Tag Archives: inmate wife

The stories we tell

There are events in life which will never be easy to talk about, go through, relive, and ultimately there will be events in life, in everyone’s life, that you will never truly be able to “get over”. I believe our pains and our stories are on us, like birthmarks, some more visible to other people, some more zoomed in on for the world to see, to judge, to hate, to fear, and maybe to embrace.

People who don’t know me personally could assume that I am a horrible person just for being married to Jeremy. They could paint me, in their minds, as a sick person, a crazy person, an unbalanced person. How fucking dare I be married to Jeremy? People who don’t know Jeremy personally could state with absolute conviction, based on what they’ve read in the newspapers, that he is a terrible human being, the most terrible ever, until the next terrible human being comes along. In fact, to some people, he isn’t even human. How fucking dare he live? The outrage is indeed real. They could say that he is vile, unfeeling, remorseless, and all around a person that deserves to die in prison. They could say that and they have said that.

I write this blog to challenge the public opinion of a boy, then 18 years old, who in 1997 was caught up in a very real, very heartbreaking situation. Throughout the weekend, I drove around town with the windows down, my car flooded with hot desert air, listening to music loudly and I found involuntary emotional distress pooling in my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. Not just because the story is a sad one, not just because I love my husband fiercely and want to protect his character, but because I know that this event resulted in the loss of life of another human being. Not just the loss of life to prison, but the literal loss of life. It’s intense and my heart races now, even as I write this. I know that this is not my cross to bear, but being married to Jeremy means that I seek to lessen the weight that my life partner carries, even if just a little bit.

I came to know Jeremy initially through letters over 15 years ago, having no previous knowledge of what he was convicted of. I was a person reaching out to another person, who just happened to be living at a prison. My friendship and eventual relationship with Jeremy didn`t move fast. In fact, our communication was patchy, at best, during the beginning. When I finally read the articles about him online, through various news outlets, I was taken aback. This is not the person I had come to call my friend. I know, I know, people will say that EVERYONE says that about their inmate. For me, the person I was communicating with and the media coverage about him just did not add up. I’ve always found him to be very thoughtful, with a true passion for helping people, even in instances where I personally would not have. His even keeled temper and knack for being there for others was what made me want to know more, to get to know this person who was demonized by the media and the masses who wanted to point a finger and “hang ’em high”, no questions asked.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, some pains are just that, pains, that even if aren’t directly yours, crush the very fabric of your being, while simultaneously liberating, when they are shared. It’s a tough weight to carry, this human business, made more difficult by the ebb and flow of tragedy, growth, hatred, and forgiveness. My heart, as Jeremy’s wife, is in a constant sick flutter over the love we have built, but also knowing that the most amazing bond with another person that has happened in my life, came after the destruction of multiple lives in the crossfire of an awful event.

With all that being said, although I didn`t want to talk about this, I feel it bears mentioning because it is part of the journey. It’s the mucky part, the deep end, the rope burn. It’s part of life, the painful part. It’s the part you cannot look away from and it does not look away from you.

An article came out in a local newspaper this past weekend about the 20 year anniversary of the tragedy that landed my husband behind bars, without the possibility of parole, at the age of 18. Although it is a city specific paper, it is a media outlet that some people read and one of the journalists at the paper was assigned to do a piece on the case for the 20 year anniversary. I`m not used to any degree of infamy, so I get tense when I receive an email or a call from someone that mentions the Jeremy Strohmeyer from 20 years ago. My initial reaction is to hide, but after I’ve hidden, I start to realize that my hiding does nothing for anyone.

I’ve been contacted by the media before, once for a small documentary project about the prison in the town of Ely, NV, where Jeremy has been housed on and off during his incarceration. The other was for a show that airs on CNN, with award winning journalist Lisa Ling. Although I have been contacted twice before, I find the spotlight to be nerve-wracking and uncomfortable and even just talking to someone who may seek to focus on the negative, makes me uneasy. Speaking with the producer of the CNN show got me a little more familiar with how to navigate the waters of curious outsiders and although I ultimately turned down the offer to be included on the show, I have nothing but respect for the real life situations that they address and more importantly, how they address them.

My opinion on the piece by the Las Vegas Review Journal is a bit different from that of my opinion of the CNN show.  I get it, though. There can be nothing in this world without its opposition. There can be nothing good in this world without all the bad. There can be no left without the right. There can be no well, thoughtful telling of a horrible tragedy without the flip side of a story that is told in a sensationalized and biased fashion, where the main person in the story is a detective whose salvation in life is that someone will die in prison(as quoted at the end of the article).

To be fair, they did give my husband a small platform in the article, in which he was able to express himself in a manner that I have come to know over the last 15 + years. They allowed the antagonist in this story a small section to speak his peace, all while including his current, jovial inmate photo in the paper, which readers can react to with curiosity or disgust. They also included a snippet of one of my blog entries that I wrote last year, which again, people can react to in different ways. The detective’s interview (along with photos and video of him) made up the bulk of the article, though. The story was front page of the Sunday printed paper and on the home page of the Las Vegas Review Journal’s website. There were multiple posts on their Facebook page featuring the article and sideline article (about Dave Cash and the Good Samaritan Law), with attention grabbing sentences to get people to click and light their torches(bonfire time, y’all!)

The best I can do is to be cautiously helpful where I can be and to speak the truth about how I view the man I am married to today. The regurgitation of articles past has no effect on how I live my life and where I place my love in this world. I believe in the honoring of a memory and in allowing wounds to heal, though a healed wound doesn’t mean that it is free from pain. Every person has different scars. Every person hurts differently. Every person has a story. What is important is how we tell the world that story and how it is perceived.

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Sunday January 22nd, 2017

I’m not going to lie. I never imagined that being the wife of an inmate was going to be this hard. I used to watch shows about prison romances and I thought to myself “This is great! I get tons of time to myself and I get to be married to someone amazing who won’t steal the covers”. You see, before Jeremy I never wanted to marry. I didn’t. I told my mom I didn’t want to get married. I didn’t think it was in my cards to be with anyone for many reasons. Mostly because I thought I was too difficult, or too damaged, or too much. I needed someone who was everything I needed them to be without question and I knew I wasn’t going to find that, so I didn’t want anything.

Last night I was paging through this book I got on Palmistry(read: Palmistry. Not fortune telling, but an art that CAN tell about a person. Did I lose you? Am I nuts? I prefer open minded to life’s mysteries) and it explains that your non dominant hand(for me, my left) is the hand you look to see what was there at birth for you and your dominant hand is the hand of “now” and the path you’re on(there is a whole explanation of why, but you can read the book if you want to know). Anyway, my birth hand does not have a heart line. I compared my hands and just looked at them for a long time. No heart line. My “now” hand has a strong heart line and I believe wholeheartedly that it is because of Jeremy. We found each other by chance. By the chance of me being some strange teenage girl who wanted to write people in prison. By the chance that someone I talked to online told me Jeremy was a nice person and that I should write him. By the chance that I wrote that letter and I mailed it 17 years ago. By chance. Or by design?

Back to the present, though. The last few years have been difficult for me. I have felt more depressed, more lonely, and more lost than I ever have. Being in Nevada and away from my shore of home(I don’t know what home even is anymore. I guess it’s Jeremy but I still miss…somewhere)has taken a lot out of me. Sometimes it destroys my spirit to ashes and I am left with some form of myself that I don’t recognize. This all sounds dramatic, I know, but I’m a person who feels a lot, all the time, and I know my story and my relationship and the trials we go through are powerful beyond measure and I think it’s important to share that. Anyway. What rises from the ashes? The Phoenix. It sort of feels like that, all the time, and it is emotionally painful, and then I’m rising. Funny how that works. Life pushes us to the very brink and then backs off so we can repair. Or does it not back off and we just get so much stronger?

I keep thinking of this quote I read somewhere, “The greater the affliction, the greater the reward”. Now, that really sounds strange, doesn’t it? But…this quote. It gets me through sometimes because I have to believe in my cause and if I’m suffering, I have to believe that it is for a reason because I’m still here, still doing, still waking up and working my way to the end of the tunnel where the light is.

Which brings me to present life. I’m looking for a new place to live that has a bit more space and I went to see one yesterday and for some reason I just blurted out “I like this place. It feels safe and I want to feel safe because it’s just kitty and I. My husband is incarcerated”. I told the realtor that. This realtor I had only met once before, briefly, for about 5 minutes. I usually try to get a better read on people before I drop that bomb, but I dropped it right there in the kitchen of that rental.

There is always a moment, where I’m sure someone is going to verbally crucify me with their words or give me a look that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. My mouth got super dry waiting for her to say something. I was so nervous. Her response? “I get it. It happens”. She proceeded to tell me a story about how someone she knows is in prison and that things happen sometimes and humans make mistakes and she is not judging me.

After the showing, on the walk out to the parking lot, she commended me for sticking by my husband and let me know how “cool, strong, and sweet” she thought I was. She offered a friendly ear if I ever wanted to talk and she said she had to hug me and she did.

While my life feels like an uphill climb somedays and I am absolutely battered emotionally by the missing parts of “us” right now, there always seems to be a little nudge, a little sign, a little voice that tells me “the greater the affliction, the greater the reward. Keep going, you’re almost there”.


I`m only one call away..

I like that song. You know that song, right? “I`m only one call away, I`ll be there to save the day”. Yeah, yeah. Cheesy, but goody. My song would be “I`m only one prepaid call away”, or “I`m only one collect call away”, or “I`m only one call, that has a 30 minute limit, away”.  Or….no call away because of a lock down because prisoners in GP cannot stop stabbing each other. “It’s how they show each other love” Jeremy says and then laughs.

“Do you know what I want to tell you every time we have to say goodbye?” I asked him.. . . .

“I want to tell you not to go. I want to tell you to please not leave me”.  That was difficult for me to say to him. It almost felt too raw and too hokey for me. I have difficulty with emotional exposure, believe it or not. Give me a blog and I will bleed my heart, but I feel even more center stage and nervous when I have to expose myself to my husband over the phone line. Funny how that works. It’s true, though, that the older you get, the more chances you take. Life chances, emotional chances. You say “Fuck it. I`m all in. I LOVE YOU and this hurts and I`m here”.  I`m here, across the telephone wires, and my voice is carries over the air to you and I hope you call me back even though it’s time to lockdown for the night. The feeling that comes to mind is helpless.

Anyway. Not leaving. Not hanging up. Staying with me. I know that isn`t a reality right now. I know that after we get that 1 minute warning, that it is only a matter of seconds counting down that we have to wrap the phone call up and I`m usually not ready, I have more to say, so many things, things left unsaid. So frustrating. Even if the phone call starts off normal enough, somehow we tumble through becoming infatuated with each other all over again and I want him to stay with me. *click. disconnect*

Sometimes he can call back, but when he can’t and I know he can’t, I stay on the line until it disconnects and I keep the phone up to my ear sometimes, waiting for his voice to return. It doesn’t return and it doesn’t matter how many years I’ve been doing this or how many phone calls have ended and started, my heart is still lost when we have to say goodbye. More silly hokey love stuff. You can vomit. Unless you’ve been in this situation and you have the guts to really lay it all out on the line, the vomiting doesn’t bother me. I hope, if anything, that my exposure is embraced and that someone doesn’t feel so alone or stupid or ridiculous because of me.

Anyway again. For a while there, we stopped saying goodbye, and instead said “Later” or “I`ll be right back”, but then we started to say goodbye again. It’s weird how cycles start and stop and start again. It’s weird how some prisons have 15 minute phone calls once a month and some have 30 minute phone calls that are limited only be tier time and how many people want to make calls.

The phone calls, though. They become my lifeline to my best friend. They become a stand in for every moment that we miss out on together. They become the light in the dark, my shoulder to cry on, my coffee with a friend when times are tough. I spend my days on the phone as part of my job and I absolutely hate it. I loathe talking on the phone usually to anyone. I have a weird phone phobia that I’ve had to overcome to communicate with Jeremy the way I do over those recorded calls, exposing myself completely, unapologetically.

He said he’s out on the tier tonight and he’s calling and I’ve already lined up all the things I want to tell him and ask him and I hope he can call back so we can talk for an entire hour because today is one of those days and an hour is so short, but I need every second of it to bridge that time between when we hang up and the next time he calls.

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Holiday Blog 2016

I’ve been trying to come up with a prison holiday themed blog entry for the last couple of weeks now and I have deleted more drafts than I ever have before. I gave my lack of a completed entry the title of “writer’s block”, but maybe sometimes  what you’re feeling doesn’t translate to the written word and you have to be okay with that. So, I’ll stick with this: yesterday I had one of the last visits with my husband this year and it felt bittersweet and comfortably uncomfortable. His mom, dad, and sister drove out to see him, so it was a nice family visit. The visiting room was packed with people, smells, microwaveable food, watchful eyes, kids excited to see their papas, crying spouses, holiday decorations at the front desk and us.

Prison sucks. Prison sucks big time around the holidays and sometimes my heart feels full and empty all at the same time and I wonder how that can be. I know that it feels that way because each holiday season I am left almost empty by what the year has taken from me but I am also replenished by the love I am given by a person I never thought I could find in this life and by a family that has taken such good care of me in Jeremy’s absence.
So, yes, prison is shitty and heartbreaking, but it’s also where I found my light and purpose in life after I sent a letter to a stranger 16 years ago. Each holiday, I dig deep for more strength to go on and continue to open my heart and seek freedom and love in a place that thrives on anything but.
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How long is forever?

“Sometimes, just one second.” said the white rabbit.
Do you remember that part of Alice in Wonderland?
Seven years has felt like a lifetime and the blink of an eye all at once.
Seven years ago tomorrow, I was 24 when I said “I do” to my very best friend in a prison visiting room. Seven years ago tomorrow I was smiling and shaking and he had damp hair from a shower and he was handsome as all get-out. Seven years ago I could never have predicted the ups and downs we have gone through just to be together, to stay together, and I could not have predicted that I would love my life partner more after so much despair, so much separation, so much sadness and uncertainty. I could not have imagined being closer, more in love, more grateful, and more sure, even in the midst of the greatest mountain climb of our lives.
After we got married that day, all those years ago, I was able to stay and visit, laugh with the man I had just agreed to be with forever, fight over Cheetos, and sit in silence and stare at this beautiful human I had gotten to know over letters, phone calls, and a few visits here and there before that day. We were married among those laughs and Cheetos, in that prison visiting room, and nothing had felt more organic or true in my life before that moment.
This anniversary I am going on a trip with my sister in law to celebrate love and life and the pains and pleasures that come with real bonds. I am travelling a distance from my love on our day, but it’s funny how the closer two people are in life and in heart, the more distance doesn’t mean a damn thing.
Time can feel like it crawls by when you’re waiting for something and in the middle of your heart exploding joy, it can seem like it’s passing too quickly to hold onto. What do you do? You throw your head back and laugh so hard that you cry, you pray that the time in between kisses feels like just one second and that those kisses feel like they last forever. 22-mousepad_dali_sclock

I`m your huckleberry

Did you ever see that movie? Tombstone. It’s one of my favorite movies and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday is my undoing in life. Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday as some fantastic gun slinging, fearless gambler. I often think about the masks we wear, the names we give others, and the names others give us. Are you someone’s huckleberry and are they yours? Is that all a lie? Did you tell yourself you were something you’re not or does the world not see you for who you really are?

If you’ve ever had a connection with prison culture, you know that nicknames and “handles” run wild and everyone has a name that tells a story….whether that story is the truth or a lie or doesn’t make any sense.  I used to laugh when my husband would refer to someone by their handle, but now I just ask “What’s his real name?” and it’s usually an unexpectedly normal name, unassuming in the way the letters weave together.

Do you know how many Pee-wees I’ve heard of since I met Jeremy? Dozens. Ghost (a guy that sounded like Mickey Mouse). Shorty (multiple; sometimes not because of their height). City (Soft spoken and had a cool way about him).*Insert city where the person is from here*. Jeremy used to know this guy named Boston a long time ago. You guessed it. He was from Boston. Sometimes it’s their middle names they prefer, or their last names. When I hear an actual first name straight away, I ask “but what’s his nickname?”. Sometimes the nickname is all I know and I become confused when someone is referred to by their actual name. “Oh, that’s Ghost. You know him.” Yeah…I do know him. Or does anyone really? I never did find out why that was his nickname. Usually a story follows the reveal of someone’s handle, but not Ghost. Maybe Jeremy didn`t know either. Who knows.

Smiley is the guy I’ve never seen smile. “That’s Restless” my husband says. “Wrestle? What? What does that mean” I ask. “No, restless. You know, like you’re restless..”. Interesting. Shaky. No idea why. He doesn’t shake. It makes me think of Shakey’s Pizza. Did you ever go to Shakey’s Pizza? Yeah. Anyway, Shaky. Shakey? Shakee? I don`t know.

“What’s your nickname here?” I ask my husband. He hasn’t really had a solid one over the years and he is definitely no Pee-wee or Shaky or Smiley or any other misplaced prison nickname. “Doc”. I want to laugh and I think I actually did. He knows I love Tombstone and he knows I am his huckleberry and he is mine.

Every nickname has a story.

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I love you and I hate prison

This is a statement I make so often that it almost comes out automatically, thoughtlessly, sometimes even as a filler in conversations during difficult times.
“I know, baby. I know”. He says this every time, but not automatically or thoughtlessly or as a filler. He just knows and then he is quiet, thinking of the next string of words to step on, hoping they aren’t a land mine. Sometimes success, sometimes a lost foot. You can’t argue with facts, but you can chock life up to something more.
“I love you and I hate prison”. Not BUT I hate prison; AND I hate prison. I don’t know why I choose to say it that way. Maybe because I don’t like to say I love someone but, because but means conditional and I hate conditions. Too much of my life is spent in a conditional state, under conditions.
Quite often I wonder how we got here to this loving the human but hating the prison place. Not you, the reader, and I, but Jeremy and I. I’m a poser of questions there are no easy answers to, but I ask them anyway. Somehow the you in “I love you and I hate prison” always has the answers for me. What’s my favorite answer to my question about why we came to be? Why did we come down this path? Why did the pieces arrange this way and why have we clung to each other for dear life all these years?
That fate exists. That sometimes souls come together because they were meant to be and not randomly. Is this a designed path? Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? I don’t know, Freddie Mercury. Prison feels a bit like both sometimes.
“Whhhyyyyyyyyy???” I ask and whine or I ask and then laugh and then whine.
“I have loved you since before you were born. I have always loved you.” He says.
How can you argue with that?
Prison or not.
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