Loved Ones

A few days ago I was replacing a photo I’d just received back.
Naturally, I began to scan through the rest of my collection
and soon came across a picture of my mom’s entire side of the
family taken seven years ago at my grandparent’s 50th
wedding anniversary. Due to death, divorce, incarceration, and
the restlessness of post-graduation life, it would be the last
time all 21 of us were together.
I don’t put any photos around my room. For a short time
during the middle of my bit, I kept up two or three, but the
bland surroundings of the cell quickly began to swallow them.
Before long they rarely caught my eye or affected me like they
originally had. However, over the last couple of years, taking
fewer and fewer trips down memory lane has allowed me to
reacquaint myself with their power. So, that group shot really
hit me the other day.
Growing up, I didn’t care much for virtually any of the adults in
my family. On the other hand, I always felt comfortable
around and affection for my cousins. As a result, it has been
increasingly difficult to hear about (second hand, usually) and
experience (second hand, at best) the ups and downs of their
journeys through young adulthood.
I looked at that photo for some time, smiling and shaking my
head from happy images and sad thoughts. I considered
alternative realities where I hadn’t sacrificed nearly two
decades of my life for fake pride. I imagined what role I might
have played in my cousins’ lives. Have I missed the
opportunity to have the kind of loving, confiding relationships

that I, as an only child, have never had with any family member
around my age—or anyone in the family, period, before I got
locked up. Have I effectively destroyed any chance of us ever
becoming close?
I then thought about my aunts, uncles, parents, and
grandparents, whom I’d long disregarded. I sat there suffering
the now familiar shame and humility of having once had such
little concern for them (especially given the support and love
they’ve shown me from the moment of my arrest). I dwelt on
the way my relatives have clearly displayed the importance and
power of family. Ultimately, this mental activity solidified and
even enhanced my gratitude and the obligation I feel to honor
the virtue of my family. It did to my determination to stay out
what an additional layer of armor does to a tank.
We tend to view our release and success thereafter as personal
issues: I need to change my life, I need to find peace, I need to
stay out. But we will strengthen our motivation and ability to
accomplish these goals if we keep in mind those who’ve
suffered with us and the hurt we’d cause them were we to ever
return to prison. We may think society owes us a second
chance or the same opportunities as everyone else, but what
do we owe our loved ones? A life without the drama of the
criminal justice system, at least.
Essentially, those we care about most are on trial for crimes
they didn’t commit and we alone have the power to convict or
acquit them.
Keep boxing temptation.