten without shame and carried without complaint. It is the sacrificial supplication."

This post is, above all, the story of a mother and her child. Yet, yet, your writing is so absolutely entrancing, so sublime, I cannot help but feel I am in the presence of genius.
Susan - I work with young folks in the juvenile criminal system. By the time I get them they have been through the courts several times and lived in detention for a period of time. The one thing nearly all of them share is that they have been shamed, by the system, by the schools, by family members. A great deal of my job is in working with them to help them recognize that they are not "bad people" but rather decent kids who made choices that led to unpleasant consequences. This goes a long way toward their healing.

My heart reaches across miles to you, your son, your family.
"I know that when someone you love with all of your soul is locked inside, you also reside there." I can only imagine that would be such.

This is a wondrously written piece that says much about the mother as the son. Hail to the "thin offering of grace." Sweet picture of your boy.
Trost nailed it. My prayers join those of others here. Damn, this is exceptional expression.
~ crying real tears ~

A mother's love carries a mountain of sins.
My son in 'institutionalized' in a different way at the moment.
It's uncanny the resemblence.

My prayers are with you.

Your words resonate
I wish that the justice system would see the wisdom of treatment for drug addiction, not a jail sentence. I am glad you are strong for your son-he needs you! R
This is just beautiful, Susan. R
"I purposely don't make an effort to find out visually if I am wrong." I think all parents of adult children practice this to some extent...some of us perfect it.
This was the line that took my breath, forcing my hand over my mouth.
"...when you are looking through bullet-proof glass into the eyes you have known since birth..."
That one did me in.
I'm so sorry, I too have had to visit my son in a room with guards and guns and it is so hard to do.
Mine was short lived, 6 months, in an honor farm and it killed me.
A prison I can't even imagine. We could sit side by side but a little ways apart.
It was SO hard not to preach....I know, I'm so sorry.
An exquisite piece out of such pain. My heart is with you. ~R~
Awwwwww, look at that face. Sweet boy. He's lucky to have a loving mother, a good sister.

I used to volunteer at the Iowa state women's prison, weekly, for seven years. I learned many things there, but one I know for sure, the inmates with family members who visited them? They did exponentially better than inmates without those caring, loving visitors.

Good mother, good sister.

With love and care.
Oh, my..........this is one of the most powerful and poignant pieces I've ever read, here or elsewhere. This should be required reading for anyone who works with the court system in any capacity.

That we live in a throw-away society has been pointed out for many years. That we as a culture can throw away people is a travesty of our very nature. And yet many do it, seemingly without another thought. And those who are incarcerated, for whatever reason, are among the easiest to throw away. Families of the prisoners are next.

Rather than knowing, really in-the-gut knowing, that we are all law breakers, that we all could be incarcerated for something, most of us would rather pretend that it could never be us or our loved ones, behind those soulless bars. So if/when it actually happens to us we have no way to process it, to deal with it.

That's why I believe everyone should read this--because you show your mother's heart, your open soul, your grief, in such a strong way that it can't help but affect everyone who reads it. And for that I thank you. I want you to hold onto that "...thin offering of grace..." It will see you and your daughter through this.

Congrats on your EP. Rated. D
Sue...we maybe are sisters!

Drug abuse runs rampant through my family. It is the one thing I cannot identify with personally; seeing the cage it slings over my family, I've never wanted to be its prisoner. I waited until my 30s to become high, after all.

I know this is hard for you. I grew up in a family of thieves. Most of them were stealing to support a habit of some sort. Two uncles were heroin addicts; another found himself the prisoner of meth as did my youngest brother. Only one survived.

I will write about my lovable family of druggies and thieves. They ARE lovable. Being addicted doesn't make them less so. I hung up my judge's robe a long time ago.
I can't believe they didn't remand him to the rehabilitation program. That's just not helpful. I'm so sorry for your pain and suffering. A wonderful piece of writing. In time this too shall pass.
I pray for your beautiful son with his sparkling, and mischevious eyes, a the deep, deep knowledge that he is loved...that he will know the difference between guilt and shame...that he will find the strength to believe in himself...to find himself worthy of a life without addiction. You are in the valley of the shadow but you are not alone.
Hi Susan. Sometimes when I write a post from a deeper place than usual, it feels like I have removed a tumor. I hope this post did that for you. It is your best. And you are an extraordinary person.
"I do this every time hoping to catch a candid glimpse of my son as he moves among the caged populace. I want to see if he is smiling or laughing perhaps or whether he is in conversation with anyone. I want to make sure he is not alone. "

One of the most touching sentiments I think I've ever read.

Thank you for writing this piece.
Susan, what a kind expression he has. Your son seems so very young. I hope that he can move on with his life, and that you have years of time to spend together, catching up on missed holidays and back yard barbecues.
Sadness, questions,pain,judgement. Yours, his and his sibling. Could have been me writing this post but not as beutifully. May the live of God give you the stregth you need.
Not only are your writing and art beautiful, but your faith and unconditional love for your son.
I cannot even imagine what you are feeling. I am so sorry for your pain. And his.
Hi Suz, I read this the other day but apparently failed to leave a comment... maybe because it's one of those pieces that leaves me without words. You're a good mom, writer, person :)
I've been terribly remiss in addressing all these blessed and healing comments, and I deeply apologize for that. I had to distance myself from the entire post for a bit as I could not come close to getting through any of it without profuse tears.
But the comments provided massive tears of pure JOY and a feeling of gratitude and humility such as I have never before experienced.
I want everyone to know that since coming here and baring my soul, I feel I've found it. There is incredible goodness here, and I want nothing more than to contribute to that massive wave of love in equal measure. Thank you for letting me in and holding me up. Bless every one of you........
Oh my. This is extraordinary -- and extraordinarily beautiful. It abounds in love at every turn. "Not allowing myself to become transformed by this journey would be where the real shame would lie." And not allowing ourselves to be transformed by your story would be felonious. I'm so glad the editors gave this the attention it deserves. God bless you and your son. There's enough goodness here to redeem a continent.