April 9, 2011
Saturday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #172: New Puppy
I have a new puppy. My cellie, Ronnie, was in a vocational computer class every morning, Monday–Friday, from 7:00–10:30. This daily alone-time for me was unusual. I’ve never had a cellie in these past three years who was ever out of the cell except for rare medical appointments. I’d use the mornings for reading my Bible, studying, and doing my writing projects. In peace and quiet. I’d get so much done! Then, Ronnie would return and want to talk about his class—a fight, the boring teacher, etc. An hour later, lunch would be served in our dayroom. Well, my morning program has changed.
Ronnie no longer has to attend class. Instead, he’s at home. With me. As I’m trying to get my studies done, I have an active, talkative, curious, and wanting-to-be-entertained cellie. It’s like having a new puppy who’s constantly needing attention, direction, and affection. He doesn’t quite know what to do with himself yet, though I’m hopeful he’ll find something.
Because he doesn’t have to be up so early, he’ll often stay up at night until 9 p.m. or even 10 p.m., when he used to crash out at 8:30 sharp. This means that my evenings are also increasingly being shared with my new puppy. I’m up on my bunk, busily writing something of importance to me when out-of-the-blue I get to hear about who said what on the yard today, why so-and-so makes a lousy partner in card games, or how insensitive it is of that other guy to get hot water from the mop sink while people are showering. (For example.)
I know that we should thank God in every circumstance and for all things, and I really do try to thank Him for everything in my life. I just don’t think we have to talk about every circumstance and talk about all things. Some things in life (and most things in prison life) are so insignificant that you don’t need to ever talk about them.
So that I don’t seem picky or impatient here—those of you who are quoting the “Love bears all things” verse to me, I’m talking to you—let me take a quick survey.
By a show of hands, how many of you have, in the past year, had a conversation about your toilet paper running low with someone who doesn’t live with you? Mmm-hmm.
And, how many have had a friend confide before lunch that they broke their fingernail clippers on a rather thick toenail? Yep, I didn’t think so.
Finally, a show of hands if you’ve broken up a fight, holding the parties apart from each other, because one guy’s playful jostle of his friend had accidentally bumped into the other guy involved. No? No one’s fighting over getting bumped, huh? (As one bystander told me after that exact incident—today—“If you hadn’t stepped in, they would’ve fought.”) Point is, insignificant things are magnified here, so I get to hear everyone talk about them ad nauseum. (Latin for repetitive topical illness, from which we get the word museum.)
Helping Ronnie find something to do was a big start towards both of us feeling as if a productive day was ever going to happen. (This was my goal, at least.) He is not particularly fond of writing, so correspondence Bible Studies are not an option. He likes reading sometimes, and he loves Christian music. He doesn’t attend church often, so I bring him books and return others for him, and I was just able to get a radio so he can listen to KLOVE Christian radio.
He’s settling into his new routine, and so am I. I’m not saying I don’t like or don’t want to visit with someone—I’m just not interested in being constantly interrupted with trivial matters while I’m trying to stay focused on my studies. I think we’ve got it worked out now.
Maybe some of you are experiencing change—such as, if you get laid off from IBM after 33 years of work—and need to figure out all the new ways you will be using your time. (I love you, Daddy) 🙂 Often, it’s those of us who are the other party in the relationship who can do the most good to help make the change transition smooth for everyone. It’s a team effort.
I do a lot better when I don’t view Ronnie as an interruption to my perfectly-planned, well-manicured day, but as a blessing from God—a brother in Christ who can help me grow in areas of need. I don’t want to be so absorbed in what I’m doing that I don’t have time for people! But, you know, it sure wouldn’t hurt if my new puppy would hurry up and learn to play on his own … for at least 10 minutes at a time. I’m still hopeful.