Left or Right?

My life is what it is, different than most folks, because I chose to be different than most folks; don’t know why, just the way I see the world, I suppose. Good? Bad? Well, I guess that’s a matter of opinion, a conclusion based upon the assumption that I am in prison and therefore unredeemable, miserable, sorrowful – a loser even. And, that’s a fair evaluation, but good and bad ain’t as easy to tell apart as you think, it’s mostly a matter of where you’re looking from. What is it that separates a miserable, unredeemable, reprobate from say, you? That my friend is easy to answer – it’s a matter of perspective I suppose, a matter of choice based on ones place of origin.

When I got married I married a simple woman; all she wanted out of a husband, out of life, was a simplicity, a simple life … a life humble, like her. She’s had no dreams beyond being an American Citizen, a wife and a mother. Unfortunately for her she married the wrong man.

When we were married I was in the army – when it came time for me to either become a career soldier or to get out of the service, she wanted the stability of a military life – I decided after five years to end my service to the military and leap into the unknown, I will add that I did so with a child and a pregnant wife. What would my life be like today had I stayed in the military? Well for one thing, I wouldn’t have been a Mayor, or a business owner, or – a convicted murderer. So, would I have been better to have stayed with the flock, to have marched to the drum? One of life’s little conundrums I suppose … where would I be today had I stayed in the military, or more importantly, where would my children today had I stayed in the military?

I left the army and became a welder. And, being true to my nature, I, through hard work became a leader, a supervisor. I had an office, a company car and good benefits, the kind of security that some folks long for, but, not me, I was compelled to do something different. I started my own business and then became a Mayor. What would have happened if I’d stayed a Welding Shop Superintendent? Well, interestingly enough, my best friend took over my job when I left, he worked it for another twenty years or so and then retired to live a relatively happy life with his children and grandchildren … the normal American dream. But he, my best friend, who knows me better than most, will tell you that I am different, that I never thought about retiring. Meaning I could not be the man he is – I’m different, not better, just different. I see stars, stars and more stars… Would I have been better off had I stayed? Well again, if I had, I doubt I’d be in prison … but how would my being another man’s employee have affected my children and the way THEY would grow to see life?

As I told you earlier, I ultimately became a small town Mayor – really enjoyed that time – one of the highlights of my life. I learned an awful lot about myself and actually grew into manhood in that office. I saw a different side of life than I’d seen before. I was happy as a Mayor and I worked hard to be a good one – but, alas, my way of doing things clashed with the other Council Members and they, to the last of them turned against me … but the good folks of Ingleside re-elected me in spite of all their combined efforts otherwise. A wonderful thing soon turned horrible by human ego … as a result I now detest the fake people in politics. Was it their fault or mine? I don’t know, so in luau of their side of the story I’ll take the blame. As I have said, I’m different than they were – still are. They wanted to go right, I wanted to go left. What would my life be like today had I stayed a working man and a Mayor? Again, we have an example.

One of the men with me on City Council, a nice humble man, stayed at his job, served on City Council, then was elected to the School Board. I remember this as his goal, the School Board. His life goals were to have a good job, be a good husband and raise his two daughters and to serve on the School Board. In truth he’s the reason I’m writing on this particular subject, him and I have a mutual friend, and a while back my friend told me that when first arrested my name came up… and I was laughed at, by my former Council Member … hmm, I can’t tell you where he is now, but I heard that one of his daughters became a school teacher, sounds like a pretty normal, happy life. Me and my daughter could have had that exact same life. Would I have been better off had I stayed? what about my daughter? … a matter of opinion I suppose, but that could have been me, and my daughter could have been a great school teacher … but I obviously looked left while he looked right and in doing so I affected the goals my daughter would later in life set for herself.

The thing about prison is it gives you an abundance of time to reflect, to think, to remember. This of course can be a curse in itself, it can drag you down into the pits of remorseful hell if you’re of a pity nature. Some men kill themselves rather than deal with their life choices – me, I’m different, I see prison as an opportunity to improve myself – no! it sucks, I don’t wish it on you, but crazy as it sounds I am perfectly engineered to survive here, to flourish here and so I’m fine in or out of prison, I see stars, remember; I see God working in my life; lemonade instead of lemons and all that.

If you have read any of my books you know that I contemplate some crazy things, CRAZY things … most folks are thinking right … me, I think left. Most folks live life through jobs, movies and TV, I live life through my family – through my mind … yes, I may be handcuffed to a rock, Prometheus Chained, but I can’t see the rock, because I refuse to acknowledge it … I may be on my back, but I’m looking up at the stars …. always up! Is that a good thing or a bad thing? (chuckling) … I guess it depends on your mindset, right? Or should I say, it depends on your mindset, left. You see the rock, I see the stars.

Did I make the correct choices in life? Well obviously not entirely – in fact, I made some horrible choices, ones I thoroughly regret. Yet, with that admission would I change my life? Would I stay in the army? Would I stay a Shop Superintendent? Would I run for School Board and be a good, albeit normal man? No, my friend, sorry to let you down, but I would change nothing. I would have been miserable with a normal life. I accept my failures just as I accept my successes, I accept my punishment as surely as I accept my praises. I will however apologize to any and all I hurt or let down, but I am who I am, I wouldn’t be me if I’d went another route. These are my scars and I wear them such as they are. I went left while everyone else went right.

I have two sons, both of them exceedingly successful, both doing their own thing, their own way. They love me and stay in touch with me and talk about me with their friends. I am lucky to have them, how blessed am I; how could I risk changing anything that might change their lives and the way they love me? I also have a daughter, you probably don’t know much about her because she pretty much stays out of the Social Media scene – but just last week, she and my granddaughter (her daughter) were in the South of France – she was describing to me how they were walking back from spending an evening on a huge yacht in the Mediterranean – how she was walking the streets of St. Tropez with her shoes in her hand, barefoot, happy. Her goals in life were birthed by my goals in life. She saw BIG because I saw big. We, her and I, talk by phone at least twice a week, usually more. She loves her father, has never turned her back to me, never, how blessed am I! Were I to change my previous life events, were I to go right instead of left, would it change hers too? Would she be a happily married school teacher?

I have a grandson who is in the music industry. He writes music, produces music and manages a successful band from Canada. He runs in a crowd you nor I could even imaging – the most famous musicians in the world and other successful young people from every continent on the planet; he parties with Saudi Princes … with all that going on in his life he takes time to send me messages “Can’t wait to visit you” he loves me inspite, or maybe because, I’m different than his other grandfather; his dreams are his mothers dreams who were my dreams first.

I have a granddaughter that’s an International runway model … she’s also engaged to marry Liam Payne of One Direction fame. My granddaughter is famous, magazine covers, TMZ … runways in Paris, Italy and the Greek Islands. She hangs around with movie stars. In spite of her perfect life she takes time to visit me and to text me, “I love You Grandpa”. She posts pictures of me on her Instagram account (Maya_Henry) she is in no way ashamed of me – in fact, it’s the opposite, she talks about me all the time, tells her friends that I’m a very loving person; I’ve even spoken to Liam “frigging” Payne on the phone! I, me, a nothing, the lowest of the low, am known to her friends, in circles even I couldn’t have imagined.

I have three other grandchildren as well, still young, still in school, but I have no doubt that they’ll make their own mark – how could they not – they have my blood in their veins … it would be impossible for them to be normal, I get regular text messages from them “Love you grandpa”.

My children and by extension my grandchildren are living an extraordinary life – lives others like us can only see on TV. There are of course, lots of factors involved in their life choices and successes – but the truth is that I am the origins of their lives, those dreams fulfilled. If I’d went right, if I been normal, my children and grandchildren wouldn’t be who they are. If I’d been content to be a soldier my children would have been soldiers, or welders, or school teachers – don’t get me wrong here, there’s nothing wrong with those choices in life, they’re honest and honorable, but with those choices you never have a chance to walk the streets of the St. Tropez barefooted , you’ll never see your face in a paparazzi photo or sit down with The Weekend, and it is highly unlikely that you will marry a world famous singer … nor will you ever have your story profiled on A&E Network, even in handcuffs.

Point is this, your actions have consequences, yours, mine, everyone … Yes, I tripped and missed my stars, but at least I tried, and those who came after me … ahhh, they have gone beyond even my dreams. Isn’t that what life is really about … for your children to have a better life than you had, for your children to achieve YOUR goals?

My children love God, life, and honor their parents. In this regard, I have fulfilled my mission as a father. So, I am not a reprobate, well, not a complete reprobate anyway. 🙂 You can say that I am a man who made mistakes, but you can never say that I didn’t try to improve my life and the lives of my children; that I didn’t dream the big dreams. In fact, I risked all I had to catch them.

So. Here I am, chained to this rock, talking to you and watching my children and grandchildren make their own mark (a little pun intended) on the world. What can I do except quote Robert Frost:

"Two roads diverged in a wood, I, I took the one less traveled by, and it has made all the difference"

Peace be with all of you and your families.

Three Rivers, 9-3-21