My first day back at work after five days off wasn’t so bad. The first patient for my morning line arrived half an hour early. He was there for a routine check-up, and when he sat down in my office, he announced that he was up for transfer and would likely be gone within the next two weeks. We chatted a bit about his health issues, and then he told me about his best friend Mr. W, who’d been in the hospital for several months now. I knew Mr. W, because he’d been on my caseload before being admitted into the hospital after a mild stroke and subsequent medical problems.
“He’s got pins all down the side of his neck, and he can’t move,” Mr. B reported. “I been writing to his family. I got his daughter to come see him.”
“You did?” I said. “How’d you manage that?” I was aware that Mr. W had been writing letters to his daughter for a long time, but she’d maintained her distance. She was upset with him for being in and out of prison and for not being there during her childhood and teen years.
“I wrote and I told her, You don’t want to leave things this way. You don’t want to have any regrets. Life is too short. And she came out, and she visited with him.”
“Wow,” I said. “I bet Mr. W really appreciated that.”
Mr. B shrugged it off, like he hadn’t done anything particularly special. He changed the subject and told me about his legal case. He’d submitted an appeal to the court, and it looked like he might have a chance at a reduction in his sentence. Currently, he was a third-strike lifer, serving 25 years to life for an attempted burglary. He started this term in 1998 and had maintained a disciplinary-free program in prison so far.
He said, “If they look at my record, they’ll see I got no violence, no assaults or weapons. I been staying out the way, staying out of trouble. They gonna want to know if I’m fit to go back to society.”
“You’ve certainly been doing a lot of good with your time.” I thought of the letter he wrote to Mr. W’s daughter.
“It’s like I been saying all along,” Mr. B said. “You make your own map, from beginning to end.”