Looking back, he didn’t have the best childhood, but he didn’t have the worst, either. I was just nineteen when he was born and I didn’t know squat about raising a child, although like any nineteen-year-old I thought I did. Yes, I was cavalier about how my lifestyle affected him. I drank too much, did some drugs and put other things ahead of him sometimes, especially men, but I never abused him. He didn’t get hit, not by me or either of his stepfathers. Sure, that first stepfather did throw him down in his crib when he woke up crying in the night, but that was only once and that wouldn’t have made him become a criminal and drug addict, now, would it?
No, I can’t really pin-point a trauma that would have caused his life to spin so wildly out of control so early. It was more a series of wounds, each not amounting to much, but together they must have been a force he couldn’t overcome, because he never has. All told, he has been sentenced to 36 years in prison for crimes ranging from receiving stolen property to burglary to theft to dealing in narcotics. Of course, he hasn’t served all that time, but he has served nearly every day of his last sentence, an eight-year stint imposed in 2009. He has been released three times, but parole violations keep sending him back. He’s in prison now, back in for violating his parole by using drugs, but this will be the last time. The calendar will run out on his eight years, and in July the Indiana Department of Corrections will be done with him. They have kept for themselves every second of his life that justice demands, but it’s done nothing to change anything essential about him. He is still a drug addict, still a thief, still the same institutionalized, anxiety ridden, depressed, traumatized, and I would argue, mentally ill person he was ten years ago. Some would question if he is mentally ill, but seriously, who would choose to spend years in prison, be a slave to drugs, steal other people’s property, and neglect three children if they weren’t crazy? Well, if forced, I may admit he might be simply depraved and selfish as society says drug addicts are. Even now, decades after medicine began to claim that addiction is a disorder, people chalk it up to moral failing. Drunks and drug addicts are the way they want to be. There is only one drug addict I know well enough to not be sure about, and he was born Micheal Brice Townsend on August 13, 1977, one day after he was due, three days before Elvis died, and three days after Son of Sam was arrested. At the time if I’d had even an inkling that things would go so wrong I would have made a different choice. I would have come home alone. I would have given him a chance. Instead, I counted his fingers and toes, marveled at his newborn perfection, and foresaw nothing but joy and success in his future. I immediately realized he was the one person in the world whom I would love, and who would love me, completely and unconditionally. That was the only thing I was right about. Everything else became subject to conditions.
Friday, 2 November 2018
He got stood up by his daughter. She was supposed to pick him up from prison at 8:00 a.m. He then chose to take a prison transport home from Plainfield Correctional Facility, which stopped along the way to drop off other released inmates. Richmond is on the state line with Ohio, so he was the last one to be dropped off. His parole officer, Agent McDonald, had a spot reserved for him at a drug rehab on State Hospital grounds, where the parole office is also located. There was a problem, either by accident or by Micheal’s creation that prevented him from being admitted to the rehab. Instead, I pick him up at the homeless shelter, also on State Hospital grounds. He’s coming out of the building as I pull up, dressed in ill-fitting clothes and state issue shoes. His coat is state issue, at least three sizes too large for his 6’2” frame. He has the sleeves of it rolled up mid forearm. Over his shoulder is an orange mesh bag with all his prison possessions, letters, pictures, legal work. He always looks healthy and clear eyed when he comes out of prison. I take him to my home where he changes clothes. He eats a sandwich and within two hours he asks me for a ride to a friend’s house. He comes home around midnight and I stay up and talk with him for a while before bed. It’s always nice to have a conversation with him before the drugs take over his mind. It’s already happening, though. I can tell he is high. He talks non-stop when he first uses meth, but then things rapidly begin to get weird, and get weird they do in the succeeding days. Agent McDonald is on his ass because he didn’t go to rehab. He doesn’t call her, he doesn’t make an appointment, and by the end of the week he is “on the run,” with his parole violated, and his return to prison an inevitability.
And so, it swallows me up again, that sadness knowing that there will be more pain to endure, by him, by me, by the son and daughter that are still willing to have contact with him. I know the knock on the door will come. Either the police will be at every door of my house in search of him, or they will be coming to tell me he is dead. During the day, I can distract myself while I wait. At night, it’s not that easy. I imagine all sorts of things that could happen, both good and bad. I think of ways I can manipulate the situation. The best thing I can do now is assist parole to capture him. It’s damage control. If he’s in jail at least he’s safer than he is on the street, and he won’t be doing any crime. He won’t be victimizing anyone. His life and his freedom are on the line. My hope is on the line. I feel the urgency. The clock is ticking.