If anyone Google’s the phrase “collateral damage” we will see something like, “Collateral damage is damage to things that are incidental to the intended target.” There is a word within that definition that caught my eye. The word is incidental. I was pretty sure I knew what it meant, but I looked it up anyway. One meaning of incidental is: “Of a minor, casual, or subordinate nature...” I would like to share a story of a minor nature.
This past week, my family had an anniversary. Being a first anniversary we should have been prompted to celebrate. The anniversary of the night we got the phone call that continually plays over and over in my head, “Your son has been arrested.”
My wife and I knew that we needed to do something, but we were not sure exactly what. The news hit us right between the eyes. We didn't lose consciousness, but we certainly were frozen. After a few minutes of staring at each other we knew that we had to go bail our son out. At 11:45 PM, we started our 7-hour trip.
On the way up we did not talk much. What I remember most is my wife holding my hand. I don’t know if it was to comfort me or to comfort her. It didn’t matter, the warmth of her touch helped me relax and keep me awake.
When we got to our destination we were told we could not see our son until his bond hearing, the next day. We pleaded with the police officer and cited how far we had traveled. The County Sheriff overheard us and granted our wish. We got to see our son through a pane of glass, but it was better than nothing.
The Sheriff suggested that we check into the local hotel and get some rest. We did, or at least we tried to. Upon checking into the hotel we thought it best to get some breakfast. We sought out a local restaurant. Nothing tasted right, not even the coffee.
My wife and I returned to our hotel room and spent the next moments asking each other, “What should we do, who can we possibly tell about this.” In that room, I had this horrible feeling that we were alone. Without knowing it, the collateral damage had already begun. We both opted to call our best friends. My wife called her sister and I called my brother. They were both devastated and did not know what to say to us. They did not know that just listening to us was what we needed. They also did not know it, but their collateral damage had begun.
I hadn’t showered or even shaved up until that point. I remember my wife say, “You will probably feel better if you get cleaned up.” My wife came up to where I was standing. Apparently I had not moved for several minutes. She asked me what was wrong. I told her that I did not know what to do first. Anyone that knows me clearly understands that I am very regimented in my morning rituals. She suggested that I try shaving. I did not understand what was happening to me. The “damage” was deepening..
We spent the rest of that day making calls to family and trusted friends. We decided it was time to go to bed. I lay there next to my wife as I had done more than 10,000 evenings before. There is a comfort in knowing that you are next to your best friend. That night was completely different for me. A feeling came over me that I had never experienced before in my entire life. I was alone! My bride was there because I could see her, but I was alone. I started to cry as I am doing right now. I was raised as a Christian, but there was no God in me.
I woke up the next morning with this horrible burning in my stomach. That is the feeling that I now carry with me on a daily basis.
We eventually got my son released from jail and back home. This is where the new fear started. When will the other shoe drop? We knew it would be a matter of time before our son was taken into custody again. He was later that week.
Nothing we could do or pay was going to get our son out of where he still is today.
In the weeks before this, my wife and I had been tinkering with the idea of an early retirement. That day we were trying to figure out how we were going to get our hands on 10s of 1,000s of dollars to get our son legal help.
My wife and I were now at a point where we needed to be comforted by someone or something. A family member told us about Jail Brakers. Our initial reaction was, “We can’t talk about this with people that we don’t know. How will we ever be able to share anything with complete strangers?”
Almost a year later, the phrase “collateral damage” came up at one of our now monthly group meetings. I turned to the “strangers” and began to tell them how damaged I was from my son’s actions. These people, these “strangers” had slowly become our friends. They understand what we are going through because they have already been through it with their loved ones.
We watch TV and listen to the radio about all of the terrible crimes that are committed around us. In most cases, we come up with all sorts of phrases for why these people should get imprisoned for all of eternity. I know as I used to be one of those people.
What is lost, in every story, is the collateral damage that is caused. For every one of the crimes that is committed there is a mother, father, spouse, child, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or grandchild that is affected. Who speaks for them? Who can they talk to? What do they do when they are frozen or alone, like I am?
If any of this is happening to you? If it is, please come join us at Jail Brakers for some answers to your questions. No one will judge you.
Collaterally Damaged Father