Now he’s here – now he’s gone

Well, another home leave is over.  I wish I could report that the time spent away from your husband gets easier, but I’m afraid to say that, for me, for us, it does not.

I messed up this home leave and actually had to go into work on Monday, which was strange leaving Mike in the house.  He was very busy doing the washing (I usually do mine overnight using Economy 7), cleaning his car (nope, not done that since….. can’t remember) and Hoovering again (going to wear it out).  He had quality time with his daughter and was absolutely exhausted by the time I returned home.  That’s what comes of stultifying in prison for one whole year.

Yes, one whole year has passed.  I was going to blog on that subject, but am really not in the mood.  We sat in the garden Monday evening and mulled over the time together we had lost.  We’ll get it back, metaphorically.

Today I worked from home which meant physically I was here but mentally I was at work.  Part of me wanted him to return so I could catch up on all those emails.  What am I turning into?  My husband, that’s what.  I felt so dreadful when he cried at lunchtime.  This time he just didn’t want to go back.  But return him I did, and now he’s gone.  It’s tantalising, this home leave, this is what life is like when you come back home – now you see it – now it’s gone.   Now he’s gone.

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.

How much notice do you have to give to postpone a home visit?

It’s awkward typing this, not embarrassing awkward, just awkward –  I have my Digital Thermometer tucked in my arm pit, like every good hypochondriac would.  Trouble is, unlike the good hypo’s of this world, I don’t own a medical one and this is the probing type I use to check my jam is setting.  We are currently up to 33 degree’s C, is that normal?  It’s still rising by the way.

Of all the times to contract what very much feels like flu, I have to go through hell and back for two years healthy, wait 9 months for my husband to come out on a Home Visit, and the day before, I drop like a stone.  35 degree’s C now…. I should check what is “normal”.

I’ve been ticking off the days, planning, baking, changing beds, attempting, thinking about minimum, doing the housework then at work a couple of days ago I felt “a little chesty”.  I think we’ve peaked at 35.4, no 35.5. I thought, bah, a cold, I’ll deal with that – Manuka honey, lemon and trusty bottle of whiskey (35.6) – that’ll knock that on the head.  And .7.  Nose blowing caused it to jump to .8.  Husband came home on a “Town Visit” (with permission from the Governor to come home) yesterday, (.9) and I think we had a nice day, chatting, that’s what I miss so much, he was the person I talked to day in day out.  We went for a walk (in retrospect perhaps not a good idea) – 36.0 – and then I felt very tired and like the good old days, we just lay on top of the bed together – he held me, beautiful, and I slept!

Typical, I can’t even get a temperature right – apparently “normal” is 37 degrees, point one or two lower when taken under the arm, I don’t even have a temperature.  Double checking by sticking probe in my mouth now, best to be safe than sorry.  Trouble is probe is too long and it now looks as if I’m dead because the exposed area is making the temperature plummet.  37.2 – So even my cup of tea is healthy, a bit luke warm though.

So now I have to wait for 9am tomorrow to go get hubby and we have another go – no, it is not possible for the Prison authorities to “knit together” a Town Visit and a Home Leave so he gets three days at home.  I must go back up to the prison, I have to go in and advise them that I am there to collect him (like collecting kids from school), then he’s home Monday, Tuesday and back Wednesday – not til 6pm as I originally thought, but to just 3pm.  Apparently this is because shifts change and the prison authorities like to check everyone back in.  Plus, apparently, and we don’t yet have details, he may have to go see his probation officer during the home visit too.  There was me thinking three whole days of bliss, yet again Carol, wake up and smell the coffee!