Halfway There Starting Right Here

Susan Creamer Joy

Susan Creamer Joy
Paris, Iowa,
September 30
Retired Domestic Space Cadet/Current Arbiter Of Midlife Dysfunction
Not often
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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NOVEMBER 15, 2010 2:46PM


Rate: 70 Flag


For the past couple of weeks I have been quietly ingesting a nightmare.  But because it is not one conjured from the depths of my own subconscious, it has taken me longer to reckon let alone attempt to reconcile; and because it will not go away, I continue to bend it into my every day in a way that might make its reality somewhat manageable.


I am not there yet.


Two weeks ago I received a phone call from my son in the state penitentiary where he has been an inmate for the past several weeks on prescription drug fraud charges.  During that phone call I was relieved to hear a certain buoyancy had returned to his voice, replacing the earlier version of abject fear that was so evident when he had newly arrived at the prison.  As he spoke, I felt my bones settle into a posture of calm to the point where they rallied almost on the cusp of normal.


It was an exhale moment.


I think I even had a smile on my face and laughed a time or two.  But that was before he mentioned in passing that he had been seated at lunch that day next to an inmate by the name of Denis Rader.  A man whom I knew from the newspapers was also known as The BTK Killer from Wichita, Kansas.  A man whose serial killing spree began as far back as 1974 and excluded no one; not even children.  A man who chose his own celebrated acronym as it boldly advertised his favored method of murder:  BindTortureKill.


I didn't drop the phone, although I felt the blood drain from my face and dip beneath the level of my ears making my son's next words sound far away and barely decipherable.  My son had gone on to talk of other things: the sweat pants he had on order for the coming winter months, the shoes that had just arrived allowing him the freedom to discard the state-issued boots that bound his massive feet like steel cables and caused his legs to ache unceasingly.


He had continued processing the steps toward survival.  I was on hold from a terror I had no vocabulary to articulate.


"Back up!"  I said.

"What are you saying?  Are you saying that these sorts of monsters walk freely among the prison populace?  That they are not housed in a separate facility for the criminally insane or remanded indefinitely to some annex or cell?  Are you telling me that they take their meals with everyone else?"


He seemed somewhat surprised by my incredulity and in a matter-of-fact tone responded that of course they did; reminding me that because of his detainers in other counties, it automatically mandated his term of incarceration be held in a maximum-security facility.   


Where else did I think the lifers were held?


Truthfully, I had never given it much thought because in my mind there was such a wide chasm between that level of calculated malevolence and pure evil and the pitiable but muted disgrace of a drug addict, D.U.I. recidivist or even the cunning greed of the white-collar criminal that I ignorantly assumed the legal system was aware of this, too.


"Surely," I thought, "the souls of the damned are considered despicable and vile enough that they require isolation from those whose self-destruction and terrestrial damnation has been the worst of their crimes?  Surely, a man bent on destroying only himself is considered redeemable and worthy of protection from those demonic psychopaths housed within blood and bone?  Surely."


I was wrong.


Immediately my mind corralled those darkest concerns, then neatly displayed them in full-color vignettes on that interior screen of potentials; funded as they always are by the sainted, thought-patrons of motherhood who share my best hopes for my children and brood over the possible losses with unquestioning solidarity.


I wondered of the juxtaposition in this Shawshank scenario:  Could their elbows have glanced one another while reaching for the salt?  Were they seated across from each other where the eyes of depravity could capture the image my son's face and retain it there along with the horrific visions it gleefully embraces?  Or worse still, could he have wooed my historically guileless manchild into conversation, disarming him with charity and implied camaraderie?  


The suggested possibilities were overwhelming, but I could not bring myself to go there.


Our conversation ended with the usual petitions for letters and photographs from home and my assurance that, as always, they will be forthcoming.  But the words that were forming from my intentions and validating my promise were not the ones my heart begged me to ask.  Those simply would not come.


I have spoken to my son several times since that conversation, and with each phone call I detect a growing tone of cheer in his voice.  I should be comforted by this development, but I am appalled.  On the back of what I now know are the existing conditions of his incarceration, any indication of acceptance on his part terrifies me.


I want to hear in his voice the resonant confirmation of strength, confidence and courage; of resolve, fortitude and commitment to change.  But I also want the sad holdings of discontent to seep into even his happiest hours as long as he remains there.  I want to know that in spite of the routine and redundancy of his days, he has not forged an alliance with the terminally misbegotten and harbors a sense of belonging.


I want him to despise where he is.


To be a mother and yet wish that your grown child be steeped in days lined with despair and feelings of isolation from his surrounding environment is utterly at odds with every glowing principle of that nurturing estate.  


To pray that the hunger for home and the company of those whose only interest is in loving him be so searing that it threatens nightly to bring him to tears, would border on criminal pathology were this an ordinary scenario.


But nothing about this is ordinary.   Nothing comes close to acceptable.


My only hope remains that the system, which is so flawed as to place my son and the others like him who are desperately in need of psychiatric and rehabilitative counseling into a cesspool of impenitent iniquity of which they have no likeness to, will at least be able to protect them while in custody.


But who will protect them from themselves?


Today I received a letter from my son.  He has made friends with a "lifer."  


"He is a former Hell's Angel and a really good guy in his mid-fifties.  He is an incredibly smart individual, and I don't know whether this is good or bad, but he says he sees a lot of himself in me and often times wonders where his life would have gone had he not made the bad choices that led to his current state of affairs.  And another crazy thing is that he has got almost identical eyes to myself, which is something I have never seen before.  You know, how they are blue-green with a golden ring around the pupil?  Crazy."

I want to grab his beautiful face in my hands and shout,  "Griffin!  No one has eyes like yours!  NO ONE!  Please!  Keep them focused inward just a little while longer!"


Just a little while longer.















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Susan, I read this twice and cried.
I will pray for your son and you and am always here for you.
NO one should have to go through this.
rated with hugs
With all my best wishes and support, because there comes terror with this new peace. With any luck, your son is reflecting back to them the compassion and goodness of humanity, which may not be that common there either. I wish him protection, and you peace.
Oh, how can I put this. There are very bad people where he is at. He can get along with them, be friendly, play cards, etc. or he can be enemies. That you don't want. Hope he takes it for what it is and doesn't make any long term plans with these people. They are slick, and before you know it, he'll be sharing his stuff with them. He seems like such a friendly person and people take advantage of friendly people, but if he justs plays along, he'll be fine. This is what is so wrong with these damn prison systems. Putting a person with a drug problem in with BTK. It's outrageous.
Oh, Susan........no words, just heartache for you and yours...
Thank you Veronica, Linda and Oryoki. In spite of these disquieting setbacks, I still have hope that there is a good ending to come. Some days it just seems a long way off with a lot of emotional land mines yet to navigate around.
I so sincerely appreciate your continued encouragement and that of everyone else who helps hold me together through this nightmare. This just seemed to need to come out today. So do the tears, so I'll be refraining from commenting for a while. I'm okay. I just need to find the next rung on the ladder. Thank you so much...
Thanks Scanner and Just thinking. You are really terrific...
Oh, Susan, it's difficult not to get lost in the beauty of your writing. Yet I hear you so well. I cried as I read your plea and hope that the connection between your and your son's hearts are open for him to hear you. There's something beyond absurd in a system which puts people like Griffin anf BTK in the same room. R~
What a difficult post to read. I know of another mother whose son was sent to mainstream San Quentin for prescription drug charges. What just kills me is that the physician's who overprescribe painkillers (I don't know what your son's drug of choice was) get into no legal trouble, despite the fact that they encourage addiction. And then to mainstream your son with a serial killer? I'm so sorry. How unsettling and you voice your concerns so well. The system would be better off with rehab which would be the more appropriate and ultimate most cost effective choice. My heart is with you Susan!
I am so sorry Susan. As a parent, I just can't imagine what your going through. Just keep putting the next foot on the next rung of that ladder and before you know it, the nightmare will be over and your son will be home.
Dearest Susan - This has been heavy on my mind ever since you mentioned it in a comment on my blog a few days ago. I've been praying for you and your dear son and holding you both in my heart. It's all I have to offer, but I have to hold on to the belief that in a world gone crazy like ours, one where prison administrators make ridiculously insane decisions to lump pure evil in with those whose worst crime is that they seem intent on self-destruction, I have to believe in a Greater Power that sees the situation for what it is and reaches out a hand to hold on to your boy. Not just his physical body, but his mind and his spirit. This is what I pray for him and I won't stop, I promise you.
Much, much love to you. Let the tears come, my friend. Sometimes it's all we have.
No one but you can write this as you do. Bless and Protect Him and You. r.
Susan, this is so painful to hear as a mother. Reading your words I was reminded of my dear friend's son who went to prison for same thing a while back. He is out now, thank goodness, but having some difficulties with his life and health. At least he is out of prison and has a chance at a better life and happiness. I hope and pray for the same for your sweet son.
Oh Susan, I can only imagine how you must feel. My blood would run cold as well. It is unimaginable to me that the BTK killer could be at the table with your beloved boy.
But remember, they are cut from completely different cloth. I never understood why drug addicts are given jail time instead of rehab. I'm wishing Griffin all the best.~r
Both the ScanMan and Bonnie make good -- and valid -- points. I'm hoping for a positive outcome for Griffin, Susan, in that he eventually emerges a better person from the experience, one determined not to do it again.

God only knows how you and BuffyW cope with it.... My best.
This is a little heavy for me to comment on, so I'll just rate it.
It is a crime to humanity for drug offenders to be incarcerated with violent criminals. If the inmate wasn't hardened before he went in chances are likely he will be when he is released. My heart breaks for you and your son. Call and write to him all you can to remind him of who he is.
Well done. This is why people like your son should be held in medium security treatment hospitals rather than with the worst of the worst. Of course, if the harder core inmates are also able to respond to treatment because their crimes were a consequence of their additions, they should also be similarly housed - even BTK.
Add this to the long list of what is wrong with America. America defies all that is logical and good in the name of pure unadulterated power and control.
Legalize the drugs, all of them. Most addicts can then receive the treatment that they so desperately need, if not then the problem will solve itself in a generation or so.
Hang in there Suzi, he's yours; he's gotta be tuff!
Susan, there is nothing I can say that has not already been said. But perhaps Griffin needs to talk to these monsters in order to keep himself sane. He may be learning some very important life lessons in there that will insure that he will never go back. Perhaps he is trying to numb his and your pain by covering up with cheerfulness. My guess is that he is steeped in despair. I know he will come back to you and you are and will be his rock. -R-
20 years back a friend's brother,mild mannered by day, besot by his own demons at all times, was drunk and asleep in a car being used as a get away in a liquor store heist perpetrated by "friends". He ended up sharing a cell and bunking with a notorious serial killer in the Oregon State Prison.That one was known to bind, torture and kill also. He said he got along with him because it was the only safe thing to do.
Nothing is the same on the inside. You can only hope.
I'd venture to say that we are all feeling tears and/or sorrow over this; I don't know how to get past that. You are doing all you can to handle this situation effectively, and you're managing things better than most people. Although it may not be obvious at the moment, perhaps your son also has some of that strength and wisdom.
Beautifully written, I hope it getting it out helps. There really are no words to help the parent when they fear for the safety and future of the child -- You say what you feel so well -- I can only say so sorry for your worry and fear....
Scary stuff indeed! To echo other commenters.. (spell check dislikes commenters, commenteers maybe? nope).. that your son is locked in the same cage with Rader is the epitome of WRONG! He shouldn't be there AT ALL. In a just society he WOULD NOT BE!

So beautifully you express your motherly natural concerns. I too am outraged.

"Could their elbows have glanced one another while reaching for the salt?" Rader doesn't deserve salt for his food. Doesn't deserve food for that matter..
Oh, dear God, I understand what you are feeling. We mothers are doomed to fret about our children and fear for what MIGHT happen. But, Suzi, Griffin is coping. He is finding a way to exist in that unimaginable place with those despicable types of people. I hope you will find a way to trust that he is stronger than to fall prey to their crazed thinking, and that he will learn the kind of lessons you'd wish for him to learn about staying the heck out of that place forever.

You have brilliantly and in a terrifyingly personal manner articulated what is wrong with our prison system
If we knew what life would bring to out front door, no one would ever leave their house. I can't imagine anything worse for a mom - take good care of yourself.
Amazing writing, broke my heart to hear about your son, but terrific writing!
Holding you tight in thoughts and prayers. I just wish there was more I could do.

Bless you, lovely lady.
This is so troubling, I can feel your anxiety. I hope that Scanner is right and this is just a way to stay out of the way.
Creepy, evil people can be charming.
rated with love
Wow! I would have thought BTK would be housed in a cage a'la Hannibal Lecter.

As disturbing as it is for you (and for those of us reading, to a far lesser extent) to think of your son finding happiness and solace in that terrible place, it speaks to his spirit that he's so desperately SEEKING something positive somewhere where that's probably a near impossibility.
This is shocking and also very sad. I hope that he will remain safe. Many people know how to take advantage of innocent people. If you do continue to send him letters and pictures, you might want to make him aware that he should not share them with any of his "friends". It would be unfair to expose other people to his prison mates. I know that sounds harsh, evil even. But you just never know. I hope he is out sooner than later. My prayers are for both you and him.
I hate that my English skill is not good enough to express how I feel now... I'm really sorry... Rated.
I understand so well what you are feeling. I volunteered for years and worked with incarcerated women until the injustice of what we call justice literally turned me inside out. Our penal system is a disgrace. The US has more people imprisoned than any country in the world.

It is not a place for judgments and perhaps your son is merely seeking to go-along, so he can get-along until his release.
Peace be with you, Susan.
The conflicting emotions you experience just leap off the page.
Rated. Hope, hugs and prayers for both you and your son.
My dear God, what horror, Susan. This scenario is so desperately wrong. Thank you for sharing it as catharsis, process and means to let the world know or remember that this situation exists. I cannot imagine the weight you feel as you bear it. .
I think there are no more powerful prayers on earth than those of a mother for her child...and I am sure you have gathered the prayers of many other mothers for Griffin too. I keep thinking that the Griffin is a magnificent creature in mythology and art...lion bodied, with the wings of an eagle...in iconography, a creature aligned with divine power, and the qualities of strength, courage and intelligence. I join my prayers with yours for your sweet son. May angels surround you both in all the days and months to come. xoxo
I read this around lunchtime today. It has taken this long for me to attempt a response. As a Mother I can only imagine what you're going through and what is going on inside your head. Both of you are in my prayers. I am so sorry.
All my best to you Susan. If he's yours hell make it keep listening as will we. They have said it all better than I..R
Reading your words and sending you love. If only there were a way to step in tonight and create change. I want not to think of others here. I want to hope that Griffin may be a light of love who lights the way for any there who are able to see.
Not to knock Open Salon but this should be in the New York times or something similar. It is just so so so so terrific (and marketable). BTK?!!!!! the worst of all time. I have a feeling that your son is adjusting on a basic level and that this has nothing to do with him morphing into anything. I know you think the same but I think his adjustment is a good thing and he will emerge sweet as sweet and decent as he was. I don't believe that he can be influenced at his age.

You turn you pain into such great writing .It's a real treat to read you.
remarkable story & my heart goes out to you. there is a lot of controversy in scientific/social studies circles about the practice of mixing offenders willy-nilly. but our country has been doing it for ages, basically with public support, the idea that all offenders are interchangeable. so you have wildly different crimes such as sex offenders, violent offenders, thieves, drug users, all penned up and ready to "rub off" on each other. not a pretty sight. seems not likely to be the most optimal system by most reasonable measures.
My dear friend, I won't say anything trivial about the horrible situation you described. All I can say is that I don't think anyone - anyone! - could have written it with more feeling and more eloquence.
I'm so sorry for what you are going through. Rated.
An amazing piece, truly. Detailed, sharp and poignant:

"I want to know that in spite of the routine and redundancy of his days, he has not forged an alliance with the terminally misbegotten and harbors a sense of belonging. I want him to despise where he is."

Good stuff.
Oh my god. This is terrifying. I am so sorry.
Your writing comes alive with the hopes and anguish of a mother. In that your son has a mother to call on the phone and give updates is probably one of the things that sets him apart from the others in prison.
Your writing is as fine as the subject is horrifying, and the subject is damn awful. Not only is your non-violent offender son in prison but he's sharing meals with BTK? Holy crap. Prisons are big business in this country, that's not a good thing. Business and profits shouldn't be on the same page as prisons.

Hope he is able to maintain himself in there and channel his energy and time into something that will help to create a positive future.
Monday Night Football just pales next to this. The system is so badly broken, we often forget the Individuals who pay the biggest price. I will add Griffin and you to my prayers.
The prison feels that the BTK inmate is not a threat to his fellow inmates. This story is good on two levels, 1) It shows the workings of a prison and 2) It gives good reason not to break the law.
Oh, Susan, I can only imagine what this feels like. Your words portray the deep ambivalence and the wish that your son fight. Yet, he is also doing what I guess he must--but my heart aches with yours.
It is often said that young people hang onto their core essence and the values they were raised with. Now that your son is thinking clearer and sounding healthier, he will have time to reflect on the positive values he learned from you. He is coping with his present situation the best he knows how and will come out with incredibly sad stories but with his inner core intact. This is just a feeling and prayer I have for you. Thank you for so bravely sharing this story with us. It is a difficult situation with no easy answers. R.
A very passionate and heart wrenching story. So very sad on many levels.

I've wondered several times in the past, so now I'll ask: Does your son ever read your blog here on OS?
Susan... it has been years and yet I still see and hear the same you that I remember from when we were cousins. By marriage, yes, but we certainly had some things in common, didn't we? Our first AND last names to begin with... and both of using our original lasts in the middle. We married real cousins, blood cousins; both somewhat older than ourselves and named our children with traditionally considered last names. How that made your second-born crazy when she was little! The teachers all assuming that her first name was Joy. It still happens to me sometimes too. I guess that will go away when the divorce is finally final… sad in some ways but also a new chapter and one that I am looking forward to writing and then reading when I am old(er).

We were both raising the most difficult of children too... Joy boys. I say that with my tongue only slightly in cheek. The two steps are now grown but the bio kid shows all the same penchants... a lust for life and adventure, great intelligence, enormous curiosity, and sometimes a seemingly reckless disregard for personal safety. In short, all the things that make a mother, even a step, both fiercely proud and also terrified.

“What will he get into next? Hmmm… I think he’ll discover a cure for cancer, write the next great American novel or possibly get himself into a whole lot of trouble.”

Any of those seemed possible and STILL do for me. Since Logan is only nine years old, his story has not yet been written. But then again, neither has Griff’s… this is merely a stop along the way of a long journey. And while any of us can step off the path for a little while, that does not mean that the path is no longer ours, nor the divergence unnecessary to our continued growth. I firmly believe that Griff will emerge a stronger, braver, more complete and satisfied man than he would already have been.

You said, “I want to grab his beautiful face in my hands and shout, 'Griffin! No one has eyes like yours! NO ONE! Please! Keep them focused inward just a little while longer!"

Susan… stop shouting and listen. He’s a man now with his own voice and his own path. Trust him… he has a great foundation. YOU gave it to him…
USA and their prison system so tragically flawed. Look at the amount of incarcerations per capita...with other industrialized *western* countries. It is a shame.

What has happened to your son, being incarcerated next to serial killers (etc.) would not happen in Canada.

I am sorry and wish for health for both of you.
Just seeing the photo stopped me cold.

Hang in there with hope and love for your son. R
Thanks for posting this. We need to be reminded as often as possible of the human consequences of the War On Drugs. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time.

As for your son, hard as it may be for you to accept, this is not a situation his mother can help him with. He is going to have to find within himself the strength to survive this. And it sounds as if he is doing that.

I wouldn't worry too much about Dennis Rader. I was surprised to learn he was in there with the general inmate population, but not for the same reason you were. I think he has more to fear from the inmates than they have to fear from him.
Good luck, Susan - now you have to trust all the good things that you poured into your son in the early years.
As a person in recovery and a survivor from the hands of the criminally insane, I know exactly how far apart these two worlds really are from personal experience. This is a travesty of justice.

I truly believe a band of mothers needs to get together to reform the prison system. While I do not believe any human being is not worth trying to rehabilitate, there is certainly a better way to go about doing it and it does NOT include putting petty offenders alongside criminally insane population. They need different levels of service.

I am very, very sorry Susan. My heart, energy of healing, and lots of hope goes out for you and your son.
OMG this is truly something no-one wants to happened. Society seems so full of the unexpected and repulsive. Glad you found out before it was too too late.
This also looks like jack Nicholsons brother...
I shared this with my son. He said it really sucks for Griffin who will probably make better choices in the future, but he also thinks that Griffin's Mom's pain is a consequence she didn't earn. We both hope things turn out right and bright and positive after this episode in both your lives.
The "system" is broke and nobody gives a damn. Ask anybody in the legal profession and they'll tell you the same. I know from first-hand experience that there is no such thing as justice in the judicial system. Justice for all does not exist. Justice is for sale.
Oh, my god, Susan! This was a chilling read. Write to him often as a counterbalance to his environment. I may have an idea and will share it with you shortly. Contact me at idahospud44@rocketmail.com
This is the finest writing I've yet seen on here.

I hope you will continue to shed more light on the subject. I'd like to see it happen in a venue larger and more mainstream than OS though.
I have taken all of your gracious comments in slowly over the past twelve hours, and each one is like another layer of cotton batting over the healing balm of your willingness to read this and lend me your words to lean on. These days of licking the floor don't come often, but when they do it takes a hard will to get to my feet, and every voice I read helps engage that will.
The company I've found on OS is extraordinary, and if I can return even a fraction to everyone here what you have brought to me, it will take a lifetime. I'm willing if you are.:)

And to Alleyoop, I've noticed that you are new here and also that you have left some snarky remarks on several other posts in addition to mine. You have every right and freedom to do so. Controversy is no stranger to this crowd.

However, you might want to consider that the most valuable gift you own is the gift of free will. It is golden but does not come without impunity. You can choose to create harmony and deliver tolerance or you can choose to create discord and deliver pain.

The upshot of those choices will be understood soon enough.

And by the way, it was clear from your comment that you absolutely missed the whole point of the post. Looks like you've got some learnin' to do. Good luck with that.
The System will not protect him.
Only you can.
He is with the socalled bigboys now,
but the truth is they are very very small...
a man with a mother such as you will see through them soon..

you make a fuss of this little adventure of his.
I had a very similar adventure, became close to alot of
shady characters...then i got out and counted my damn blessings
i was out...

these crazy violent m-f-ers are in the end
wounded children.

As is your boy.
Susan you have lovely friends.
Hard as may be to accept, I think the best " friend " Griffin could find inside is an ex-Hell's Angel able to talk about life-choices and life in general.
The best therapy in such places often occurs when inmates develop trust enough to share what really happened. It's the best use of their time and as you know, not everyone in there is dangerous.
His judgment may have been faulty, and sometimes the learning is tough, but it's still learning.
So, so tough on you.
That's Griffin's post-grad, and I hope he knows it.
I'm not sure which dumbfounds me more. The system and how it "works" or your ability to write about this with such eloquence and grace. I only wish positive things for your son and your family and that those who are in charge of making decisions about the fate of another, could read your incredible story and learn from these words. I can hope, can't I?
Susan, I am not a mother, I cannot begin to imagine how difficult this whole situation must be for you. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your son. May he be safe and may you simply stay hopeful.
[{R}] as Larry said ...

...and your final comment above is rated the same. Excellent writing, excellent commentary.
My god you are original, inventive, passionate, introspective, illuminating, and humorous. This is a brilliant, evocative piece. I see your comments in J D Smith's blogs and decided to look you up. And was not disappointed. You are a great discovery. I look forward to reading more of you. You don't need this but I'm giving you a big fat "R" anyway.
Uhm...Joan.......you're pretty damned good yourself!
Between the two of you, I have a severe inferority complex, but I do manage to console myself that I have two darned cute friends that are of genius levels, and gee...that works for me.
Cold reality hits us in the mouth sometimes,..but this is a cold reality I would never even imagine possible!
To your point, are there not levels?
I am so sorry that this is the reality for now.