The comment was more of a greeting as I had just handed the young lady my pass which authorized me to come to the Learning Center that morning. She was just 3 years younger than me but also a Teacher/employee of a Federal Penitentiary. Her remark was casual almost as if we had met before, but we hadn’t. I had been to many prisons before but not one like this that employed so many women in all facets of their staff. I resisted and refrained from getting familiar with any of the female teachers in the LC. You could almost say I resented them being here. I kid you not, there was Miss Black, Miss White, and Miss Lipscomb. All of them are pretty, yet all of them are different. I had no intention of meeting them or addressing them by their first names. I was in the early years of a yet to be determined sentence for Bank Robbery and did not carry a demeanor that would suggest I am a likable person, in fact, more to the opposite.
My reply was curt and to the point and not meant to further a conversation. Nor was it as casual as her statement had been. “Yeah, I go every Sunday, but I don’t think it’s doing me any good.”
I don’t remember, 50 years later, exactly the order in which that conversation went. What I really want to say is that there was not one iota of a reason in which to suggest that there would even be a reason that I would be writing about this encounter 50 years later. That is half a century later. It is absurd to even consider that an offhand encounter such as that, given the two individuals involved, would merit future acquaintanceship. Maybe if we went Twilight Zone or Hollywood we could come up with a reasonable conclusion but even then whatever script you might come up with would be so extremely unlikely that it would really be a stretch to believe it.
But it did go somewhere. It is not my intention to go over every weave nor describe just how improbable any future might involve us two, but 50 years later here we are, man and wife, parents, grandparents, and fellow followers of Christ. I once gave a talk at Depaul University to a class of future lawyers about criminal justice and how it involved me and my life. My talk was broken into two parts, the first half; where I spent 17 and 1/2 years in over a dozen reformatories, jails, and prisons, and the second half where I was a husband, father, and productive citizen including amongst being an advocate of prison reform. One observant student raised his hand and said “Wait a minute. On the one hand, you’re telling us you lived this life and on the other hand, you lived this other life.” Stretching out his hands to indicate the two different lives, he further stated, “How did you get from here (his left hand) to here,” (his right hand)?
And therein lies the crux of the story, how the implausible became plausible. But even further, how one stated thought could change the world, our worlds, the worlds of our children who we brought into the world, their marriages, their children, and how we can look back at our ancestors who came together in some fashion of their own leading us to today.