“Men ought to be most annoyed by the suffering which come from their own faults” Cicero
He is Aaron to me, “Butch” in family circles, but he is ‘Daddy’ to his daughter, Madison, who is 8 – “going on 9” Daddy said.
You may recall from an earlier writing that Aaron’s was the first friendly voice I heard upon arriving in the housing unit. The friendly voice belongs to a 33-year old, cherubic-faced man of Polish/Irish descent with red hair and glasses who possess a higher-than-average intelligence, a better-than-average- intelligence, and a better-than-average sense of humor and has a stronger-than-average support system awaiting for him back in South Carolina where he is from and where he will return when he is released from prison in another 36 months.
He has served 34 months of a 70-month sentence and has been away from his daughter since she was 6. Every face that I see here has a story that comes with it, and of all the stories I have heard, his hurts the most because I know what it feels like to not be there for your little girl. I know what pain not seeing her grow up can inflict on a man’s soul. Aaron doesn’t really talk about the pain, but know that it is there, and he knows that I know.
My instincts are that he is a good, decent man and a loving, responsible father. And my instincts are usually good.
In age, he is closer to that of my daughter than my son and because of that he sometimes finds himself the recipient of fatherly advice from me. Other times I give him friendly advice and even – now and then – unwanted advice.
More often than not, however in his unwanted – yet important – role at the unofficially official spokesman of our ‘group’ (the S.O’s.) he handles complaints or disputes from D.W.Bs. over real – but usually perceived – slights or trespasses from one of the S.Os. in our unit and winds up being the one dispensing the advice. (DWB = Dirty White Boys).
His role as peacekeeper makes him uneasy and keeps him on edge, but his blend of rationality, practicality, common sense, and intelligence (sprinkled with a dash of sarcasm) makes him well-suited for the position, wanted or not.
Aaron is a straightforward, perceptive individual who calls things as he sees them and who usually sees things pretty clearly.
In addition to his daughter, Aaron left many other people behind including his Mom and Stepdad, his Dad and Stepmom, his girlfriend, a 29-year old brother, his wife and two young children, a little brother, who is 8, and “lotsa aunts/uncles/friends. He is more fortunate than some fellow inmates in that they have all remained steadfast in their support of him. Not all in here can say that.
Before he was arrested, Aaron was managing the day-to-day operations of a chemical company. Obtaining employment is a challenge for convicted felons in general and registered sex offender in particular. But fortunately for Aaron there is a job in a family owned machining business when he gets out.
He is young; he is smart; he is educated and presents himself well. Aaron will be ok, unlike some in here who will be lost because they don’t have the obvious support and love from family, nor the positive personality characteristic Aaron does.
Aaron and I are about the same height (5’10’), but I have – in addition of 24 years – about 25 pounds on him. In his words he’s “in better shape physically” since coming here. He goes on to say “if you’re not careful, this place will warp your mind, and it’s a daily struggle not to become bitter.” He also says that “I have learned to be more patient with people”. This plan can test your patience.
An avid – incessant – reader, Aaron also works out a lot (hence the 25 pound difference). His mother was ‘kind’ enough to send in one of his ‘fat’ pictures and Aaron was foolish enough to share it with us – insensitive convicts that we are (he did have very pinchable cheeks in that photo). I’m sure his physical condition is about the only positive result his Mom sees in all of this.
The distance from South Carolina to here makes it difficult to visit, but she has made the trip twice – once with Madison. (His mom is more than welcome to share the ups and downs of the visitation experience if she likes.)
One thing I can say about their visit: Mom got to hug her son and Madison got to hug her Daddy. My sister said to me one time (okay, a couple. . .) “I want to slap you with one hand and hug you with the other”. I imagine Aaron’s mom feels much the same sometimes. I’d like to slap us all, but the reality is we are – in a way – slapped on a daily basis; slapped with dual realities of where we are and who we love that we miss each day.
None of us in here disputes that fact that what we did was wrong, but what society – through the government – has come up with as a solution is more so, on many different levels, to quote my young friend, “Calling the ‘rehabilitation’ the most profoundly brainless misstatement I have ever heard”.
Aaron has no record to speak of prior to this madness (a DUI and bar fight in younger days). What did have was a family, a home, a job, a child – all the makings of a productive life. I simply cannot see what has been accomplished by locking him away from all that he had and all that he was. It is wrong, and this wrong and his wrong – added together – do not equal right.
It would be easy to talk about this man for a much longer period, but then others might demand equal time and equal space, and I might not be inclined to give it to them.
As I have said before, I pray daily for all of us – and for our families – for the strength, courage, wisdom and desire to make it to the next day, because everyday behind us is another day closer to home.
As far as the face of this felon, I have tried to draw for you (inadequately, I am sure) I will leave you all with this: I am proud to know Aaron and to consider him a friend, his mom can be proud to call him her son, and – most important of all – Madison can proud to stand up tall and say “this is my Daddy!”.