Hi, this is Gerry.
I write this with some uneasiness as I am a very private person who loves his wife and my wife made a huge mistake in her life; she is a felon, served two years in a Federal prison and has done everything humanly possible to make amends and pay her debt to society. Some who view our Blog may feel bitter animosity towards Patty while others may regard her tenacity to redeem herself, career, and life contributions as proof the corrections system can actually work successfully. Others simply could care less.
Well I care, a lot. I stood by my wife because she is worth it and frankly it was and is the right thing to do. Abandoning a person at such a time of incredible need and vulnerability would have been shameful, cowardly, and pathetic. We have all made huge mistakes (me included), avoided accountability, were relieved we didn’t get caught, or glad it was them not me so to speak. But some do get caught and my wife Patty was one of them. For the record, everything I write here has been read in advance by Patty, nothing is shared for purposes of self-pity, payback or self indulgence – rather just to provide hope.
Over the years, I have always gotten along well with law enforcement and first responders, tough jobs which are usually done exceptionally well day in day out. They have my gratitude and respect. However, my wife broke the law. Over time she misused her employer’s credit card to the tune of $125,000 and that non-profit worked very closely with local and state law enforcement – trust was broken – big time.
Patty was convicted on one Federal count of fraud and sentenced to 27 months in prison. The sentence was not based on the $125,000 taken, but on $180,000 due to the additional $55,000 for the cost of the investigation. She was ordered to pay restitution of $500 per month, plus three years supervised release; this for a cooperating first time non-violent white collar offender. By way of comparison, former US Representative Jessie Jackson Jr. was recently convicted on federal charges of misusing $750,000 in campaign funds to support a lavish lifestyle and he got 30 months, substantially less than the sentencing guidelines, but I digress.
When Patty became front page news, many of our relationships were severed for obvious reasons and I became collateral damage. Even so I miss the rapport, banter, and friendship I had with many in the law enforcement community, some of whom sought and obtained a harsh punishment from a tough Federal judge. In my own mind, I’ve had to quietly say good bye to them, grieve the loss and acknowledge that ‘it is what it is.”
Patty and I have said good bye to many things in the last seven years. For me it includes privacy, financial stability, some friendships that I thought would have endured, good, traveling outside the country with my wife, doing much fishing and peace of mind. I am weary but undaunted.
Out of necessity, Patty and I got pretty good at saying good bye, even to each other for a couple of years. I believe it might be interesting and of some value to share small parts of our judicial journey including what it is like saying good bye to your wife. When your spouse is in prison, everybody does time.
Here is a portion of an email update I sent to friends on April 12, 2010 after visiting Patty at the Federal Prison Camp in Pekin, Illinois. This particular visit was on a Friday evening from 5:30-8:30 PM and Saturday from 8am-1:30pm. I chose to drive straight home, about 10-11 hours depending on weather, traffic and road construction, going through Illinois, Iowa into Minnesota. Writing this, it seems so long ago, yet just yesterday.
It should be noted that a camp does not have razor wire fencing but if you cross a certain boundary, you are in trouble. Patty originally self surrendered and started her incarceration in the Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Waseca, Minnesota. It has double fences topped with coiled razor wire and a tower. This is my summary:
“I returned from Pekin late Saturday night, having left at 1:30 pm on Saturday with Patty and I both weary but very delighted with our visit. Exhilarating and exhausting are the two words that come to mind. Our routine is that at the end of each day’s visit, we say our goodbyes in the visiting room, I check out, she exits the room and then heads for her building, walking across a court yard with a clear unfenced view of the parking lot where my car is parked; twenty-five yards but two different worlds, a boundary you just do not cross. At some time after waving and shouting genuine meaningful encouragement, she has to turn and walk away from her husband. I turn my back to my wife, get in the Prius and drive for 10 hours back to my world. Thus, when I woke up this Sunday morning with a blazing headache at 7:30 am that did not resolve until 6:00 PM; despite 2 cups of cheap strong coffee, 2 Mountain Dew, lots of water, 4 Bufferin, 3 naps, lunch and supper, it is because of emotional weariness and road fatigue. No pity party here, this always happens when I drive straight home, every time. It’s always worth it.”
So, here’s the deal: If you are in a situation that has you imprisoned and trapped or your spouse, sibling or child is behind some form of bars, you can prevail, even when others may fail or think you will fail. I believe many quietly expected my marriage with Patty to fail, they were wrong. You can prove others wrong as well.
What did I do? I relied on a select few good friends who stood tall when we were on the down elevator of life; I kept my job, my health, (despite skipping the doctor or dentist for 3 years) and nurtured my faith in fledgling consistent steps which kept my head together. I utterly refused to fail; regardless of the cost. I was all in, period.
By taking the risk to share some of our story, including the heartache, stress and challenges, it will be worth any cheap shots directed at my wife or I if just one person on a weary solitary journey, “behind bars” somehow is helped. I was surprised how church and worship music provided refuge and serenity, a safe harbor amidst the choppy waters. At times of crushing stress and anxiety, Psalm 23 provided me with calm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want……surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”