Mark Gildemeister

What Might Have Been (chapter 1 of 3), by Mark Gildemeister

Not long ago I was facing another parole hearing and had much to think about. As far as having the required parole plans I think mine were very solid. I had quite a few decent people supporting me, a great place to live and lucky enough to have a good employment opportunity waiting on me. We try to tell ourselves in here not to get our hopes up but you just can’t help but to imagine what it would be like.
A parole, by definition, is not granting one’s freedom. Rather it is a promise to behave and follow strict conditions for as long as it takes to prove we are worthy to be given our citizenship back. In my case it’d be a minimum of five years. I’d have to register as a violent offender, maintain employment and a decent place of residency and possibly electronic ankle monitoring. Frequent meetings with a parole officer, travel restrictions, participation in treatment programs, AA and NA mettings as well as drug screenings. It’s understood that any small or single violation would result in my parole being revoked so that in itself is a clear reality.
Sounds like a lot and wouldn’t be easy but I had confidence. I was looking forward to working – after thirty years in prison and wishing I had a real job instead of wasting my life I cannot describe how much I was looking forward to working. I had a history of drug abuse long before I committed my crime and to be honest I carried that into the prison system for several years. I eventually stepped away from it though and it’s hard to explain how and why it happened. I grew up maybe, got tired of it or was finally just ready to move on. I’d like to think I have a good handle on it – it’s been over thirteen years. But the harsh reality is I was a fool making the choice to use drugs for more than twice that long so it’d be unwise to ever turn my back on the power of addiction. I realize these are only words but if you are reading them then know this : I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything – just trying to let you know where my head is at.
And maybe just as important, where is my heart at? Besides doing what I needed to what were my other plans and what did I want to do with my life? It’s difficult to explain the position I’m in. Fifty years old with no living parents and no spouse or children so a family of my own wasn’t going to happen – no room and not enough time. And the same goes for a career, well, not one in the normal sense anyway. Also, there’d be some huge barriers hindering me from fitting in anywhere and making a life for myself. Over thirty years is a long time being out of society and I’d be alone in a world full of strangers. I murdered another human being and with all respect to everyone that affected, it changed me. I owe a debt that no amount of time in prison could ever repay nor would any deed in societies eyes be enough for redemption. Yet trying to make even a small difference in the world is the only real way I could live. But where could I start when even I believe I don’t belong back into the circle of man. A release from prison wouldn’t change the fact that I’d still be seperated from society. To be honest, the stigma people would attach to me would be nothing compared to the stone I’ll always carry and won’t be able to escape or hide from. Doesn’t leave much to work with but it was my life, my problem and what I faced. I’ve learned things about myself I knew I could apply out there, positive things very much worth incorporating into my life to help me find what I’m looking for. A way to live right with meaning and purpose, maybe just a glimmer of the man I could have been.
I knew what I HAD to do out there and I knew about things I COULD do then a couple idea’s fell into place. As I kept imagining possibilities, fitting them together with my own life experiences I felt more and more confident that I was onto something. A really good idea and a great way to live my life that could help so many other people. I knew it wouldn’t be easy at all, more than a few things would have to come together in a coordinated effort by maybe a lot of people. I’m talking hard work and dedicating a lot of time to. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, building it in my mind and seeing it work – it really just felt right. Then I came to a point where I had to question myself – would I actually attempt it and continue trying to make it happen? I mean realistically it’s not such a grand idea that would “wow” people. There’d be several big obstacles and challenges and no doubt some things might fail. It would be a continuous learn-as-we-go ordeal and that’s exactly why it just might succeed. Once I made that decision “yes, I’ll do it” suddenly some of my doubts seemed to fade away and I knew it could be done. I believed in myself and I believed in my idea.
But none of it was to be. The parole board gave me another continuance of five years and that was that. Poof. You have to keep pushing on though, even in here there are wrong and right paths and some days it can be easy to get lost. I still knew I had a good plan and kept talking about it with a few of my more “positive thinking” friends when one of them suggested I put it all on paper. Let other people take a look at it and see what they think. Just because I can’t be a part of it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen or that it shouldn’t. I agree. To be continued.

Mark Gildemeister
DOC #218-513

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