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Testify the Truth

Note: This is a scene inside my memoir Concentrated Breathing. This is the day I testified for my brother, Chad. Read the other parts before if you aren’t familiar with it. There are links at the end of each post that will lead you to the next. Some names have been changed on purpose.

My cheeks are red hot and I think steam is coming out of my eyes because my vision is blurry. Every which way I look, my eyes feel like they are soaking in a foggy Jacuzzi. My hands are set together in my lap as I subconsciously swivel from left to right in one of the ten leatherback chairs in a conference room inside the fourth floor of the courthouse. Mom, Aunt Norine, Grandpa, and Grandma Barb are all here with Chad, his lawyer Jay McGuire, and me. Everyone is gathered around the table like we’re about to be served a feast, but really we’re just waiting for the judge to get here. Everyone who’s anyone in this case is testifying today, including me.

My stomach lurches up toward my throat – the same feeling I got when I was a kid spinning on a merry-go-round at the park; I told Mom my tummy was tickly – as I make myself snap into reality and stop spinning. I put my elbows on the table and let my head rest in my hands as Jay McGuire goes over the plan one more time.

“Now, Chad and I will be sitting to the right of the bench, you all will come in one-by-one and will swear in using the Bible.” He projects in an outlined fashion, making eye contact at everyone individually. “I’ll question you first, then,” he pauses. “The county attorney will have his turn.” My stomach turns with this transition. We’ve all heard numerous times how this specific county attorney is hard core, a dick to anyone he thinks has wronged him, his client, or the world.

I’m the youngest person testifying and a key witness in our appeal that the nurse didn’t get proper, legal permission to take Chad’s blood alcohol level in the emergency room on the night of the accident. Not to mention, I’m his little sister and he’s my big brother and even though I can remember all of our childhood carnival games and Christmas mornings of wrapping paper tube fights, and that one time he stood up for me to that boyfriend I’d rather not claim, when I get on that stand nobody else knows these things. And frankly, I don’t think they care. I can either save him from prison or throw away the key.

Jay McGuire turns his attention right on me because I need to be treated gently because of my age, I guess. “Now, Jennifer, you remember what we’re going to talk about up there, don’t you?”

“Yes, I remember,” I begin with caution and a clear memory. “I’m going to tell about how the nurse in the emergency room didn’t ask Chad to sign the document and how he was over the legal age to be signing it himself. Then I’m going to tell them about how Chad was not in a conscious state and was drugged up on pain killers and could barely make sense of the words that were shooting out of his mouth let alone understand his rights or what he was consenting to.” I’ll also tell them to go to hell and leave my brother alone. Or I could tell them that he’s still a jerk and hasn’t learned a damn thing.

“That’s right, Jennifer.” He says my name like I’m special and four freaking years old. I’m 19, I get it, Mr. McGuire. “Just get up there and tell the truth. That’s all you need to do.” My mom looks at me, with the continuous nodding head after everything Jay McGuire says. I don’t buy this act; this attorney is pissing me off.

Mom repeats his words in a chipper voice, trying to protect her children from the reality of this day. “Yup, just tell the truth!” I wasn’t planning on lying, people!

Chad gets it. He looks over at me and pats my back. I glance up as he smiles his big brother smile I haven’t seen in awhile and says, “Don’t worry, bud. Just do your best.” It’s everything reassuring, but I know deep down he and everyone else are depending on me. Breathe.

Grandpa, in his own religious right, volunteers a family prayer. We all scoot close enough to hold hands. We close our eyes and bow our heads. I peek an eye open to see how Chad’s reacting. He usually shuns religion because “it just doesn’t make sense.” He’s not bowing his head like us, but it doesn’t look like rebellion as I’d first assumed. His head is tilted upward and his eyes are pinched shut, lips a thin line. It looks more like a plea to God. Amen.

All the witnesses are sequestered in this conference room off to the right of the courtroom so we aren’t swayed or hear the other testimonies. When it’s exactly 2:00 p.m. a random clerk pokes her head in the door that leads to the courtroom, announcing for Chad and Jay McGuire to head in. Aunt Norine, who is not testifying – just there for moral support and to make sure my mom doesn’t die of heart attack, or more appropriate heartbreak – goes in and takes her seat in the row of chairs lining the back wall. “All right, we’ll see you out there,” Jay McGuire says as if he’s leaving the dugout for a baseball game. I feel like I should high five him or that there should be some slapping of the asses with team spirit. How professional.

The room thickens as the attorney exits. We are left to think in silence. Grandpa moves closer to Mom and I hear her going over her story again; practicing with him. I know what I’m going to say and I’ve heard it a million-and-one times from Jay McGuire, my mom, and my dad, who happens to be absent today, enjoying his life in sunny Florida. His reason was a cocky, “Well, I wasn’t there that night so why do I have to be there for this?” Hmm, I could think of a few reasons. Let’s make a list.

–       He’s your son.

–       I’m your daughter.

–       This was a family you once chose to have.

–       Courtesy, support, encouragement, love

Need I go on?

I can never understand why my dad does these things. I wonder how he can logically justify his absence. I wonder if he tells himself this because he knows Linda won’t want to come, or because he can’t face his wayward son. I remember when he was driving me back to my mom’s house after I had supper at his house one night following the conviction notice.

Dad turns off Allen Jackson and puts both hands on the stirring wheel like it is his stability. His speed slows to near ten miles per hour. My mom’s house, the house he used to live in with us, our home, isn’t too far away and I think he wants to say something to me.

“Chad got himself into a pretty big mess, huh?” he starts with glossy eyes that don’t blink. Where’s your mind at, Dad?

“Yeah…,” I answer, solemnly, leaving it open-ended. I don’t think he expects an answer.

“I just don’t know what to do anymore, Jennifer.” His lips come together in a sympathetic way and he slightly shakes his head. “I can’t save him. I can’t take this away. I can’t buy his way out. There isn’t an amount in the world…” He trails off into his thoughts. Chad in court. Chad behind bars. Chad in handcuffs. His son a failure.

I’m silent because I’m not sure if my dad is crying. I don’t know how to handle this. This is the first time I’ve ever seen him like this. Is he crying? I come to the conclusion that if I weren’t around, he would be crying. He’d be letting his vulnerability show and his emotions melt out of his authoritative eyes. I see water puddles in the rims of his brown eyes; the same eyes I have, too.  It’s okay, Dad. It’s not your fault. I want to say this, but I don’t.

But I’m still mad that he’s not here, but I get it. I get it because I was there that day when he almost let a tear spill from his Dryden eyes. Every Dryden has the same brown, sunk-in, beautiful eyes. My late Grandpa Dryden called them this. It’s special to all of us. Grandpa Dryden is here with us today just as much as much as my other grandpa except he’s our angel. Please Grandpa, bless us today.

“Diane, you’re up first,” Baaaaatter up! Jay McGuire says through the small gap of the open door. As my mom stands, I wonder how her heart is breaking right now, how much pressure she feels even though it’s not her fault at all. This is her one moment to help Chad, her only true moment to save her baby boy of 24. God, please make her strong. I worry more about my mom than I do about Chad. Chad will be all right; Mom, on the other hand, may not.

With a down-to-business tone, my mom states, “Okay,” and enters the courtroom. The door shuts. Small talk presumes and I answer the quirky questions my grandma has to ask about my college classes.

About 15 minutes later, Jay McGuire pokes his gelled head in and summons his next batter. Me. As I stand, my head spins and I close my eyes to try to gather my thoughts that have escaped my crowded brain. Get it together, Jennifer! This is it. Just tell the truth. Wait; wait! What’s the truth again?

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Who Knows

Play this song as you read a page, that hasn’t found its spot, in my growing memoir.

Sometimes, I forget I have a brother. The same brother I’ve had for my entire 23 years, 8 months, and 2 days of life. How does this happen?

It’s been so easy.

Then, my phone will ring in his tone and an invisible fist takes a cheap shot to my stomach that slowly turns into heartburn acid and ends up as bubbles in my throat. Then inside my brain a circuit triggers a complete guilty feeling that I… again… have forgotten Chad.

I force myself to listen to this one song, “Who Knows” by Avril Lavigne, from the night of the accident. It was stuck in my head like The Andy Griffith Show whistle and was the one thing I clung on to for my sanity that night.

I try to make myself immune to it, to him, to the feelings, to the tears. First, I feel nauseas and then my cheeks turn pink. And finally, goose bumps rise off the top of my head, almost like I placed my hand on one of those static electricity balls at a science museum. I don’t get to the point of tears and heaving in the bathroom like the years right after Chad’s accident. I call this progress.

It’s kind of like getting over a dead relative or friend; you never really do, you just learn to adjust to a life without them. And then eventually, you forget.

 

– Start reading Concentrated Breathing now!

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One Step From Rock Bottom

Note: This is part four of my growing memoir entitled, “Concentrated Breathing”. If you’re a newbie to this, read Concentrated Breathing, Subconscious Resistance, and A Prison Hug first. If you’re a regular reader, here’s the next chapter.

One Step From Rock Bottom

(c) All Rights Reserved 2011

Halfway home I speak for the first time. “Chad’s beard looks dumb.” It’s nonsense talk and I know it. We silently want to talk about our impressions of prison and how we really think Chad is doing, but we don’t; neither one of us wants to darken the day anymore than the clouded sky has. Our hearts are heavy and so are my eyes, so as Mom tilts her head in halfway agreement, I lean back for a nap. A nap is the only thing that cures a ride home like this one.

I attempt to fall asleep to the country music channel Mom always plays once I’ve given up custody of the radio. She sings along half-volume. I try to think of a normal life. That normal life I used to have where the only thing Chad and I fought about was who got the TV remote Saturday morning or who’s friends got the downstairs basement on another night of nothing-to-do syndrome. Sometimes we mixed our friends up and we’d all hang out once we got to that appropriate age where we were both rebels without a cause. We shared some friends even though we were all five years apart in age. This was before the younger sibling passed him up in maturity and ditched the bad attitude.

My mind circles back to the most recent fight, well the most recent fight that wasn’t going on in my head, silently. It was seven months ago when he had the court date in three weeks. Another screaming, drunk panic attack that left him apologizing at 3 a.m. at the foot of my bed.  Something about “You don’t know what I’m going through!” and “I’m the one suffering and going to prison here!” and a bunch of curse words I frankly am too used to and tired of.

My mind goes back even farther to the middle of my junior year in high school, before this entire situation began, the last step before he hit rock bottom that June night. It was the first sign that Chad had a problem with alcohol. I sigh as my eyes shift focus into nothing but black air.

In the midst of a winter weather advisory, the house phone rings. It only rings twice before I awake to my mom’s frogged and panicked voice. My clock’s red numbers read 2:48. I roll over to check if my phone was turned off, it wasn’t. Why is Chad calling the house phone? I roll over assuming it’s just another one of his drunken calls… I’ll let Mom handle this one. I tune the one-sided argument out.

The light flips on outside my room. I sigh, infuriated with this tradition. “What is it this time?” I groan, pissed off but curious, squinting through the heavenly-lighted hallway. I stretch my eyes open to stare diagonally into my mom’s bedroom where I notice she’s still on the phone. Her nightgown is wrinkled, her shoulder-length brown hair is matted from her pillow, and a blue tissue is clenched in her fist. “He’s lost,” she says to me covering the phone with her hand. There it is. The reason he didn’t call me. I wouldn’t put up with this. I’d leave him high and dry. She’s babying him. Just what he wants.

His belligerent remarks reach my ears and I lose it. “Mom, just hang up.” My voice is stern, making my lips a straight line as my teeth grind into each other. This is why I handle it, all of it. I hate it when my mom cries. Her tears fall and I approach to take charge. My mom is an over-the-top mom, always going the extra mile for her kids. She just can’t put her foot down and is overly obsessed with sugarcoating reality. Surprisingly, this time she speaks clearly… and rationally. She mirrors exactly what I would say. Maybe I’m rubbing off on her, or maybe I never give her enough credit.

“Chad, I can’t come look for you in the middle of the night. It’s dark out. You don’t even know where you are. It’d be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” she says, bucking up but silently breaking inside. I hear Chad rebut with “I’m on a gravel road, just come find me!” Ha, wow. Really, Chad? There are a million gravel roads in rural Iowa. Mom hangs up the phone then pushes “Talk” again so the monotone duuuhhhhh… fills the thick, silent air. Good move. He would have just called back.

I stare at her narrow, bloodshot eyes for some answers. “He ran out of gas on a gravel road west of Carroll somewhere. He says he’s cold and there’s nothing around him – no farmhouses or barns – and he’s by himself. I’m not going to look for him at three in the morning. He’s drunk… he’ll just have to wait it out until the sun comes up.” Her voice is forced, it doesn’t rise and set like usual. She’s worn out. I want to hug her or take away the guilt she feels for not being able to save Chad. But I don’t really think my hugs help anymore. I go back to bed.

Mom hangs up the phone again because the robotic woman keeps repeating “Please hang up and try your call again.” This makes it ring every thirty minutes with the same drunken brother on the other end. “I’m so cold… I’m shivering… I’m gonna die out here… This is your fault.” None of this is anyone’s fault but his. And, I know, as I lay there pretending to sleep, those sniffs coming from my mom’s room aren’t because she has a cold.

The sun peeks through the opening in my flowered curtains in my bedroom. As promised, Mom and I take off in search of Chad. Overnight, he miraculously noticed a farmhouse just a few yards away and asked the elderly farmer’s wife for her address. Red-cheeked with embarrassment, my mom and I drive thirty minutes east – the opposite direction of where Chad thinks he is – to a white farmhouse in Jefferson. My mother apologizes and thanks the woman for letting her drunkard son warm up in her house. I wouldn’t have answered the door if I were her. He’s lucky, but ungrateful.

I drive Mom’s car back after filling Chad’s up with the three gallons of gas we brought with us in a red funneled jug. He sits shotgun and embalms the car with a stench of hard liquor… again. He should invent new cologne; obviously, he likes to wear it a lot. I want to hit him… and hit him hard. He’s going to kill himself or someone else eventually. All because of a habit he can’t kick, a stench he can’t wash out, and a boy who won’t grow up. This is my brother.


I awake as the car slows and the clicking of the rhythmic turning signal repeats in the dead silence. Mom’s country music is off now. We’re home and I reach for the lever on the side of the seat to erect myself to face the partly sunny sky and the opened garage door we’re pulling into. I breathe a little easier when Mom offers, “Want to order out tonight?” with a smile on her face.

KEEP READING: Testify the Truth chapter

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A prison hug

Note: This is a continuation of my memoir. I’m not sure when I’ll cut off postings and keep it personal until the someday publication. Maybe I’ll self-publish if all else fails? Who knows! If you’re just jumping in on my memoir titled, “Concentrated Breathing” read these first: “Concentrated Breathing” and then “Subconscious Resistance.”  This continues right after Subconscious Resistance.

(c) All Rights Reserved 2010

By Jennifer Dryden

A bulletproof, white-painted metal door clicks loudly and jerks to the right as it slides open, allowing my mom and I to step through into the search and seize area. The area isn’t much bigger than my room at home – ten by ten or so – and it echoes, unlike my carpeted room.

“Shoes off and everything out of your pockets,” a gruff woman in a green IMCC uniform instructs with a deep voice. If there were a conveyor belt with tubs to place our valuables I would almost assume this was an airport. The two women who enter with us are probably there to see their loved one, already have their shoes off. Must have been here before. I slip my Pumas off and dig in my pockets, retrieving only my driver’s license. I hold it tightly in my hand until she points at me and says, “Next.”

I step toward her with hesitant steps and my shaky hand gives the officer my ID. “Is that all?” she asks in that same deep voice, except this time it’s much louder and right next to my ear. “Yes, that’s it.” I say in return, a little too quiet. I don’t think my voice could get this low, but I’ve never been as ashamed as right now. “Spread out your legs and arms,” she bulls my way as she slips on a clean, green pair of rubber gloves.

As the officer feels each arm and leg, my sleeves and pant legs ripple, reacting to the grip of the gloves. I can smell the latex and automatically remember the chalky feel after peeling off the cursed rubber gloves. I shiver. No need to be a teacher and drag your nails on a chalkboard, just wear rubber gloves and rub your fingers together afterward; it gives you the same effect. A finger pointing to my Pumas on the speckled, tile floor replaces my unrelated thought. “OK, you’re clear.” I breathe in another shaky breath as my mom’s socked feet step into my warmed, invisible footprints on the floor. Her arms and legs reflect a mirror image of mine.

I slip my Pumas back on without untying and retying them again. They fit loosely and I could care less if they look perfect. Who’s going to judge me here? No one. The other two women are standing side-by-side by the next bulletproof, white-painted metal door and I assume that’s the way to the visiting room. The one woman is wearing black sweatpants and a Winnie the Pooh-face sweatshirt; she looks to be in her late forty’s. Her shirt is stained around Pooh’s left ear and in my mind only I gag. She has wrinkles around her mouth, replacing her probably-once special dimples with smoker winkles. She let’s out a croupy cough and my assumption is confirmed. The other woman, a little older than my age of nineteen, is wearing torn jeans – and not because they are in style – and a black too-tight top that barely clears her waistband. Her hair is stained black from an inch above her ears down to her shoulders; her roots are blonde. Gross. These are the people who know the routine of a prison security and soon, I’ll be just like them: shoes off, arms out, legs apart. I won’t be like them. I won’t. I declare this goal in my mind and secretly hate my brother even more.

My mom is standing by my side now with her shoes on. She always unties and ties them again; that’s how she takes care of them. I guess I’m just a college kid who doesn’t care about her shoes. Or maybe it’s just a mom thing. I half-smile at my mom as we look at each other. She raises her eyebrows as if to say, “Welp, here we go!” The door clicks again and the same echo stings my ears as our cemented feet become antsy footsteps, advancing towards door number three.

This time the door is already ajar and we step right through it, letting the others go first. It’s called manners and my mom and I have some. She raised us right – Chad and I. This hallway can only fit two people comfortably side-by-side. There’s fogged windows to my right and a brown and gray painted brick wall to my left. I look up and there’s piping and vents all painted the same brown-gray as if the purpose was to blend in, for everything to blend in. I notice because the environment threatens me. I notice because I’ve never been to a prison before. I notice because this is where my brother lives.

My attention turns to the door leading into the visiting room and my heart sinks, my eyes well, and I stop. Our eyes meet and I don’t breathe. He sees me here. I want to close my eyes and be alone for a minute, compose myself, catch my cool. My mom’s three steps ahead of me, probably assuming I’m right behind her like I have been for the past two hallways. But I’m not. My mom’s hand raises and waves at the scruffy and bloated man standing behind the bulletproof wire window. I see her ears raise slightly and I know she’s smiling now. Her heart probably aches like mine, but I bet she’s just relieved to see her son after so long. One more breath, Jennifer.

I inhale one more breath and resume walking, picking up the pace to catch up to the now-open door held by the gruff-voiced officer. “Thank you,” I barely, but surely, project to her and shoot her a half smile in appreciation. I enter the last and final door to come face-to-face with Chad. My brother. My brother who’s in prison. My brother who has gained weight. My brother who has grown a beard? Gross, a beard? Really? Note to self: tell him it looks dumb.

My mom envelopes him in a long and, from what his red face tells me, a tight hug. I’m next. I stand waiting patiently, staring at my brother’s crunched face on my mother’s shoulder. My blank face creeps a big smile when Chad releases from Mom and opens his arms to me. “Hey, Bud!” Chad says, tailing the greeting up an octave. I open my arms freely and enter into his chest where I cried so hard three months ago in the courthouse. My head hits his chest and I break. I cry because I don’t know what else to do. He looks at me and repeats our conversation from last night, “You have to be my ears and eyes, Bud.” The officer reaches for Chad’s hand still wrapped around me and we lock eyes. “I love you, Bud,” he says before we release. “I love you, too.” I snap back to reality as he releases me back into the prison visiting room. I look around to stable my thoughts.

There are knee-high square wooden tables scattered in five rows from where the white tile ends and the thin blue-gray carpet begins. We step onto the carpet from our stance in front of the on-duty officer’s desk. “We’re at thirteen,” Chad states, naming the table number. “I picked this one because it was closer to the vending machines and more private.” “Private” is a joke because no matter which table you are sitting at, each person is about a foot away from the other. A foot away from pedophiles; a foot away from former drug dealers; a foot away from life-sentencing criminals; a foot away from a bipolar maniac who could lose it at any moment. I try to shake the claustrophobic nausea I’m feeling and focus on Chad.

As Chad sits, he motions with his hand for us to sit down too. My eyes linger to the yellow chair in front of me. It’s just like the ones I had in fourth grade. Four black metal legs and a yellow wooden seat and backrest. I hope these are cleaned regularly. Doubtful. I sit down and declare I don’t care anymore.

There are vending machines – some candy, some soda. There are a few other tables taken in the visiting room and Mom mentions the scarce population. “There are not a lot of people here.” Her voice is extra peppy, trying to lift the clouds of this situation. “I hear it gets crowded on Saturdays,” Chad responds without a clue. We are his first visitors. I sit silent, hands together in my lap, listening and watching. “So, how are ya?” Mom says again high-pitched and alert. “Well, it’s prison. I’m great!” Chad says sarcastically with an eye roll. “I don’t belong here…” I tune out once I figure this will last awhile. The gloom and doom life of Chad Dryden. It must be rough making bad decisions and paying for the consequences. My zero sympathy for him makes my own eyes roll.

My ears tune back in when I hear my name. “So, Jennifer, what’s new?” Chad says with a sigh, shifting his body my way. Both of their eyes are on me and I know I have to say something so I just say, “Not much, just going to school like before.”

“Oh yeah?” he responds. “How’s that going?” Another question?

“It’s going well, Ty and I have a class together: Marriage and Family.” I give a little laugh. “It’s sort of funny.”

“You going to marry this guy?” Chad asks seriously, but at the same time joking.

“Oh, you know it!” I joke, but honestly holding no clue. We all three laugh and it feels nice. The air thins a bit. I’m tempted to mention his dumb beard, but I hold back and let him guide the conversations. I’ll write it to him in a letter.

The topics change from family to how the cats are doing to politics to prison life. It comes full circle back to family as we stand to leave after two hours. Two hours is the time limit on visits with a newbie. Because Chad has only been in here for a few months, the hourly visit is at its minimum. I guess eventually we’ll get five-hour visits. What would we ever talk about for five hours? I silently dread those five-hour visits already.

My mom embraces in a good-bye hug, or as she likes to call it, a “see-you-later hug” and I, again, stand behind her waiting my turn. This time I am in tune with reality and notice how tall my brother is compared to our mom. I laugh to myself and a smile bridges my face revealing my inner thoughts of hilarity. I remember Mom’s last doctor check-up. “Here, I thought I was always five feet, four inches tall, and he said I was five feet, three. I told him to measure again.” Oh Mom. Then as they release, I step up and take my turn with hugs, I notice how I’m almost taller than him, if not taller than him by a couple centimeters. He thought I’d always be shorter than him. Ha! He gives me a really tight squeeze and then releases, changing his grip to my upper arms. “I love you, Bud. Thanks for coming! I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too, Bro. Love you, too.” I say, meaning it, but slightly lying. I’ll always love you, but right now, I don’t miss you. The door buzzes and Mom and I exit, only looking back once, noticing Chad’s already gone.

To continue reading, the next chapter is “One  Step From Rock Bottom“.


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Sibling Childhood Flashbacks

Note: These are bits and pieces of my growing memoir about my relationship with my brother, Chad. I hope you’re dying to read more! It’s slowly trudging along and someday hope to publish it.

© Jennifer Dryden 2010

Somewhere stuffed inside a photo album is a four-by-six photograph of a two-year-old girl in a duck t-shirt. Her fist is up to her mouth with her blistered thumb tucked inside, tongue clicking every second. She’s sitting atop her father’s outstretched legs on the beach in Florida, next to her glowing mother, and smug big brother, Chad, in his red and navy zigzag swim trunks. Chad, seven, is looking to his left at the little pig-tailed toddler – eyes wide with pride.

After the photo is snapped Chad takes that little girl’s hand and they trudge down the beach, the inner tubes around their bellies bumping together like bumper cars. Her steps are unsteady but Chad looks ahead strategically leading her around big rocks and scratchy broken shells so her delicate feet won’t bleed. He’s her silent bodysuit of bubble wrap. He’s in full “big brother mode.” She stumbles to a fall – going too fast – but before she can let out a yelp, Chad crouches down, meeting her eyes.

“Areyouokay, Jennifer?” he asks with rushed words.

Her… my two-year-old teary self connects eyes with Chad, searching for comfort. His eyes calm me. My puckered bottom lip flips into a smile and stretches out to my dimples. He smiles back. With his hands leading, I climb to my feet once again. My thumb reinserts itself. We walk slower.

————

I’m slinked up against the wall with my hands together and pointer fingers out, waiting. The air is silent. The rain pats at the window as if it wants in. My six-year-old self has wide eyes that pan the room for the robber. OK I’m going to count to five and enter the kitchen. I know he’s in the kitchen. One… two… three… four… Flop. Chad rolls shoulder first out of our old-western-era swinging doors and onto the carpet. He climbs to one knee, his fingers together, pointing at me. I lower my gun from the air to match his height; he lowers his to the floor in defeat.

“I’ve got you now,” I deepen my voice to sound tough. “What do you have to say for yourself, robber?” Chad opens his mouth to speak but I cut him off – “bang.” He slumps in a heap on the floor, dead. As I blow out the smoke coming from my finger gun, Chad, eleven, stands and smiles at me. “Good job, Bud,” he says, declaring his fake death, my victory.

————-

The sun peeks through my flowered curtain panels placing stripes of morning on my daybed. Rubbing my eyes, I realize it’s Christmas. My clock says it’s 6:30 and I’m not positive Santa has left yet. My stomach knots in sudden fear of no presents. Pre-teen Chad is still sleeping in the room at the end of the hallway and to get there it’d take fourteen of my seven-year-old footsteps – on my tippy-toes, of course, just in case Santa was still downstairs.

I crack Chad’s door open, tiptoe another three steps before climbing aboard his huge bed. His curtains don’t stripe sun like mine because they are dark blue with ships and sailboats. The sun resists dark colors. He lay there still, asleep. “Chad… psst… Chad…” Shake shake… “Wake up.” Chad turns over to find me sitting on my knees, arms crossed with my Simba stuffed lion in tow. “Can I sleep in here until Mom and Dad wake up?”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” he mumbles. No questions are asked. He knows why I’m in here nervous… I’ve done this every year I’ve been out of a crib. He’s my bodyguard from monsters and that includes Santa Claus, even if he did bring me a kitchen set last year.

Read the other, more solid parts: Concentrated Breathing and Subconscious Resistance.

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Subconscious Resistance

By Jennifer M. Dryden (c) March 2010

Note: This is the second part to “Concentrated Breathing,” a non-fiction piece that is posted a few posts down. Click here to read the first part: http://wp.me/pEbtR-M This is a chapter… where it falls within the book I’m writing, I don’t know yet. Please realize this doesn’t follow right after Concentrated Breathing, but does rest within the pages of my growing memoir.

My tear-stricken mother locks eyes with me on her third attempt to make me look at her. “He’s your brother!” she pushes the words out of her mouth with guilt laced through as if she took acting lessons from a soap opera actress. Her hands grip at her hips, grinding into her bones; that always symbolizes she means business. If my mother could even mean business. My dry eyes stare into her moist ones, emotionless and empty just like she accuses my heart of being toward Chad.

“I’m not going,” I say matter of factly, diverting my eyes to my cell phone. I text my boyfriend, Ty, and tell him I’m coming over.

“You haven’t seen him in six months. It’s time to go. He misses you.” She unzips her coat as if she’s making this conversation last until I cave. I won’t cave. “Would it kill you to fake it?” I laugh under my breath. Whatever.

“I’m not going,” I push from my gut this time, repeating my answer one final time before turning my back and mumbling, “Drive careful.” I notice my mom wipes her cheeks with a blue tissue, the ones from the upstairs bathroom, and I hear keys jingle in her hands as she retrieves them from the side pocket of her purse.

“I’ll call you when I get there,” her voice is sullen now, no power left to talk me into a three hour drive to an overly chilled, blindly white-painted cement block visiting room, where I sit for four hours on yellow metal chairs around a two-foot by three-foot knee-high table, talking about sugarcoated reality and how the cats are doing. It’s just old and fake and no, I’m not going to be fake with Chad. He’s the last person on Earth that deserves a false reality. He’s in prison for a reason. “I just don’t understand why you won’t go see your own brother, Jennifer.” She’s back to this question again? Are you kidding me, Mom? He’s in prison. I want to say this but I don’t. She knows my answer and the only reason she asks again is so I “think about it” and hopefully “come to my senses.” I don’t want to start her tears again and frankly, I just want to be alone. I kiss her cheek to get her out the door faster. I retreat to my room where I gather my things for Ty’s.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m full-speed-ahead to anther day with the Heuton’s – the normal family I depend on way too much. Ty’s family has a married Mom and Dad, a spoiled shihtzu named Kali, and two sons, Ty and Nathan. Nathan is just a year younger than me. Ty is a year older than me and I prefer it that way. Ty and I have been dating since April 6, 2005 and so that makes it two years and a few days. He remembers Chad’s sentencing day but only by my story version because my family thought it “should only be a family thing,” so Ty couldn’t come October twelfth.

The usual three and a half songs play over my Panasonic car stereo until I park my black 1993 Eagle Vision by the mailbox of my second home. I grab my purse, slam my driver’s door and walk up the driveway. I step back and glance at the house’s perfection – white with tan trim and maroon accents, ranch style with a basement for only Ty’s and my eyes. I step onto their front porch, which spans the length of the house’s front and open the door without knocking. The door’s squeak triggers Kali’s tapping against the hard wood floor. The grey and white shihtzu turns the corner to stare at the front door intruder. The first two months, she would run and bark at my heels, sometimes even jump up to my knees, but now she stops at the kitchen, turns and trots back to the den, where the Heuton’s traditionally sit watching television – Tuesday through Thursday it’s American Idol. Ty meets me halfway in the kitchen and embraces me with his long arms; the same arms that keep me stable. They embody my confidence.

“Hey you,” he says, kissing me before playfully pushing me away. I smile half a smile back. “What’s wrong, Jenn?” His face wrinkles and eyes lower as he looks at me inquisitively with concern.

“Mom’s just trying to get me to go see Chad again…” I say, trailing off into an eye roll.

“Oh, well why didn’t ya go with her?”

“Ty, seriously?” I say through tense teeth. “You know I can’t go there… not yet.” Definitely not ready. I just calmed down from the last visit. He nods and gently leads me into the den.

***

I sit passenger seat in Mom’s red four-door Grand Pre as we track our way through Google map’s directions to our final destination of Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale, Iowa. We take exit 240 on I-80 east and turn left on Coral Ridge Road heading north. “It says to go about a mile on this road and we should see it on the left side.” I point my finger to my brother’s new home on the magnified map we printed out. “Mom, my stomach hurts.” My eyes stay glued to the map but my heart races and my stomach lurches forward as we stop at the final stoplight.

Mom looks over at me with sympathetic eyes. “It’s okay to be nervous, hunny.”

“It’s just so weird. I mean Chad’s in prison… isn’t it weird to you?”

“Yeah,” she says, nodding her head. “It is.”

“I don’t want to go in.” My fast food breakfast inches upward and I cough, tasting the syrup from my hot cakes and sausage. I take a drink of my McDonald’s orange soda, which is watered down from our three-hour drive from Carroll, to try and calm my butterflies. “I’m scared.” This confession seeps from my buttoned mouth as I try to be as much of a grown up as a freshman in college can be. I shouldn’t have said that… it’ll just make Mom more nervous. Breathe. Calm down.

“The paperwork we filled out was approved so we shouldn’t have any problems getting through security,” she says referring to our three-page visitor’s form we penned in after Chad’s first letter explaining he was okay and where the state had placed him. “We’ll just see how today goes.”

We turn left into the parking lot of a sectioned series of three-story buildings – some parts are brick but most are gray with concrete. There are two sets of barbed wire fencing about two-sizes of my five foot-seven height but with the added loops of barbed-wire wrapping the tops of the double-Jennifer fence, it stands about two-and-a-half of my heights. A flagpole marks the entryway to the prison and the American flag and State of Iowa flag whip in the wind, banging against the metal pole like it means to hurt it. The sounds remind me of a windy day on the playground at school. Two places to find flagpoles: schools and prisons.

“Just bring your ID. Leave everything else in the car. Here, give me your purse, I’ll put it in the trunk with mine,” my mom instructs, probably comprehending the IMCC’s rules for visitors sheet we received with our approval letters. I do what I am told. Standing in silence outside the car, I glance over my brother’s new home. Prison. Wow. Never thought I’d be going to see my brother here. I let myself feel sad for a second before Mom steps to my right and motions toward the flagpole and the door into the prison lobby. One more refreshing deep breath and we enter the double doors, meeting four rows of plastic blue chairs.

The plastic blue chairs introduce us with other visitors like us, but they’re not like us really. We don’t belong here. Chad doesn’t belong here. I’m embarrassed. I shake my head to myself and try to accept reality. I won’t sugarcoat reality. I won’t turn into Mom. Believe what you see; it’s life. I suck it up and place my ID, which has left two lines engraved in my palm from my tight grip on it, into the box along side my mother’s. A chesty male voice echoes out of a speaker into my right ear as the guard behind the tinted glass speaks, “Who are you here to see?”

“Chad Dry-den,” my mom answers too loudly, saying our last name in two chunks so the guard understands. I look around to see if anyone was watching us but the four strangers scattered on random blue plastic chairs don’t move. My cheeks go pink as my sweating intertwined fingers tighten around each other. We don’t belong here.

“Sign in on the yellow sheet and take a seat. We’ll call you when he’s ready,” the guard speaks at us. When he’s ready? What does that mean? My mom nods and we enter the first row of blue plastics and sit side-by-side. I cross my legs lady-like and place my hands together in my lap. My mom sits with her legs together, hands just like mine. I read the shiny black plaques on the cement wall to my right. One has a dead police dog named Beck on it, awarding him eleven years of service with the police department. Below it there’s a plaque of the current police dog with “2006 –” on it. Just waiting for that dog to die too, or what? There are other plaques lining the wall including some officers’ names and awards for various sections of the force but twenty minutes later, my eyes snap back to the tinted window when the same loud voice echoes, “Dryden, you may go in.”

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Concentrated Breathing

By Jennifer M. Dryden (c) 2009

The back room of our long upstairs hallway is Chad’s room – my older brother by five years. It’s not set up like a typical bedroom though, right now his queen-sized bed is on its side and draped with a tarp, his wide-screen HD television is covered with our parent’s old flowered bed sheets, and cardboard boxes are stacked as high as my waist and as far back to reach the window leaving only walking room between the boxes and the heater vents. The air is just as crowded, but is silent. It’s our last day as a family for a while.

Chad and I sit on the king and queen wicker chairs like we have so many times before growing up – sometimes the chairs were elevators while playing hotel, other times they were cars driving someplace in the living room during my pretend trips – but this time they are just chairs.

“Bud, you have to be my ears and eyes,” Chad says as he strains to make eye contact with me. I won’t look at him but I listen. He continues, “You have to tell me what’s really going on, always. Don’t let Mom sugarcoat things. Look after Dad, too. Take care of them, Jennifer. I’m counting on you.”

My eyes search the room for something else to talk about but everything points to this discussion. There is no escape, so I reply with, “Don’t worry, Bro. I got them.”

***

Go to your happy place.

I sit holding my mother’s clammy hand in a dark wooden courtroom. It feels like I’m sitting in a scene for Law and Order, with the same intimidating robed judge thumbing through papers. It’s the morning of October 12, 2006 – I don’t know what time it is though because my phone’s turned off. The sun is just reaching the third floor windows, making me squint, so I assume it’s around eleven. I don’t dare ask my mom for the time; she’s probably counting the minutes left with Chad. It’s sentencing day; the day we’ve been expecting but happily ignoring for more than two years.

I sit in silence, not moving a muscle, afraid one twitch of my arm may throw my mom over the edge – make her lose her cool. I hate seeing my mom cry so I bare the itch on my nose. I know the tears will inevitably fall once Chad’s handcuffed and taken away. For now, I concentrate on my breathing. In…out…in…out…in…

My dad sits behind us with his long-term, pretty-much-married girlfriend and pats my shoulder. It messes up my breathing and I turn my head risking my mother’s sanity. I secretly blame him and he openly blames my mother for today. Chad and I would both be different if he was around. We take advantage of our mom too much; we get away with a lot. I bet Chad wouldn’t be as irresponsible if Dad was around putting his foot down. I bet he wouldn’t drink as much or even have a reason to drink if our dad was around either. That’s beside the point though. It’s over and done with. In the end it’s Chad’s fault for driving drunk. Period.

***

My mother enters through the adjoining hotel room door gripping the frame for stability. “We have to leave… now,” she blurts. My slumber is broken and my eyes peek open as she flips the light switch. Am I dreaming?

“Why? What’s going…?” I ask throwing my feet over the edge of the bed and putting my glasses on. My eyes squint; I try to adjust to the light that has just invaded my black room.

“Chad’s been in an accident. That was Jeremy on the phone… they’re being taken to Marshalltown Hospital. What do I do?” she asks me, her 16-year-old daughter, as if I have the answer. Jeremy is my brother’s friend he brought along to our cousin’s wedding. The reception ended not even an hour ago. I rise on my bare feet as she looks around for her purse in search of her cell phone. She’s disoriented. Maybe I’m not dreaming.

“Mom, calm down. Call Uncle Rick,” I order, handing her the hotel phone. She dials his room just one floor down. I gather her purse and mine, slip flip-flops on and we’re gone. My eyes are wide but glazed. It’s not until we are speeding 70 miles per hour in a 35 zone that I realize this is bad. My head jerks up and my chin hits my chest as the first hill smacks us into the pavement. No, I’m definitely awake.

Uncle Rick steers the plum van aggressively making the landscape blur as we whiz by. I sit gripping the “oh shit” bar in the far back, no seatbelt on. He misses small hills completely leaving us airborne until we greet the ground nose first. I decide to buckle up. I pray out loud for my irritating but only brother to be all right and the whole van fills the silent holes with their own pleas to God. The only one who feels half my worry is my sobbing mom, sitting shotgun.

***

Her sobs from that night echo in my ears as Chad enters the courtroom in the hands of a uniformed cop. This reality slaps something inside me, making me tense up. My mom feels my body jerk and she turns to nod at me as if to say, “It’s OK.” Chad’s dressed in his lime-green button-up, a matching lime and green-striped tie, gray slacks, black shoes. ­I struggle to think of him dressed in anything else. He’s always been a little preppy with his wardrobe; he matches everything. What will he look like in orange? I wince.

Chad passes and sits with his suited lawyer in front of us. A waist-high fence separates us. The judge gives Chad an incriminating look. I immediately hate him. I want to yell something just so he’d look away from Chad’s already guilty eyes. No jury was called but in two of its seats sit one of the victims, now recovered from his injuries, with his English interpreter.

I eye the stranger as he sits; he’s meeting eyes with his enemy – my brother – for the first time. My dad leans up to inform me of the guy – he’s surprised one of the two living victims came. “We were hoping no one would be here,” Mom said in a hushed tone. Chad turns around and my mom leaps up as if something had launched her from her chair.

“He came,” Chad whispers to us. “I didn’t think he’d come.” His shadowed eyes never meet ours – too much on his mind.

Chad’s eyes narrow, but stay glued to the wooden floor for a good minute. He’s lost in thought; his lawyer nudges him; Chad blinks. Something’s different. Maybe this is the turning point. He finally feels bad about what he did. It’s about time.

***

The ER drop-off spot is empty. The nurse says the medics are “working on site” so we take a seat in the waiting area but Mom doesn’t sit. She’s pacing by the automatic door, making it stay open. The dewy smell of early morning lingers in the entryway. I lean forward so my head can rest on my hands. Aunt Carol, who just walked in, rubs my back but I cringe at her fingertips. I don’t want to be touched. I stand and join my mom. No one understands our pain right now not even us – we’re numb. We need to stick together.

I hum an Avril Lavigne song – “Who Knows” – while the chorus repeats in my head pacifying my nerves. Who knows what could happen. Do what you do just keep on laughing. One thing’s true there’s always a brand new daaaay. I know I’m ruining one of my favorite songs. I’ll feel this nausea and pain whenever it plays, remembering one of my worst days. I’ll gamble that though – right now I need to breathe.

The red and blue lights we have been anticipating reflect off my glasses and my eyes shoot up to see the ambulance drive in. My mom’s crying in my uncle’s arms and my aunt and I walk outside as they pull my brother out on a stretcher. He’s not moving. Oh my God, he’s dead. We shout a hopeful “We’re here, Chad!” twice, hoping he moves in response. He doesn’t.

My mom and I enter the emergency room filled with doctors and nurses making my blood phobia reach its peak. I shrug off the nausea; I’ve felt like throwing up for the last hour now anyway. I walk past the curtain too soon – I didn’t prepare myself – and see my brother strapped down on the stretcher screaming for morphine. He’s alive. Thank you, God! My first tear of the night falls as I skim his body. His fingers are the first things I notice; all ten are there, but blood seeps out darkening his already maroon button-up and his tan suit cuff. Blood never washes out. That thought erases from my mind quickly as I move my eyes to his chest; his new tan suit and maroon button-up are cut up the center, revealing his bare chest already forming purple blotches of bruise. His chest pounds up and down every half-second and his screams of agony make my ears ring. My head spins and eyes roll back as I try to grip his bed rail. I’m going to pass out.

“Give me some fucking morphine!” he yells in a pain I pray I’ll never know. “Ahhhh, Ma! It hurts!” I tense at the volume and quickly snap back to reality. I notice his right leg is completely laying on its side… wait, his knee is straight but his ankle and foot are resting horizontally. It has to be broken.

They finally release Chad’s head from the brace and he jerks his head up to meet my eyes. The whole world stops for a second… I don’t breathe. He sees me here. I close my eyes, making it a bad dream. Bad dream, bad dream. I open them again. He copies my gesture; his eyes pinch close leaving his slits wrinkled. After holding his breath for five seconds, they flip open and bulge with desperation for relief.

Morphine is injected; Chad calms down. He drifts in and out of consciousness. His eyes are open and jumbled-gibberish spits out of his mouth as well as random ticks as the doctors attempt to reset his foot. I walk out just as he yelps. My stomach turns.

***

Remorse is something Chad should have felt right after he found out he was charged with vehicular homicide – one death and two serious injury counts. From the time the accident happened to the two-year gap of surgeries, random police arrests, trials, and false court dates, Chad hadn’t changed his ways – still drinking, still disrespectful, still expecting to be served on a silver platter.

He walked into the courtroom a scared but still cocky boy, but as he rises to make his remarks to the judge, he instantly matures while turning his attention to the present victim. As he clears his throat – now caught with tears – to begin his apology, his voice cracks to resemble a pubescent teenage boy’s. The moment he cries, there’s nothing holding my mom, dad, and me back from doing the same. I finally get my hand back from Mom as she reaches for one of the zillion travel tissues we packed. I hate crying. Crying shows weakness and I am anything but weak.

“I know I can’t bring your friend back and I know I can’t take back your injuries and memories, but please believe me when I say I’m truly sorry,” Chad barely projects toward the two seats in the jury stand, his tears now unstoppable. “I made the dumbest decision that night and I’m so sorry for your hurt. I’m really, very sorry…” His hands are intertwined together shaking like a patient of Parkinson’s, his eyes leak tears probably blurring his unbroken stare with one of his three victims. The victim talks with his interpreter, while she repeats Chad’s words in Vietnamese. The victim lowly smiles and nods in understanding.

Chad nods back before turning counterclockwise to the judge. Chad sits.

***

The family in the waiting room has grown by five and a policeman is standing by the door. He looks just like every other officer in small-town Iowa working the late night shift – it’s 3:30 a.m. – tired… but this one’s nervous. Why? Uncle Rick is talking to him; I join, introduce myself as “the sister,” and ask what’s going on. Hopefully it’s just regular procedure.

Wrong.

“There’s been a fatality in the other vehicle.” My family gasps behind me and I turn to catch the women collapse into each other. Wait a second, slow down. OK, that means someone died. “There were three people in the vehicle, two were taken by ambulance.” OK, that means two people survived. One death plus two others equals three people involved. What does that mean for Chad? Is it his fault? What happened? “….head-on collision…crossed the centerline…” Head-on. Someone crossed the centerline? Who? The big question is who did it. Who screwed up? I catch bits of the officer’s sentences but some of it flies over my head.

The room discusses the next task; telling Mom. I’m the only one allowed into the emergency room, but I’m sixteen. I can handle it. Uncle Rick claims he’ll handle it but announces it’s going to take a family-wide effort. My aunts nod in sad approval. My head is still spinning and I have to pee again. Damn nerves. I enter the bathroom, sit, and sing quietly, “Who knows what could happen, do what you do just keep on laughing. One things true, there’s always a brand new daaay.” Breathe.

I wash my hands and peer at my blotchy face in the mirror. My nose wrinkles from the orangey hand soap… I hate oranges. I wipe my hands with the brown paper bag towels then swipe my face so the mascara lines only circle my eyes and not stain my cheeks. I reenter the waiting room. Mom’s weeping into Uncle Rick’s chest. Beat me to it, I guess.

Marshalltown, Iowa, is not big enough to continue Chad’s care so in the morning he’s ambulanced to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. Mom follows in her car, Grandpa behind the wheel. After blood tests, chest x-rays, brain scans, and interrogations from the police, Chad lays in a bed asleep with one concussion, multiple fractures in both feet, one shattered heel, one collapsed lung, and various cuts and bruises. I feel like I’m in a drive through window having a high school dropout repeat my order. Would you like anything else ma’am? Nope, that’s it. His injuries keep adding up; we added the collapsed lung overnight.

Chad’s morphine button dangles from one of the ten tubes somehow connected into him and although he pushes it over and over again, the morphine is controlled so he won’t overdose. He pushes it once more before cussing in frustration and throwing it down. The chest tube leaking pink fluid into a pouch makes me feel, from what Mom says, sympathy pains. It’s hard for me to breathe.

I’m sent back to the hotel to “get some rest.” I’m mentally exhausted but physically sick, ready to purge my empty stomach. I choke down a handful of Cheerios and sit on my cousin’s hotel bed hunched over. My eyes are red from crying; my hair is aggressively pulled back with bobby pins from the wedding last night; my Hello Kitty pajama pants are still on… so are my glasses. My tie-dye shirtsleeves are stained with wiped eyeliner and mascara marks from my tears. I reek of orange hospital hand soap. My eyes close and my head automatically spins so I force them back open. I hope no one saw that.

“You should get some sleep, Jennifer,” My family members say in five-minute intervals.

“I’ll be fine.” I sound like a broken record. I couldn’t sleep right now anyway. Closing my eyes makes me nauseous.

***

The gavel rams down throwing me back to the courtroom. My eyes widen and the echoes settle in my head as well as the courtroom as everyone – even the county attorney – listens for the verdict. “We find the defendant, Chad Stephen Dryden, guilty of vehicular homicide by driving while intoxicated and two counts of serious injury. He is hereby sentenced to 25 years in state prison with no minimum time and no bail. Please take him into custody.” No, not yet. Please don’t take him away yet. I want to scream or hand over my savings or tell them I’m at fault or ask for an appeal or give our lawyer secret key evidence to free my brother or… do something, anything. I turn to my dad in desperation. You can fix things, right? But when I turn around his face is blank, completely drained of emotion, his hands drooped gently at his sides in defeat. He has money; the one thing that always saved my brother before but it’s different now. Everything is different.

We’re given five minutes to say goodbye in a meeting room just outside the courtroom. There are chairs but no one sits. Who knows what could happen. Do what you do just keep on laughing. One things true there’s always a brand new daaaay. Breathe. This is it. My eyes are dry and my strong 19-year-old big girl face is on. I’m in college now; I can handle it. I’ll be fine. I’m standing next to my grandpa, who’s keeping my mother from collapsing in grief, by the door where the guards are standing… I want the last hug. It’s selfish maybe but he’s my brother, my only sibling, my suit of armor, my bodyguard from jerks, monsters, and Santa Claus, my number two fan – following my mom – and I want his last hug.

Four minutes and 30 seconds later he stands in front of me. I try to breathe; I try to smile in sympathy; I try to crack a lame joke. I try to wrap my arms around his slim 24-year-old body while holding my shorter version together. My head reaches his chest and I break. Sobs yelp from my mouth, tears darken his green button-up, and for thirty seconds I don’t let go. I don’t let go because I know the moment I do he’ll be gone. The second hand reaches the twelve and a guard reaches for Chad’s hand still wrapped around me.

Before he lets go he whispers strict instructions in my ear, which echo last night’s conversation. “You have to be my ears and eyes, Bud. Always tell me what’s really going on. I can’t be there so you have to be. Take care of Mom and Dad.” My head is still against his chest. “Hey,” he says lifting my chin for eye contact. “I love you, Bud.”

“Love you too, Bro. I got them, don’t worry.” One last squeeze and we release.

I concentrate on my breathing. In…out…in…out…in…

Chad and Jennifer on a family Caribbean cruise Thanksgiving week of 2003. This is what Chad was wearing during our cousin's wedding and what was cut off of him the night of the accident.

Chad and Jennifer at Jennifer's high school graduation reception May 2006. This is the outfit he wore through hearings, trials, and his final sentencing court date.

Chad, Jennifer, and our mom on a visit to IMCC in Coralville this past summer 2009. This is what Chad wears now - faded jeans, white Nikes, navy tee with a gray sweatshirt. He's going on his fourth year in state prison.

Read the second part of Concentrated Breathing here: http://wp.me/pEbtR-1l

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