This Christmas is the perfect illustration of the truth that life is long and things change, sometimes for the better.
A year ago, I thought I was going spend this Christmas in a prison camp while the people who gained various benefits from my prosecution would be free to enjoy lavish holidays. I thought I would miss my son’s last year in high school. I would, of course, have to give up my job and leave my wife having to scramble to keep my family from a desperate situation.
To enjoy Christmas 2006 required all my powers of denial. I did take a nice picture. But that was a moment created outside of me, by the sea, wind and sun. Inside, I was edgy and angry.
Now, a year later, I’m free pending appeal thanks to the wisdom of the Ninth Circuit; and will be free for awhile, perhaps forever. Renewed freedom opened so many doors. For example, my son wrote a musical for his senior project. I got to watch the staged reading of it last week — and it was incredible. (Check out his website for the project here.) He and his writing partner only started working on it this summer. He only began writing music a little over a year ago. Despite a few years of piano lessons, I wasn’t even sure he could read music, much less write it. Much less write lyrics, create characters, write dialogue…it was an unbelievable experience. His music is astonishing.
And I would have missed it. Who knows, maybe with all the chaos resulting from my absence, he wouldn’t have written it. But I was here, he did write it and I got to hear it. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.
Thanks to the Ninth Circuit, I’ll be able to see him graduate and get him started on his life. He worked at a grocery store and earned 2/3rds of what he needed for a new notebook computer to facilitate his creative endeavors. Thanks to the job I was able to keep, for Christmas, we were able to make up the rest, and now, as I write, he’s setting it up. Meanwhile, my wife, son and I were able to help my parents do their usual Christmas at their home, which means a lot to them, especially now. I couldn’t have helped them from a bunk bed in Kern County.
It took a while for my family to adjust to this period of freedom. It’s hard to stop looking up to see if the anvil is still hanging over your head. But we’re breathing again, more or less normally.
Timing is everything. It could turn out I will still have to spend a year in Tracy at some point in the future. I believe in my innocence. I believe in what justice should mean, and I will never stop fighting for it. But if my appeal doesn’t turn out like I expect? Not like I want to, but if I had to, I could handle the stretch in 2009 or 2010. My son will be more independent. Other things in my life will reach a certain balance that I’m still trying to create. I’ve been given time to overcome the reckless destruction of my previous career and to get a new one off the ground.
Thanks to my family, all my family, to my friends, to the people I work for, and to everyone who made it possible for me to enjoy this blessed day. Merry Christmas to all of you.