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My partner's father is incarcerated for first-degree murder.

For life, without the possibility of parole. Seeing as how he's in his 60's and not in the best of health, we expect that he'll die in there.

Now, this isn't a case of "getting screwed by the man" or an innocent man taking the fall for someone else. It's nothing so romantic than that. He is absolutely, positively guilty.

Don't think that he's a bad man, because he's not. He was a career military man and served several tours in Vietnam. Afterward, he worked as a correctional officer for several years. He wasn't always the greatest father, and was known to cheat on his wife, but he wasn't a bad man.

I'll say it again - he wasn't a bad man, he just had a bad day.

A hell of a bad day, but a bad day all the same. See, money was tight and he didn't know how to tell his wife that the bank was foreclosing on the house. So when the deputy sheriff came with the new owner to evict him from his home, he didn't handle it too well. In addition to trashing the house prior to their arrival, when the deputy knocked on the door, he answered it with a loaded gun. He then proceeded to fire that gun at the deputy and the owner, and succeeded in killing the owner.

After discharging the gun, he retreated into the house and shot himself in the head. The bullet went through his cheek and out his temple.

The man couldn't even kill himself successfully - sad, I know.

I should at this point note a couple of things:
1) He was drunk as a skunk when the police showed up to arrest him.
2) Although he surrendered himself without a fuss, he did claim that he had planted a bomb in the house. There was no bomb.
3) When at the police station awaiting interrogation, there is video tape showing him sitting in a room alone singing "I shot the sheriff, but I should have shot the deputy."

Now, although this all happened in early 2003, my partner didn't know about any of this until late 2003, as her mother didn't bother to tell her about it until then (they had been estranged). When we went to visit him, he was very clear that he had indeed done the deed. When we asked how it all came about, he simply said, as noted above, "I had a bad day."

A bad day indeed, but how many of us truly can say that we're not one bad day of our own away from being in the same place?

Now, I know many readers out there are saying "but I would never kill someone!"

Would you? Probably not. But have you ever had too much to drink? Have you ever done things you regretted while drunk? Have you ever (sober or not) been so angry you've said "I could kill them right now!" or other similar things?

I'd be willing to bet you have.

And maybe, just maybe, a confluence of these sorts of events will lead you to your own bad day. Maybe you won't kill someone. Maybe you'll just drink and drive. Maybe you'll just speed. But maybe you'll run a red light and hit a pedestrian.

Still deny that it could be you? Let's look at something else - how many of us are one or two paychecks away from complete and utter financial ruin? We all know we *should* be saving money, but how many of us do? We're *supposed* to have two years worth of money in savings "just in case." I don't know too many people that have *two months* set aside, let alone too years.

In reality, your security is illusory.

Your freedom is also illusory.

Indeed, your sense of control over your life is illusory.

You may think "I'll never be one of *them*" when you see a homeless person or an inmate. But you're deluding yourself.

The reality it is that you're *already* one of them. You just haven't had your one bad day yet.

I hope beyond hopes that I'll never have my one bad day. But I know I could have one.

And that's why I don't see inmates or homeless people as "the other." I look at them and I see us. Us with one bad day.

This has been a post for LJ Idol. If you liked it and want to vote, the link will be up later in the week.
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Kimberly Boyd-Bowman

May 2011

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