Lucille, Charlie, Alice and Libby at visit April 30, 2016
In prison, I’ve learned not to like surprises, since surprises are usually negative, but my mother, Lucille Norman, and aunt, Alice Walker, pleasantly surprised me Saturday, April 30, 2016, when they came to visit.
We had a wonderful time sitting together talking for several hours, reminiscing and sharing our grief over the recent double losses of my brother, Tom, and sister-in-law, Sandy, and recalling others we’d lost years before. My mother has virtually photo recall of many events from her childhood, and all we had to do was mention a name. She would enlighten and delight us with stories from long ago, that I’d never heard before.
We talked about Uncle Troy Edwards and Aunt Hattie, their children, Marvin, Cleveland, Wanda Lou, Dovey Belle, Truman, and Charles, otherwise-forgotten family history going back to the Great Depression.
In the 1940’s, Texarkana was terrified by a serial killer who, over a six-week period, struck young couples parked in the lovers’ lane at Spring Lake Park, killing three couples by stabbing them to death. The last victims were Virgil Starks and his wife. The killer fired a shot through the window of the Starks’ home and hit Virgil as he sat in the living room. His wife heard the shot, the glass breaking, and ran in from another room to see Virgil stand up, then fall. The killer fired a second shot through the same hole in the window, striking her in the throat as she tried to telephone for help. She was able to run outside in the darkness and hide in the corn field, barely surviving, and left with a horrendous scar on her throat.
My mother was a teenager at the time, Alice was a little girl, and they heard the survivor account from Mrs. Starks directly. After that last attack, there were no more killings. There were years of conjecture as to the identity of the serial killer and what happened to him.
Many years later, Hollywood came to Texarkana to film a movie, “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” dramatizing those events. My uncle, Jim David Walker, Mama’s and Alice’s brother, made himself available and was immortalized as a walk-on in a crowd scene, along with other townspeople. We had a good laugh remembering the big deal it was when David got in the movie. I don’t remember seeing the movie, but Alice did, and said it was pretty good.
We talked about my brothers, Tom and Dan, and humorous incidents that occurred when we were children. It was a much-needed opportunity to share our feelings, and I was grateful that Mama and Alice made the sacrifice of getting up very early and driving hundreds of miles to visit Libby and me.
Inevitably, visiting time was up, and it was time to go, a bittersweet time of farewell. I hugged them both, kissed their cheeks, and told them I loved them. They told me they loved me, too.
I treasure the rare times I have to visit with my loved ones and the weekly phone calls with them. I always save time at the end to tell them that I love them and miss them, knowing from sad experience that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
I am one of the few men in my living quarters, out of 86, who gets family visits. I am blessed, I know, and don’t take my blessings for granted. Every time I return to the dorm, several men who never get visits always ask me, “How was your visit?” and I respond, “Wonderful. Thanks for asking.”
On the rare occasions that someone else has a visit scheduled, they will ask me how the procedure works, how do they take photos, what food do they have in the canteen. I fill them in on all of it, and I always tell them to be sure to tell their visitors that they love them, especially their children, who will never forget that. Some people have difficulty saying they love someone out loud, for various reasons, but I encourage them to do so anyway.
No matter when, where, or how you speak with them, take my advice and tell someone you love, you love them. It will make your day
Charlie and Libby at visit May 1, 2016 We wish you love!