Tuesday, February 21, 2012

21 February 2012

I haven't updated the blog for a while because there really hasn't been anything new to say. When Nate was deployed we got used to the idea that "no news is good news" and that's kind of the way it's been since the riot.  We finally got a phone call from Nate a few days before Christmas. It was wonderful to hear his voice after 2 months of no phone calls. I think it was one of the best Christmas presents I got this year! At that time they were only being allowed out of their cells for a couple of hours a couple of times a week. Now they are being allowed out for a few hours most days. The visits are still on a limited schedule. Since I was hoping that they would be back to normal by now, I scheduled a visit this weekend with a couple of extra days tacked on to the trip just in case, but there was no such luck. I did get to see him all day on both Saturday and Sunday, though.

I hate the mix of emotions that comes with visiting. I really did have two wonderful days. The hugs are great (I’m allowed one hug at the beginning and end of each visit) and I think I could just sit and stare at him for a while. However, sitting in a plastic chair across a table from someone for 7 hours straight, 2 days in a row, doesn’t exactly make for natural visiting conditions. I try to keep Nate up-to-date in letters and when we talk on the phone, and let’s face it, he doesn’t have too much exciting to talk about. So after a while it starts sounding like, “Well, what do you want to talk about now?” “I don’t know; what do you want to talk about?”And then, of course, it's so hard to say good-bye, especially not knowing when I'll be back again.

We tried playing Scrabble. The guard in charge of the visiting room really teased Nate Sunday about how stressed out he would be if he lost to me. Actually, Nate held his own better than I’ve ever seen him do in a word game, but eventually he couldn’t concentrate and we tried Monopoly. Josh had warned me not to play that game – it’s actually very difficult emotionally when you land on “Go to Jail” or “Just visiting” but the worst part is getting a “Get out of Jail Free” card and not really being able to use it. Nate’s a great landlord because he never remembers to charge rent, and once I became a railroad tycoon the game went downhill fast (at least in his opinion).

I learned a little more about the riot last fall. Evidently the racial tension is still quite high, so even though I’ve been upset about the continued lockdowns it’s been a good thing from Nate’s perspective. The prison is in the midst of a big hiring campaign because so many of the guards either quit or were fired. I talked to someone Sunday who is out here from California working double-shifts to help with the staffing needs. I wondered who would want to come out to the middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma, but she said there were a lot of people requesting to come because the overtime is so good right now.

Nate is continuing to do well in his college classes. He was upset about 2 of his grades last semester, but when we inquired about one of them (the grade report was showing that 2 of the papers he wrote were missing), the papers were found and his grade was raised. He got a “C” in one of his business classes and he’s still mad about it because he didn’t get any of his quizzes back, so he never knew what he was getting wrong or how to study for his midterm or final. If you knew Nate in high school, it’s actually humorous that he’s so upset about a “C.” He’s also upset about the “B” he received in the Spanish course, but considering all the trouble we had getting everything he needed for that course, in addition to the riot lockdown and not being able to ask anyone for help when he didn’t understand a question, I think he did great. He’s currently taking 3 courses this semester: anthropology, marine science, and a psychology/life development course. He says he’s enjoying them and is just about ready for his midterms. Due to budget cuts the college will not be offering courses this summer, so he will work more on his drawing and teaching himself more Spanish.

Nate looks good and says he feels great. He is still having problems with his back that will need to be addressed by the VA when he is finally out of custody. He has a lot of self-confidence right now, partially due to his success in his college courses, and partially because he has some creative ideas for things he can do for a job when he gets out. He knows the first few months will be tough, but he has a lot of plans, and that is giving him a lot of hope. He is not receiving treatment for his Post Traumatic Stress, but he feels that he is doing well overall. He gets stressed fairly easily over his college work and the riot issues, and he thinks that caused more of a flare-up with nightmares, but he says that he’s done well the last few weeks. We had a very frank discussion about my fears of what could happen when he gets out if he doesn’t get treatment. The choice to seek treatment will have to come from Nate himself; yet another area I have to turn over to God’s control!

I enjoyed staying with another Blue Star mother (grandmother) here in Oklahoma this trip. She lives about an hour from the prison, but it’s a straight drive each way and it really cut my expenses down. She’s a very active 78-years young! She drives in to Oklahoma City (an hour away) twice a week to work at the airport welcome center with the troops; she’s active in her Blue Star Mother’s chapter (she made over 200 neck/travel pillows for troop care packages last Christmas); she also volunteers with the Friends of the Library annual book sale (a whole warehouse full of books – 600,000 of them!); she’s involved with Daughters of the American Revolution and the Red Hat Society (I love her collection of red hats!)…..Whew! I think she’s actually busier than I am! Her granddaughter is in the Air Force and getting ready to leave for Korea for a year, so I was an honorary member of their family this weekend while everyone came to visit her.

As I said, I don’t know when my next visit will be, which was the hardest part about leaving. I can’t stand to cry in front of Nate; he has bigger things to worry about than his mom’s mental health. I think I managed to get all the way to the car this time before any tears fell. I took my time going back to my friend’s and managed to keep myself together. I also got to spend a couple of hours this afternoon with a friend's daughter who is attending college here in Oklahoma. I’m very grateful for all the prayer support and words of encouragement over the past few days and weeks. I was very afraid that I would get sick or something else would happen to prevent my visit, so I really appreciate those of you who prayed specifically for my health. 

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase,
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
                                                  -Annie J. Flint (public domain) 

He giveth more grace....

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