Bless me, friends, for I have sinned. It's been eight months since I last put anything on my blog.
Much has happened. Much is still the same.
What's the same:
---I'm still a jail chaplain
---working in downtown Seattle
I still meet with men and women on the various floors who are somewhere along a timeline that will get them into court, to facetime with a judge and maybe a trial, to conviction or acquittal, to more time inside either at the jail or in prison, or else a ticket home.
I carry tissues and scratch paper and a pen. Sometimes I forget the keys to my office (a pox on women's clothing designers who can't manage to put pockets on basic jeans or slacks!).
I spend a lot of time waiting for elevators to take me where I need to go, and it's been four years since I've heard "You can't get there from here" when I ask for a floor. My first summer here, that was the constant refrain. Not all elevators go everywhere.
I ride the bus most days, but drive when I have to pick up boxes of bibles or greeting cards to bring into the jail. The back seat of my car is in permanent disarray. Any thief is deterred by the markings on the boxes. BIBLES FOR JAIL.
Conversations begun in elevators often start with, "Hey, you look familiar!" My standard response is, "How long since you were at Shelton?" That gets us to remembering that I used to work at the prison, no I don't go there anymore, and maybe a bit of updating on what's gone on in this man's life since we last crossed paths.
The stories are just as entertaining and heart-breaking as ever. The resilience and humor still shine.
So what changed?
The greatest change is that my mother died last November. She was 83 and lived with Alzheimer's for at least fifteen years, the last ten at a care facility nearby. Mom's story was very separate from this blog, but much of the reason I do the chaplain job is because of her influence. She was never one to be limited by anyone. She always encouraged me to look beyond the teacher-nurse-secretary tracks that were available in the 60s and 70s. Her snarky sense of humor is why, when my (male) guidance counselor told me in 9th grade that I should take typing so I could put my husband through college, I told him, "IF I take typing, I'll be putting myself through college."
Mom stopped talking several years ago, but before then, she wanted to hear stories about what happened on my job--much the same way I loved to hear her stories about working for California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, enforcing civil rights laws. People have asked if I miss talking to her or getting a hug. I do, but I had to let go of those things more than five years ago. What we could both enjoy, all the way to the end, was good chocolate.
We had a grand family gathering and a memorial service that was so fitting. The work of tying up loose ends has kept the siblings busy in the mean time and "Gas money!" has a whole new meaning for me. I miss her.
Yet, as Ted Kennedy said, "The work goes on." Back to stories, while I can still tell them, about the jail and the people I meet and the grace I find there.