Pack It Up

My brother said it would get harder before it gets easier, and I'm beginning to realize he was right.

Seven months ago, I thought that telling my parents I was being charged with possession of child pornography would be the hardest thing I'd ever done. Shortly thereafter, I pled guilty in front of a magistrate judge and began probation. By Christmas, my career had been destroyed.

Then I was sentenced to 12 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release.

Yesterday, I began the dreaded task of packing up my apartment, and that too has been painful. My brother told me I needn't bother to pack, and that he'd do it for me after I leave next week for prison. He was afraid I'd be left sitting in an empty apartment counting down the hours, but it's my responsibility, and I wouldn't wish the burden on my family.

I've been dividing my belongings into four piles: stuff to giveaway, sell, donate, and keep. The large pieces of furniture have been mostly sold including my sofa, chair, rugs, and coffee table. The dishes and cooking utensils will be going to my parents who will surely put them to good use. The only personal items I've kept for storage are all contained in two, moderate-sized plastic tubs. It's amazing and sad to see my entire life condensed down to two storage containers.

The only items I've kept are those that cannot be replaced: photos, Valentines cards, stuffed animals, small pieces of art, and some books. I've saved small gifts from each of my parents including a glass paperweight my mother gave me with a preserved scorpion inside and a letter my father wrote me my after I came out to him. It reads, "I'll always be proud of you, and I'll always love you no matter what." It's occurred to me that, being in his mid-sixties, my father may not be around by the time I'm released.

My older brother often messages me to say he loves me, to which I'll reply, "I'm fine, really. Try not to worry.

One night he replied back, "I know you'll be fine. I'm just sad about all the time we'll lose.

It's something I hadn't thought about. 10 years behind bars is about more than just serving one's debt to society. The real punishment is what I'll have missed in those 10 years: the family dinners, Christmases, Thanksgivings, and birthdays—10 years of not being someone's little brother or youngest son.