HOLIDAY ‘ON ICE’ – by Steve Marshall
My apologies to the venerable Ice Capades for filching the name of their evergreen winter extravaganza for the title of this article. It seemed appropriate.
I’ve been dreading the approach of these last two months of the year because the holidays so thoroughly kicked my posterior last year. After the passing of Halloween, 2010, a mantle of depression settled over me that clung tenaciously until the dawn of the new year. It seemed so strange to lose touch with all happiness in a time of year that I have always embraced with such unbridled joy. Christmas for me was the aroma of a roasting twenty-five pound turkey permeating the house; the annual custom of spending the two days immediately after Thanksgiving decorating every room in the house, including three Christmas trees; the discarded detritus of colorful bows and ripped wrapping paper littering the living room floor; the joyous faces of grandchildren eager to share with me all the news of what Santa had brought them. Nothing else in the world was as capable of making me so happy.
Now these occasions serve only to remind me of the enormity of what I have lost, squandered really, in the mindless pursuit of satisfying a horrific, out-of-control addiction.
I’ve lost my freedom, of course, and that is important. I now live in a place where I have no authority or independence; where strangers have the right to run their hands over my body and do so every day, checking to see what I might have stolen or what contraband I might be secreting on my person; a place where I cannot perform the simple act of walking through a door without waiting for someone to come and open it. Here, my very existence is defined by the long list of things that I can no longer do for myself.
But I’ve also lost something even more precious . . . my family. My arrest and the subsequent revelation of my wrongdoing blasted my family into two camps . . . those who still love and support me and those who cannot. Days after my arrest, my wife Patty informed me that our marriage was at an end. For her, the trust that I had so recklessly violated could not be salvaged. She remains my friend, sending me weekly letters with news of home and pictures of the growing grandkids. But one of those recent letters contained the news that she has found another love and is moving on.
My son, who was seventeen at the time of my arrest, was so shattered and disillusioned that he could barely speak to me in the days, months and years that followed. This is a boy who, in the third grade, was assigned a three-paragraph essay on the person he admired most in the world. I was certain he would pick Arnold Schwarzenegger. . . but he wrote about me. The enormity of what I took from him is incalculable. Just two weeks ago, though, my son and I had a fifteen-minute phone conversation that was relaxed and good-natured in which he said he was looking forward to hearing from me again. So a little light is shining into that heretofore dark corner of my life.
My granddaughter was ten when the blast came. She had thought the sun rose and set upon me. I had helped raise her and she was like a daughter to me. We haven’t spoken in two and a half years.
My real daughter was pregnant with her first child when she was sucker-punched with the news of her dad’s arrest. But she came back swinging and has been my rock ever since. Her daughter was born without her Popi present as I was under house arrest at the time. It wasn’t until more than a year later that I was able to hold her in my arms for the very first time. It was in the visiting room here at Oakdale. Last week I applied for a transfer to California, where I might have the opportunity to see and hold her on a regular basis.
In retrospect, I am astonished that during the entire time I was so obsessed with indulging my sorry addiction on the Internet, I never once gave any thought to what it would do to my family should these dark secrets be hauled into the harsh light of day. It’s a telling sign how all-consuming this sickness can be. But I honestly believe that if I had considered the possible consequences, it would have been enough to stop me.
Perhaps a power greater than I will see to it that someone in a similar circumstance reads these words and finds a reason to rethink his behavior. I know such people are out there by the thousands. That would be a Christmas gift that I could really wrap my head around . . . saving someone from going down the same road I did.
So I’m just a few weeks away from having made it past another holiday season. I have four more of those to make it through until my projected release date of July 19, 2016. By an odd coincidence, that will be my seventy-third birthday. It will begin a new chapter in my life. With my legal debt to society having been met, I can begin paying on the huge karmic debt that hangs over me. I plan to do so by living my life in such a way that I have nothing to hide from anyone and will take advantage of whatever opportunities I have to be of service to others. In so doing, I hope it will enable me to regain the sense of joy and beauty that Christmas has always held for me.