The above photo documents the visit of my mother, Lucille Norman, and her friend, Phil Plummer, visiting with me at Okaloosa C. I. on Saturday, October 19, 2013, after a 420-mile drive from Tampa.
I would like to contrast this photo with one taken at visit in 1980 (below), over thirty-three years ago. In this photo taken at the Union C.I. (Raiford, FL) visiting park, my brother, Dan, my mother and father, Eugene Norman, came to see me early in my imprisonment. I was thirty years old at that time. I am sixty-four now. Time has taken its toll on all of us. My father lasted five more years, passing away in 1985 after a long, lingering illness.
For thirty-five years my mother has devotedly made her way to visit with me, from my almost two years in the dungeon-like old Hillsborough County jail awaiting trial for a murder I did not commit to a succession of eighteen state prisons from one end of Florida to the other, to this present far-flung outpost within spitting distance of Alabama.
Despite the long costly drive, the three of us had an enjoyable time, talking and sharing a meal from the prison canteen. My mother has a remarkable memory, and each time we get together I ask her questions of family history. This time was no exception, and she told me a fascinating story about my Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Albert’s family, his father, Mr. Thornhill, and “Buck Henry,” which I will write about in a later memoir.
When one goes to prison, his loved ones go to prison with him, suffering what many consider a fate worse than death, living in limbo in a purgatory not of their making, grieving for the loss of someone caught between life and death. And so it goes with my loved ones, and particularly Mama.
For two years my father was dying, and as hard as it was for all of us to deal with, we knew it was coming and reconciled his passing. But for me, serving a “life sentence” that should have ended ten years ago, except for the objection and obstruction by corrupt prosecutor, Mark Ober, the subsequent possible “end” in 2017, we are faced with the question of how much longer either of us will live. Will I survive this wrongful imprisonment, survive this life sentence, and be able to help my mother, who grows increasingly frail with her advancing age? Or will we both give out?
It is a sobering reality to see one’s loved ones age before your eyes, and feel great responsibility for contributing to that aging. Will this visit be the last time? Or will we be reunited in freedom? Only God can answer those questions.
Mama cried when we embraced at the end of our too-short visit. It broke my heart, and I had a hard time not crying, too. Our visit is a joy and a sadness.
I am grateful for Phil Plummer’s making our visit possible by driving my mother the long trek from and to her home. He is a good man and good friend, and my mother is blessed to have him in her life. Daily I pray that this travesty of justice end soon, and I will be able to return home.