Call WaitingBy Kyla Ziegenhagen
When I first got locked up my son was barely six and my daughter, three. Being away from them was the worst feeling I've ever experienced, the worst kind of heart ache, the worst kind of pain. I woke up crying in the mornings and fell asleep crying in the evenings. My anxiety was so severe that the palpitations from my heart made my chest feel something like your foot does when it falls asleep. I was miserable in every possible way.
Calling home four to five times a day didn't make things any better. In fact, it made things worse. My son wasn't interested in talking on the phone and when he did, he just wanted to know when I was coming home. A heart-wrenching question that I wouldn't wish on anyone. My daughter didn't hold much of a conversation and I spent most of the time singing songs to her from the movie Frozen. I'd tell them I love them so much while I tried to choke down my sobs but trying to get them to really talk to me was impossible. They were just too little. And after we hung up I’d go to my cell and cried my soul into my mattress.
Some of the girls tried to make me feel better by saying, "Don't cry, it was an accident, you're not going to get that much time, you will be with them again soon." While I wished and prayed that was true, I knew it wasn't. Then a woman, a repeat offender, told me that one day they'll be old enough to have real conversations with me. I remember being disgusted and wondering how dare she act as if I was going to be incarcerated for such a length of time. The reality was that she put the truth out there when all I wanted was for everyone to lie to me. As though hearing people tell me I wasn't going to be laid down for over a decade would somehow make it true. I didn't want to face it. I didn't want to talk to my kids on the phone. Not then and not in the future when they got older. I wanted to go home and I wanted to do everything with them that I had planned. But most of all I just wanted to hold them in my arms.
Now it is going on six years later. My daughter is a little lady and my son will be a teenager in the blink of an eye. Back then there wasn't any way for me to envision the two of them having a life that didn't include me in it, at least not in the traditional form of being included. But as time has passed, I slowly let go of my refusal to face reality. I've come to accept that this is the way things are and I can't change it.
Recently my boyfriend bought my children a cell phone specifically for me to call them on. (There was an issue with being able to call their dad's phone.) Now that they have that I'm able to talk to them whenever I want, and my daughter is always very eager to speak to me. I know she probably doesn't have many memories of me, but that doesn't hinder her from creating them. I tell her about all of the funny things that happened when she was little. I tell her about my life here. We talk about school, her family, her dogs, and even what she ate for dinner. She just confided in me the other day to keep a secret she didn't want anyone to know. She whispers things to me about her brother and stepsisters when they're "stressing her out." Her words verbatim. And these conversations, the ones I didn't want to accept were going to happen, the ones I didn't want to have, have become the best part of my life. She amazes me every day with the things that she tells me, the things she knows, and her general concern of how I am doing. I couldn't be luckier than to have such a caring and kind daughter. And I'm so thankful that time has passed and I'm still a part of their lives. Traditional or not.
|Kyla Ziegenhagen 1655594|
Fluvanna Women's Correctional Center
P.O. Box 1000
Troy, VA 22974
My name is Kyla Ziegenhagen and I have been incarcerated since 2014. I'm currently taking college courses through PVCC to earn my associate degree, paralegal correspondence courses through Blackstone University, and I work full time as a muralist. When I'm not painting murals, I spend a lot of time drawing, writing, and reading. My latest release date is in 2027 and when I leave this place, I'd like to get a job as a paralegal and do volunteer work in a women's prison. I want to make a difference in at least one person’s life.
It’s a New Year.By Leon Carpenter
I think calander years for an incarcerated individual are a little different then they are for people not touched by our (in)justice system.
In my experience while free, the ending of a calendar year meant people are about to get drunk, hook up, count down from ten to zero grossly out of sync. At zero, yell, “Happy New Year.” Puke, then fight someone. Or.... fight someone, then puke. Pass out until the next day. Then wake with the previous night’s revelry replaced with emptiness and a sad acknowledgement the holidays are done. That’s about the gist of how I remember it.
Obviously, my perspective is just mine. I'm certain there many responsible things people have to wrap up while bringing the year to a close. Changing calendars throughout the house. Financial statements and other records need archived. Bills need finalized. All sorts of things I've no personal connection with.
The closing of a calendar year to me is special. I don't pretend to speak for other men and woman incarcerated. I speak just for myself. Changing my calendar to a new year is huge. The seemingly mundane, simple act of changing calendars for most people is unremarkable. A moment in life they may never remember. For me however it means a great deal. I’m acknowledging part of this journey I'm on is one year closer to being over. Regardless of all the pain, sadness, hope, and joy. Regardless of the people who've come and gone. Regardless of the setbacks and accomplishments. Regardless of the time left remaining. Another year is done. A year I'll never have to serve again.
In the same vein. taking down that old pen stained memorial of time and things forever lost to me stirs deeply hid emotions. These many years in prison have cost me an incalculable amount. I missed my beautiful daughter growing out of her childhood. She's now a young woman. I lost the chance to say goodbye to both my parents. My son’s mom no longer wants him to know his father.
Taking the expired calendar off my wall is an event I emotionally have to ready myself for. This act is powerful. I'm forced to process how much those days really cost. Not just me. I have to take in how these 365 days cost the people around me. That is when it gets real. Taking in how my daughter may have experienced the past year. All the moments, be them good or bad, I should have been beside her. Piecing together how my son has been hurt this year is especially hard. Just like his sister, he too did not have his dad in his life the past 365 days.
Taking down that well used collection of twelve shinny pages is no small happening. I don't simply see thirty or thirty-one days each month crossed out with my tiny little black x. I see and feel the weight of each and every box. I see the twenty-four hours it represents of my world and the people in it.
I am fortunate to be one of the men here who has a tangible release date. Many of my friends don't. The joy and sadness I find about a new year is lost to them. I get to acknowledge part of this journey I'm on is one year closer to being over. Regardless of all the pain, sadness, hope, and joy I experienced. Regardless of the people who've come and gone. Regardless of the setbacks and accomplishments. Regardless of the time left remaining. For me this means Another year is done. A year I'll never have to serve again. I'm fortunate for that.
One day this too shall pass.
I look forward to recklessly and without thought changing calendars. To bringing in the new year with Alison and our animals. To making those small chunks of twenty-four blocks of time count. To not having such a heavy heart about all the time I have been missing from my loved one’s life.
It’s a new year.
|Geoffrey Leon Carpenter 752058|
Washington State Reformatory Unit
P.O. Box 777
Monroe, WA 98272-0777
Hello World! Friends call me Leon but the government officials get my attention by using my government-approved name, Geoffrey Leon Carpenter. It is up to you which works best. I’m a 39 year-old male held captive in WADOC. My crime… well, those are many but the roots rise out of poverty, abuse and drug addiction. I’m happily committed to a special person, my future and my life. A hope of mine is that something of value can be gained from reading these words. These unadulterated truths seep from the darkest depths of my wounded soul.