“FAMILY: Forget about me, I Love You.”
My sister-in-law texted this to me the other day, a takeaway she got from work.
A constant reminder to always put our feelings aside and to keep family first. Give a little more grace and practice a little more selflessness not only for family but friends, clients, and even complete strangers. Because at the end of the day it’s never about us.
This is our family right here, our people.
Just missing my dad, who passed away, and three new littles, who have joined our family since it was taken.
Looking at each of them makes us so stinkin’ proud. Proud to be from those parents and to have been raised with those siblings. And to have found and married into one another’s families.
We’ve cried, laughed, fought, screamed, wrestled, given silent treatments, threw things at (still have a scar on my face, thanks, bro!), worked together, and have always had one another’s backs. We’ve been through extreme highs and overwhelming lows.
We took this photo right before my little brother (first guy to my left) checked himself into prison. A couple of months ago, I wrote a letter to my sweet little boy, Greyson, over on Twin Cities Moms Blog about the things I promise to him through the experience that I’ve had with Noah being incarcerated.
This weekend, we’re packing up the family and taking a road-trip to ring in his 32nd Birthday with him. We’re disconnecting and spending some quality time with him.
When I wrote that last post over on Twin Cities Moms Blog, I was so incredibly overwhelmed by the comments, likes, emails, and texts that I received from friends, family, and complete strangers. I even had a couple of strangers approach me when I was out shopping saying how much the post hit home for them and how much it meant as they are going through similar situations in life with people that they love. It left me in tears but at the same time made my heart so full. You can read that post, HERE.
I never wish this experience on anyone, yet I wouldn’t change a moment of it for the world. I have learned so much, and I honestly can I say I’m a better person because of it. And most importantly, Noah may not have been alive today if this hadn’t happened.
And to be honest, I’ve gotten to know Noah that much better. It’s not very often that you get to just sit and talk with someone for a long period of time with no distractions for hours on end on two plastic chairs with nothing in-between you. Sometimes people think he can check his Facebook and stuff; he can’t. He has no access to social channels and when we visit we’re not allowed to bring our phones, wallet, pictures, food, gifts, or even something as little as chapstick or a coat into the place. So you can only imagine how hard it is to bring our little 7 month old baby inside, it gets tricky. But that won’t stop us, he’s coming to hang with his uncle!
Just to give you a little background on Noah, he’s my little brother, only by a year. He has always had a huge heart, been the life of the party, always smiling and laughing, and a go-getter. Noah went to school at the University of Minnesota, graduating with a business degree. And you know that beautiful brown eyed niece of ours? This is her daddy right here.
Shortly after graduating and my dad’s death he leaned on the wrong people, made the wrong choices, started hanging out with the wrong crowds and, long story short, started selling and using drugs. After his sentencing, he still had over a year until he had to check himself into federal prison. That’s a whole other story I will never understand.
Since no one would hire him because of all the news out there on him and since he had a hefty fine and child support to pay, he started his own painting business to take care of and support his daughter.
There are a lot of good and sometimes not so good things about coming from a small town, and this turned out to be really cool! And reminded me of why I freaking love our little small town of Roseau, MN.
Instead of shunning Noah, our small proud town rallied around him, supported him, and hired him, which enabled him to run a successful painting company until he had to report to prison.
To be honest, I contemplated whether I should share this on construction2style, but the more I thought about it I thought about how this guy would someday be a part of our team, so I want you to truly know him. Once Noah gets released, let’s be honest, no-one is going to hire him. Since he is an excellent painter, has incredible business sense and an infectious personality, he’ll more than likely be working for us. So I thought you might as well get to know him now!
After writing the post, To my Greyson, My Promise to You, I was curious if there is anything that Noah regrets or what his promise is to his daughter is.
So I sent my brother a note with only two questions:
- What do you regret?
- What have you learned and promise to Melrose?
Nothing else. Just as simple as that.
I asked these not because I wanted to share with you guys, but because I was curious if he regrets anything and what he would say.
I was honestly expecting a couple of sentences back, but a week later I got a three-page letter in the mail.
After all the love I got back from my last post, with Noah’s permission, I wanted to share…
Prison has forced me to evaluate my life and the choices that got me here. First I have come to realize you can only be as good as the people you hang out with. Most of those people that I chose to surround myself with were never smarter, more driven, or ambitious. The ones that were I pushed away and happen to be the only ones that are here for me today. So, going forward, I need to cherish the good friends and family I have now and work to improve those relationships.
The second choice I made was to get involved with drugs. I found using them to be exciting and, at the time, made me feel better about myself. My identity was being the life of the party, and I embraced it. I started selling them because it was easy money and I was good at it, or so I thought. Up until this point in my life, I had under-achieved at every single aspect of my life; grades, golf, work, and family. So I started making money and for the first time didn’t rely on mom and dad. But as fast as my profits grew, so did my habit. Before I knew it, I had dug a pretty big hole. I owed $80,000 to the wrong people, I was terribly addicted to crack cocaine and methamphetamines, and I was at the head of a federal investigation. So much for being good at it…
I got the money paid off, borrowed the final amount from family under false pretenses, and went crawling back to mom at 27-years-old.
Now I am doing a 120-month sentence in federal prison, and all I have is time.
So far I have used the time to build a strong and healthy relationship with my mom, who is caring for my daughter. Between phone calls, letters, and visits I have been able to watch my little girl grow up. I have gotten myself right mentally. It took over two years to stop thinking about using. I have forgiven the people that have wronged me and prayed that the people I have wronged can one day do the same.
All I can do from here is prepare for my release date, make sure my sentence doesn’t extend any longer, and learn everything I can until then.
Life doesn’t stop when you go to prison, I still laugh every day, and I appreciate everything I still have.
The only thing we can do for our kids to make sure they don’t go down the same path is to educate them, give them positive opportunities, love them unconditionally, and hope they don’t make the same bad choices. You can’t force anybody to do something they don’t want to do and you shouldn’t. Sometimes I think maybe things would have been different if dad didn’t die, or if someone would have gotten me help, but I wouldn’t be who I am now.
I may not have met Dacotah and had Melrose. Every choice I have made has led me to right now, and I like me right now. So when I get out, I am going to work hard at giving Melrose the opportunities and support our generous parents gave us. And repay my debts.