A family down the street is moving today. One of those huge commercial moving trucks is parked in front of their house, a ramp bowing and bending under the weight of loaded furniture and appliances. It made me think of all the times we moved when I was younger. I was born in Alaska, but months later we moved to Seattle. And then months later after that we moved to Dallas. When I was in the second grade we moved to Houston, and then back to Dallas when I was a sophomore in high school. And then there was the move to college, all the moves in Phoenix to different dorms and apartments, and then the move back to Dallas after graduation. Then came the move to Waco for Grad school, the move to our first place as a married couple and then the move to our house. The house we first brought our son home to. Looking back, it seems like my whole life I've been packing and unpacking boxes, looking up apartments, crunching budgets, transferring services, leaving a forwarding address.
But I had another moving day this week, one that I was expecting and dreading.
Cliff has been in the jail in town since November, and I'd gotten used to our arrangement. I saw him every Tuesday and I brought Gareth to see him on Saturdays - 40mn a week to talk and see one another and share our broken hearts and abiding love. We knew that he could be transferred to Huntsville at any moment, but we tried not to talk about it. Tried not to focus on the fact that when he was transferred that we would be limited to one visit a month - a 2 hour visit - but just one. Tried not to focus on the fact that we wouldn't be able to share long phone conversations anymore. Tried not to focus on the fact that the miles that separated us would be long and difficult.
Thursday, I got a letter in the mail from the Sherrif's office, notifying me that Cliff had been transferred and that I needed to go pick up his property.
Moving day had come and gone and no one had told me.
I went by the jail as soon as I could and waited while an officer collected Cliff's belongings. He came out with a big bag, jumbled with Cliff's stuff. Books and paper, what seemed like hundreds of letters and cards, pictures and Cliff's clothes, his rings, his shoes. The sum total of my husband's possessions was thrust into a large plastic bag and carried out to my car for me. When I got it all home I sat in the middle of his possessions and sorted, books from letters, papers from clothes. I touched everything he had touched, wishing that I could feel him instead of his absence, wishing that I had more of him than legal papers and uneaten candy bars.
I don't know where he is right now. I've called to Huntsville but he isn't in the system yet. I will try again this afternoon and every day until I find him - like a treasure hunt where the treasure stays locked away from you even when you discover it. I won't be able to visit him or talk to him for 30-90 days while he goes through processing. I will be able to write him and send him money for his commissary account, but I will have no contact until this system works him through and spits him out to his permanent facility. My husband has been taken from me and hidden within the inner workings of a beast that has no mercy, and all I can do is look for him and wait. I have no words to describe to you the powerlessness that has gripped me.
The moving truck down the street that reminds me I will be moving soon as well. Though I am being helped financially by many family members and friends, I cannot live in this house much longer. The mortgage is too much for my salary. Once again, I will have to pack boxes, look for apartments, crunch numbers, cancel services, and leave a forwarding address. And even though I have had my share of grief during other moves, the sadness of leaving behind family and friends, of fearful transitions and unsure future, this move is different. This grief is more violent, this sadness tinged with anger and frustration, this fear unshakeable and life-altering.
Moving day has come. Moving day is coming.
Lord Jesus Christ, Have Mercy. God, Have Mercy.