Setbacks and Comebacks


Setbacks and Comebacks

On Valentine’s Day, my wife Patty was offered and accepted a full time licensed therapist position working with children at a residential treatment facility. This was a stunning victory, the culmination of over seven years of intense schooling, much debt, heartache, huge prayerful support, and some Federal prison time tossed in for good measure. I am absolutely thrilled. Patty now has a chance to make a difference in her chosen field; she will never look back.

At the risk of being deemed jaded and mean spirited; I do look back. There are some we know who have been absolute heroes, who have been there every painful inch of the way, courageously supportive when my wife was front page news, and we were on the down elevator of life. These quiet breathtaking champions seek no attention or recognition for their actions; no Face book, no Twitter, and no self- adoration. Words are simply inadequate to describe their contribution.

I also reflect on those who dropped the ball by omission or choice, the duds. I had a financial planner who advised their associate that my paying off our 2nd mortgage with some of my 401K, prior to Patty going to prison for a couple of years, was one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Seriously, whose side are you on pal? I have previously written about those who found their schedule too busy to ever visit Patty, write, or send a lousy dime for her commissary account. Actions speak louder than words, but I digress and repeat myself. I’m really trying to be more forgiving.

Well Patty and I made it! The 401K balance is zero, our mortgage was refinanced twice in the past four years to generate liquidity, but it bought the time we needed. Our marriage is rock solid, my spiritual health is growing, and Patty’s career is starting to take off again. This is a comeback victory of epic proportion. Obviously I’m biased. This almost feels too good to be true.

For those with a spouse or family member behind some form of bars, be they real or emotional, good things can indeed happen with time and prayer. Chose your friends and allies carefully and try not to burn them out. Include church and prayer in your life routine knowing that most people won’t understand what you’re going through. Prioritize those “friends” or family members who have turned their back on you, those who have judged your situation untenable to their social standards or comfort level. This is triage time, move on. Your emotional energy and mental health are on the line. Hang out with people who will fill you up, not drain you. Things, relationships and people are clearly defined for what they truly are when the triage goggles are on; are they emotional givers or emotional takers.

In the setback department, lest you think I’m spiking the ball in the end zone and doing a prime time victory lap, my sister Elizabeth is fighting stage four Cancer and will be moving to a hospice in a week. It is painfully sad to watch and experience, a brilliant intellect being taken down, gradually, day by day. So typical of life, there seldom is time to savor a victory before the next challenge stares you right in the face. How does her health predicament relate to our marriage and this blog? In 2009, Elizabeth and her husband Vinnie flew from New York to Chicago in terrible weather and then drove to Pekin, Illinois in blizzard conditions, all to share Patty’s first Christmas behind the wire. We sat for hours on hard plastic chairs in the visiting room of a women’s Federal Prison Camp; it was one of the best Christmas days we’ve ever had, never to be forgotten and sadly not to be repeated.

Johnny Cash once said “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” The man in black got it right. He had been behind the wire, behind the bars of addiction and really walked the talk. Johnny Cash knew Jesus. My sister would want Patty to aim very high as a person in her chosen field. Consider it done Elizabeth.


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  1. Dear Patty & Gerry,

    Wow! This one is really powerful! Thank you so very much for your honest words. Elizabeth and Vinnie & the two of you remain in my prayers.

    Love you, Nancy

  2. Thank you Nancy! We are privileged to have you as your friend!

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