Laugh, Talk, Eat

I haven’t blogged for a while, haven’t felt like it, nothing really to report.  I have been meaning to discuss the effect on having a “part time husband” though.

Since May, Mike has enjoyed “Town Visits”.  After I met with his social worker, she advised me that he would be able to come home on his Town Visits, but Mike being Mike, wrote for official confirmation that he wouldn’t be in breach of any rules and regulations by returning home.  Receiving validation he came home for the day last month, returned for the night, then came back again on his first Release on Temporary Licence.

He has to carry with him at all times a lovely little card, very Blue Peter-ish, upon which his photograph is taped (professional job) and details of his temporary release dates are recorded, signed, stamped and counter stamped.  It is a standing joke that wherever we go, the card comes with us…. Just in case a policeman approaches him and asks to see it.

I’ll take a step back here – I could never understand the wives of businessmen (no sexism intended, it is invariably businessmen) who would say “oh I love it when my husband is away”.  I used to hate it.  Mike frequently travelled overseas when he worked at SBS and I hated it.  I’d badly miss him.  Other wives would enjoy having their husbands away, but I could never understand this, I almost thought that I would eventually elevate to this position once we’d been married a few years, but it never occurred.

I miss our conversations.  My big sister once told me, and I’ve never forgotten this, of an occasion she and her first husband were sitting in a pub chatting away.  During the evening, she watched an older couple who were oblivious of each other, who spent the entire time in their own worlds, disengaged from each other, drinking in silence.  She vowed she would never get to that point.  And so it is with me. Mike and I never have nothing to converse about, even if a conversation flags, we’ll bring up whatever is in the news and test each other’s opinions.  I loved our evening meals – not for us sitting in front of the TV, dinner on laps – we’d be at the table, disseminating our days, expressing any concerns and worries – laugh, talk, eat, the way it should be.  I hate silence between people, a throwback to my childhood experience of mum and dad, mid separation, having Sunday tea with the kids to put up a picture of normality, but not speaking to each other.  I used to get ribbed and called “toilet roll tongue” because I desperately tried to fill in the pregnant, poignant.  I could tell something was wrong and was desperate to obliterate the heaving silence.

There is a major difference in two people “just being together” enjoying one and other’s silence.  That quiet time is precious and quite different from longing to have your husband out of the house “for a bit of peace and quiet”.

And so it is that I now find myself with an absent husband, desperately wanting to return home, but with me having to drop everything and entertain him.  And of course, I now have to share him with others who want to experience his temporary release as well.  To extend the time allocated for the Town Visit, I travel to collect him, we return home and then he has to go through “decompression”.  Returning to a messy house (hey, I work all week, Saturday is my housework day) it takes time to get used to the idea of not being under lock and key.   The first weekend was spent hiding from well-meaning neighbours, pleased to see him out for the day.  He feels the stigma of being a prisoner and anticipates everyone else sees a huge sign over his head.  We killed time around the house, he wanted things to be “normal”, but it’s far from normal checking your watch every five minutes to make sure he’s returned on time.  He gets until about 5.30 and then we must head back to Stanford Hill for checking in prior to 6.20.  We are terrified of being late and thus ending future town visits. Indeed the first one was marred by a flat tyre on the car – thankfully it was his car and we were able to get back using mine.

And then his first ROTL arrived.  This was better.  He got two nights at home, but a return time of 3pm!  Apparently Prison Staff can’t cope with too many offenders returning at the same time.  For him this was two blissful nights in a comfortable double bed with fresh, clean bedding.  No-one woke him during the night to check he was still there, but I think I spent the time worrying how I would feel after he had gone again.  I couldn’t appreciate the moment.  I know he had his first taste of freshly prepared food in 9 months and that was a treat for him, plus, of course, homemade lemon drizzle cake.  All he wanted was a taste of normality.  To sit in an arm chair in the front room and gaze at the green field opposite.  For the cat to sit on his lap, to vacuum the carpet, to wear something fresh and clean, to go for a long walk.  You may believe that prisoners “have it easy” inside, and certainly it would appear that some do.  But there is a community within prisons who genuinely regret their crimes, who know they are there to “pay their due to society”, but who bitterly wish they were back home with their families.  For this community, prison is a double sentence – one on themselves and one on their family.  I am not surprised that a lot of wives leave their husbands.  You get used to living alone, to earning your own money, paying bills, coming and going as you chose, to surviving alone.  You begin to think “why am I waiting”.  And then when the ROTL comes along, it is disruptive – he’s there, then he’s gone and you go back to missing him again.  I personally find it very disruptive.

But I know I have adjusted to an awful lot of things, I can make this last adjustment.  As I write, I am anticipating his next ROTL, we move up to three nights at home and this time I am going to enjoy them for what they are – a long, relaxing weekend at home with my husband.

One thought on “Laugh, Talk, Eat

  1. Ah yes. There certainly is a fine line between enjoying the silence and having silence thrust upon you. My constant companion for over 5 years has nipped off for three days and I couldn’t sleep last night. I tried the cat, but she trod all over my chest at 3 in the morning and eventually made me wheeze. So, it’s just me and the animals. Still, I could talk about the garden shed to them!!!!

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