Open Letter to My Incarcerated Daughter

kchb pic 1

Dear Daughter,

My heart holds more love for you than you will likely ever know. I have loved you from the moment I knew you had been conceived and I love you now. I don’t like or approve of everything you do, the choices you make, the friends you keep, or the habits you develop, but those things do not diminish my love for you.

       jens beautiful woman sister

You have made choices in your life that brought you to where you are today. I warned you about them, and being young, headstrong, and independent, you chose not to heed my words. I don’t judge you for that, for once I was young also.

laughing red lady

I still have a hard time understanding why the gangsta lifestyle appeals to you. I remember it starting before you were a teenager. I know lots of kids listen to the music of that movement and are never in trouble with the law. Sometimes they never do drugs, get involved in illegal activity, or choose friends who are heavily entrenched in that lifestyle; you did. You idolized the rappers you heard on the radio and saw in videos. You wanted to be and do all that they talked about. You wanted to be tough, to be hard, and to dress and look the part. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.

KCHB pic leopard bathing suit top

I think of your childhood often these days. When you were a little girl you used to wear those little dress-up princess shoes. You could run in those little wedge heels; fast as greased lightning. You once loved horses, riding rodeo, and rescuing puppies from the pound. You used to love God, church, your friends, and your childhood dream of being a “gospel-singing, rodeo-riding missionary”  You lost that little girl and her dreams somewhere along the way and I hope somehow, while you’re away in prison, that you can rediscover at least a little piece of her.

I don’t expect you to go back to the way you were before you started heading in a negative direction. In fact, that would be impossible. I simply hope that you can rediscover and hold on to that part of yourself that was innocent, full of dreams and ambition, and wide-eyed with wonder at the world around you. Perhaps you can find her and nurture her and let her grow a little bit within you so you can find some sort of peace and happiness with yourself…..and maybe figure out who you want to be when you get out of there. It’ll be your perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over again.

curly highlights

Meanwhile, I’ll be right here, hoping and praying you can figure out how to merge that little girl you were with the woman you have become; someone you can be at peace with and love, nourish and care for. I will continue to write to you, support you, and love you…and to believe, as always, that you are smart enough and beautiful enough to be anything in the world your heart desires.

Love,

Mom

Posted in FAMILY - Parents, Kids, Marriage, Relatives, Open Letter To..., Uncategorized | 8 Comments

How It Really Went Down – The Jeffrey Bailey Story

Jeffrey’s life was not altogether unlike many of his generation. At 28 years old he was a strikingly handsome man with a beautiful smile and a caring heart. He was intelligent and well spoken. Jeffrey, like many these days, had a hard time growing up. Raised by a single mother, who was raised by a single mother, Jeffrey started life out at a disadvantage. Drugs were a part of his everyday existence for as long as he could recall and he struggled with addiction, got into some trouble with the law, and made some mistakes in his life. He was not a bad person; rather a good fellow who made unwise, and sometimes outright poor, choices.
Two choices he did not make in error, however, were his two sons. If Jeffrey did nothing else in his lifetime, he loved his children with a love that only a parent could understand; a love deeper than anything he had ever known; a love so great it sometimes consumed him. He wanted to give his boys the world, though he was in a constant battle with his oldest son’s mother to spend time with his child.  Consolation, to some degree, was found in that he had full access to his infant son, whom he had with his girlfriend.
His choices, some of which were unwise, might have seemed to some like material for a Jerry Springer episode, but to Jeffrey, it was his life, his reality. He was not proud of the habits he had developed or the things he had done to support those them. He regretted his mistakes and had vowed, just months before, to not repeat them and to make retribution to his loved ones for the suffering he had caused them. He was in recovery and had been clean for more than six months. He was very proud of that accomplishment and was looking forward to the positive changes he had planned.
Estranged from his wife, with whom his son, Jayce was born three years prior, Jeffrey struggled to spend enough time being an active parent. He was not married to his infant son, Bryce’s mother, though they were in the process of planning their future together as a family. Their plans were cut short on a Thursday night in September when Jeffrey, taking a shortcut on foot through a wooded area on the outskirts of a small south Georgia town, disappeared.
Having been released from his latest stint in jail only a couple of weeks beforehand, local law enforcement, having knowledge of Jeffrey through the legal system, didn’t get particularly excited about him going missing. In the small town of Jesup, Georgia, social prominence plays a huge role in how seriously authorities take such a report. Needless to say, Jeffrey’s family was not one of the creme’ de la creme’ of Wayne County Georgia. His girlfriend filed a missing person report, but law enforcement did not take any significant action toward finding him.
It felt to Jeffrey’s family and friends that the authorities just viewed his case as unimportant and unworthy of their effort. They tried to make sense of that. Did the authorities believe that though Jeffrey had been clean and in recovery, that he had fallen off the wagon and just gone on a binge? Perhaps they thought he’d eventually surface, but after a week he was still missing.
Combing the woods where they knew he had been, day after day, loved ones found no sign of him. They had posters printed up and put them all over town and on the internet. They practically blew up FaceBook posting requests for help in finding him. After family members hounded the police for ten days, the authorities finally gave in and submitted the info on Jeffrey to local area television and radio stations for help in gathering information on his disappearance.
Jeffrey’s girlfriend started packing a pistol for safety and then, along with her best girlfriend, went to the worst parts of town. There, where drugs and violence were prevalent, she looked for information, asked questions, showed his picture around. Though she found out he had not been in the area, had not hit up his old suppliers for drugs, she still had to realize the seemingly inevitable possibility that perhaps he had gone back to his old ways and was somewhere within his old stomping ground. She kept looking. She did the detective work that the local authorities didn’t have any inclination to do.
She and Jeffrey’s family were frantic. They knew that if Jeffrey did not, at a very minimum, call to check on his children, that no good could come of the situation. His girlfriend knew that even if he had succumbed to the lure of the prescription pain pills, which he fought so hard to resist, surely he would still call her. In her heart-of-hearts however, she knew something bad had happened to him.

Rumors started to fly; they were varied, and some were implausible.

Rumors started to fly; they were varied, and some were implausible.  Jeffrey was with a seedy character, known locally for robbing people at gun or knife point. He was climbing a fence into the wooded area which was thick, littered with debris, and contained several ponds. There was a contract out on him in retaliation of a wrong committed against someone in the past. He was the victim of a drug deal gone wrong. A family member had him killed for stealing from her while he was struggling with addiction. He owed people money, and instead of collecting it, they killed him. He was a narc in jail, and someone killed him in retaliation.
The rumors were too many to count and too varied; they didn’t make sense. They were all reported to the authorities and still, the authorities were refusing to commit to a manhunt. When contacted, the local police and the Sheriff’s office were ill-coordinated; the left hand didn’t know what the right was doing, and there was little to no sharing of information between the two agencies. It seemed many people, including law enforcement, had the attitude about Jeffrey’s disappearance that there was no cause for alarm; it was just a case of another drug addict and drug dealer being off the streets.
Another week passed. Jeffrey’s girlfriend and her family contacted a renowned local non-profit organization which utilized tracking dogs, cadaver dogs, and boats with sonar equipment to search for missing persons. They were willing to look for Jeffrey free of charge; all they required was a call-to-action from law enforcement. Local law enforcement failed to request their services, even at the insistence of Jeffrey’s loved ones.
Nothing surfaced on this young man after two weeks until a local fisherman saw a body floating in a pond in that same wooded area that had been scoured by search party volunteers. It was Jeffrey, but he was unrecognizable. Two weeks in the water and the heat of September in South Georgia had taken their toll on the corpse.  He was still wearing the clothes he had on when he went missing fifteen days before. It was apparent that he had died that same night or shortly after that.
What a place to be found!  His body was lying lifeless in an area known as a dumping ground for murder victims. In years past, at least two other local homicide cases ended with the victims turned up in the same area. Local law enforcement had no choice then but to be involved. They called in state agencies and began to treat the discovery as a homicide. They sent his body to the state crime lab for identification.
It was then that the grisly facts started to come out. Jeffrey’s body, decomposed to the point that none of his tattoos were recognizable, his facial features were indeterminable, and his fingerprints were non-existent, was a grisly reminder to the family that he had was to the elements for too long. The lab obtained dental records, and a forensic dentist was brought in to make an identification before they released his body to his family for cremation.
Though a large part of the back of Jeffrey’s skull was missing, the decomposition of his body gave no physical evidence for authorities to use in pursuing a criminal case and his death was determined to be accidental, pending toxicology results.  Had he been located sooner, if authorities had done the job they are paid to do, then any evidence of foul play would be intact. An accidental drowning determination is of little comfort to his family. It doesn’t explain why a virile, healthy, athletic guy who could swim, would drown in a pond less than 500 feet from where he entered the woods. Many questions are still unanswered and may remain so indefinitely. Those who knew and loved Jeffrey will always believe foul play was involved and his case swept under the rug by local authorities, or at the very least made a moot point because of their slow call to action.
Jeffrey was only 28 years old, and his life had just begun. He may not have been important to local law officials, but he was still someone’s child, someone’s brother, friend and lover…and someone’s father.  He was his mother’s only son; his sister’s only sibling. He was a Daddy to two beautiful kids. His girlfriend loved him beyond measure. His wife mourned the fact that there was no longer any chance at reconciliation between them, as well as the fact that her child would never know his father. His death was tragic, untimely and unfair, but they can all hold fast in their hearts the beautiful things about him.
There are some things the family can rest in knowing and in which, perhaps find some comfort. Though it was cut short, his life did produce many memorable experiences, words, and deeds that were positive.  They can celebrate those things and cling to the love they had and still have for him. Though they can’t hug a memory, thought, or a feeling, they can put their arms around one another and give comfort where they can. For years to come, they can see Jeffrey in the faces, eyes, mannerisms, and dispositions of his sons. For this, they can be grateful, and in this, they can continue to express their love for Jeffrey.

 R.I.P. Jeffrey Lee Bailey. You are loved and missed.

 

online Obituary

Posted in FAMILY - Parents, Kids, Marriage, Relatives, Just Me Talking | 44 Comments

Losing Yourself in Parenthood

I had a conversation with one of my adult daughters recently. I called her, concerned that we’d not spoken recently, but moreover perplexed that her Facebook account had disappeared from cyberspace. Her sisters and I were wondering what was going on with her; she was always so “connected” before now.

We had one of those special late night mother-daughter talks…you know the ones…when you’re talking more as friends than as parent and child. She is in her early twenties, married, and has a toddler.  She and her husband operate a high-end retail tourist shop on one of the resort islands in Georgia’s Golden Isles.  She is a very busy lady. How, I wondered, could she get off of Facebook? How was I going to see pictures of our granddaughter and keep up to date, er…up to the minute, on every milestone and clever quip that comes off of her little 22-month-old’s lips? I was flabbergasted to say the least.

It turns out that Jennifer was in the midst of a very common mommy-quandry. She felt she was too distracted with life and her own interests to give her daughter her unbridled attention. Don’t mind the fact that at 22 months old little Evah can operate an iPad, speak two languages,  recite her ABCs, knows her colors, and can count to 15. She’s a very artistic and highly creative child. She engages in elaborate imaginative play. All in all, she’s hardly been neglected; my daughter has done a fantastic job.

It’s no wonder though, if I do say so myself. Jennifer is a very intelligent woman with a good head on her shoulders. She is wise and mature beyond her years. She is a self-taught artist and writer and plays concert-level piano. Her child has in her a wonderful teacher and role model. As it turned out however, the pressures of parenting and being such a busy wife and business woman had Jennifer retreating more and more to her creative passions. Therein was the rub. My son-in-law was encouraging Jennifer to leave behind her own guilty pleasures and focus more on her daughter. Jennifer was inclined to be of the same thinking.

My usually level-headed Jen was in a bad place. She wanted to be a great mom, as she’d planned to be since before her little bundle of joy entered this world. She wanted to be a great wife. She wanted to be a shrewd business woman. She also wanted to have her cake and eat it too. She loves being a mommy, however, she was beginning to resent the pressure her husband put on her and the pressure she put on herself to be SuperMom.  Time she spent with the baby, keeping house, working in the store, and juggling life made her miss her old self. She wanted to not feel guilty. She didn’t want to lose her own identity as a woman to her identity as a mother.

Her self-imposed solution was an all-or-nothing fix. She deleted her Facebook account, put projects on hold, quit going in to the store, and purposed within herself to keep everyone in the world happy. She cleaned her house from top to bottom and kept it that way. She spent time with Evah, and time with her husband. She worked from daylight till dark on being an exponentially superior domestic engineer. It was great according to the world and those around her, but she was miserable. How could she be miserable while doing all the right things?

My motherly desire to rescue my child kicked into high gear, though it was governed by my own similar experiences as a young parent. I wanted to rush over and fix it all for her, neatly wrapping my solution in a pretty package that would make her feel like it was Christmas every day.  That was not realistic, nor practical, nor in order for what ailed my daughter. Dang it, I’d have to rely on wisdom, and I hoped I could manage to at least sound as though I knew what I was talking about when I began to dispense advice.

A wise woman told me once that I could not care for anyone else if I did not care for myself first. I shared that with Jennifer and then asked her to ponder a few things, things that I discovered only by way of hindsight. Why not give up the all-or-nothing threshold she had set for herself? Just as a marriage takes two people, and ideally parenting takes two people, why would feeling self-fulfilled as a parent and as a person require less than two ingredients, two methods, two paths to wholeness?

It is true that your children only grow up once and that you have only one chance to do the parenting gig well for each child you bring into the world. It could also be said that there is a fair amount of virtue in self-sacrifice for the sake of one’s children and spouse. However, what the people of the world fail to tell us as they dole out their demands and expectations for our performance in the greatest job on earth, is that it’s okay to mess up a little; it’s okay to not be great at parenting 100% of the time because it all averages out in the end.

I let my daughter know some things I wish I could say to every young mother: it’s not selfish to take some time for yourself, to recharge your batteries, to re-discover your desires and your drive and your determination. Change it up a little. Put your family to sleep to the sound of a soft sonata and give your child  sleepytime memories of her mommy at the piano and a home filled with music. It’s fun to cover your dining table in white paper and let your kids go wild with finger paint while you work at your easel in the corner of the same room. It’s perfectly alright to pull that journal out from under your mattress in the still of the night, when all the household is asleep, and make notes of things you saw or did or want to remember to write about one day when you have time. And it’s especially alright to post at least occasional updates on Facebook so your worrisome old Mom won’t think the world is coming to an end the next time she fails to locate your account online!

Posted in FAMILY - Parents, Kids, Marriage, Relatives, The Joys of Motherhood (while going crazy, snatching your head bald and screaming like a banshee) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments