Although burdened with legal challenges ahead of me, I returned home with less baggage than when I left. I felt a sense of freedom never felt before with a certain sense of apprehension and anxiety. This was the home I left many years ago, twice in fact, with shame of addiction and legal problems. Now returning with the same in many ways, but this was my time, my time to overcome what caused me to leave in the first place. I thought about the verse Bro. Al had given me regarding Jeremiah 29, where it is mentioned, “And I will bring you home again…” Well, here I was—home—again. When I stepped off the plane and went through the terminal to claim my baggage and figure out how to get to Grand Central Station where I would take the Metro North to the Mid-Hudson Valley, despite the chill in the air I was no longer accustomed, I was glad to be home again.
When I arrived in Beacon, it was very cold. Not aware of the train stop facility since never having used it, I stood in the cold awaiting Don’s arrival. I called once because it was just getting too cold for me to stand there clad only in a spring jacket. I was beginning to have uncontrollable shakes being dangerously chilled. So, this is what I was returning too? After having left eighty degree weather, to return in the midst of a northeastern winter, I wasn’t too happy, but glad to be home in familiar places again. Soon but not soon enough, I heard a familiar voice, he was waiting for me just as I was for him, though parked on the other side. I have to get to learn this place again.
It was good to see him; my brother, Don. The ride home was filled with conversation about what my plans and hopes were and how he would be involved in assisting me. It was equally as good to see his wife, Maxine, to be welcomed into their warm home, not just because of the heat but because of the warmth of their love. Two of the three of their adult children, Donnie and Deanna, remain home and it was a shock to see my godson a grown man. He gracefully permitted me to have his room so I would have my privacy away from the rest of the family. I called Mayra to let her know I arrived and retired myself to bed, just unpacking those things I would need at the moment.
Laying in the bed thinking about the events of the day and how blessed I was to have a place as nice as this to come to, I was filled with apprehension and concern as to what I would run into finding work and housing. I normally never had trouble finding work, usually within the first week. If I began looking on Monday I would be working before the end of the week, but it was getting old, searching for work, as well as I getting older and who would take me seriously as a long-term employee, now having to adjust my resume to cover those gaps involving prison time never mind those times of recovery from substance abuse. How much longer could I keep this up? I wanted stability in my life. I wanted a job, a permanent and decent job, one I can settle into and call my own, with a regular paycheck. I acknowledge I would not ever be so fortunate to make the kind of money I was making at IBM or the last job I had in Puerto Rico. I would have to probably settle for a service-oriented job, with less pay. I would probably have to consider living in a room or very small apartment. I had to be careful—now, in divulging any information which might cause alarm regarding my current legal status because of the nature of the offense. This was going to be quite a challenge for me.
When you relocate to another area you are obligated to contact that district’s probation office within three days of your arrival. I spoke with the supervisor of the office who informed me my own particular probation officer, John, was not available but when he returned to the office he would contact me and arrange a meeting. Eventually, John did call and Don was gracious to take me to meet with him. We went through the normal procedure of what was expected of me although they had not received any of the paperwork from Puerto Rico and would not for another six months. I gave them copies of my documents to provide some type of paperwork regarding my case and Order from the Court to their requirements. I was advised to arrange for new housing before the end of the following month because I was putting Don in the uncomfortable position of the probability having them do a “search visit”, as part of my conditions, for drugs, illicit pornography and other unnamed forms of contraband. We agreed not to inform Don causing him any undue concerns especially since he is employed with the State of New York Corrections Department and not permitted to have a felon “living” under his roof.
This was the plan I concocted while in Puerto Rico, when making plans to relocate, fell into place when I came to New York. I knew the closest office would either be in Westchester County, more specifically White Plains, or Manhattan. I needed to be able to get there and thought transportation either via train or bus could be more easily arranged. However, it worked even better that the office handling my case was in Middletown, in Orange County, about thirty-five miles west. I decided not to get a car because I never wanted to drive almost one hour, one way, to sit in an office for an undeterminable amount of time, and meet for five minutes and drive another hour back especially if I had to coordinate visits between taking time off for work. By not having a car and no direct transportation to the area, it was their responsibility to see me. In the beginning, there were great lapse of time when I didn’t see them, although I received an occasional phone call. This was going to work just fine. I didn’t really want these people in my life any more than they had to be. My previous experience with probation was not too good and I wanted to minimize my exposure with this new experience as much as possible. It was also my goal to do whatever it would take to try and obtain an early termination. In the federal system, after one year, if there were no problems or violations a request could be submitted to the sentencing Judge for early termination.
Living in Don and Maxine’s home there is one rule which is to be adhered to without failure as commanded by the Fourth Commandment, you will go to church. This was one of the few homes where worship was held on Sabbath and church attendance was mandatory. Upon release from prison I began to attend church and wanted to make it my weekly routine owning to the fact had I been attending previously many of the troubles I found myself might not have happened, or at the very least, the struggles I had, I didn’t have to struggle alone if I made friends and become active in church. In some way it was a treat to attend Beacon SDA Church, a church I had been a part of when it was a mission in the mid seventies. Now, it was a beautiful structure with quite an actively planned program, but, I did not belong anymore.
I had always been active, for the most part while living here and now I was not. Those I left behind who occupied the pews were now in active service. The young men who were children were now elders. There were a few people who made this their church home although they lived many miles away some as far as New York City. This was not my church anymore and I did not want to get caught up in the mix of having an office and duties. This did not appear to be my calling. I didn’t understand it and when I moved out on my own a month later, my attendance was lacking owing to the excuse of not being convenient, lack of transportation, length of service, parts of service which were not necessary and the list just went on, until I determined, it might have been due to the routine of twenty-six months keeping the Sabbath in my solitary cell and preference of continuing to do the same. I found I didn’t need the “production” this church put together delaying the main speaker to begin his preaching when most churches, I attended over the years, would have completed their service by this time.
I never found it difficult to find work. I am blessed in this way because of the gift of typing. Many companies, especially temporary agencies, have always been impressed by my typing skills, quickly hiring me before others get me out on one of their assignments. Now I wasn’t interested in a temporary job but wanted full-time work so I didn’t have to keep interviewing and go without consistent paychecks. My concern also was arriving here during the height of the holiday season. Most companies would not be hiring and it would be to my disadvantage to submit resumes knowing they would not receive the immediate attention I wanted, so I didn’t seriously begin looking until the first week of January. I was hired to work for Best Western Inn and Conference Center on January 5.
I noticed an ad in the paper they were looking for someone to work the night shift as a Night Auditor. I worked nights the last few years of my career with IBM and enjoy having my days free. Not knowing what the position entailed, figuring it had to do with finances which my resume would address nicely having worked for many financial institutions, I asked Maxine to drive me there right away, filled out an application and had an immediate interview with the Assistant General Manager and later met with the Owner and General Manager, Jack. I was told by him, “We like you a lot for the position, let us check your references and get back to you.” They did. The following day I met Paco, my direct supervisor, given a training schedule and reported to work. I need to mention I prayed asking God for this position and if given I would do two things: pay an honest tithe and devote part of the night to Bible study and He honored my request by granting me this position and I have been sincere and diligent, at least in the area of Bible study, in honoring my vow to Him. (Note: December 22, 2008, I continue—daily, to study my Bible in the same way I began when working this job almost four years ago.)
This position involved checking guest in and out, learn the facility and my main responsibility of running the financials at a certain time at night, which involved systems. My background with systems answered this requirement very nicely as well. I would be alone at night, responsible for the security and welfare of 153 rooms. The job could be challenging at times, particularly during the busy season when the hotel would be full, and told it would come naturally and not be discouraged when I would feel overwhelmed, but soon I would be able to handle whatever thrown at me. I was working my shift—solo, by the end of the third week and enjoyed every minute of it except for the few times having to deal with arrogant, irate and or drunken guests. A few times I would have to meet with Jack to discuss some of my responses which were categorized as either rude or sarcastic or both, but I was determined to do my job and keep this one at least past the six month point where it seemed I could not achieve due to falling back into drug addiction. I liked the fact I would be working nights, too, and would not be free to find my old haunts where I used to purchase and use drugs. I became concerned because this job provided me the opportunity, should I fall back into addiction, having a source of food to eat because I held the keys to all the rooms as well as the restaurant. I also considered, by working this shift, I probably would not have to concern myself with my probation officer ever stopping by and having to deal with the embarrassment of explaining why I was seeing someone flashing a badge and possibly carrying a weapon. Although the money was not what I was accustomed, I was grateful having secured another full-time, permanent position which would be all mine for as long as I performed my job in a manner satisfying management. It did provide medical benefits, at a fee and I didn’t sign up because of the initial cost thinking this would be something to consider when I put in more time and the cost would be lower. To have a paycheck, consistent, weekly, and mine was something I was not going to take for granted this time. I looked back over the years, even working for six months and not having anything to show for it because of addiction or compulsive spending, this would not occur this time. I didn’t think I would be able to have a checking account and would do the same as I did in Puerto Rico by opening a savings account and begin systematically putting money aside. I was starting out over again and now getting a bit older knew I had to make the best of this position, for there would not be many more coming my way. Who would take an upper middle-aged man seriously for a good job with as many gaps I had in my resume, which I covered quite nicely as long as they were not investigated?
Now employment was secured, the next step was to find housing. I was grateful for the hospitality of Don and Maxine, but I am a man and a man should have his own. One of my main concerns moving back into this area was their poor public transportation system. Buses didn’t run everywhere or all the time like major cities. I wasn’t certain about their scheduling because I never had to ride a bus while living here previously. I prayed about it and left it in God’s hands.
One of my other concerns was the probability of returning to live in a hotel. The benefit was being furnished with cable and I didn’t have to come up with a large down-payment. Apartments here were not like they were when I left many years ago. The days of the $400 monthly rentals were over. It was more like $1,200—monthly, for a one-bedroom apartment. There were few, if any, studio or efficiencies. God did not bring me back this place for me not to have worked out all the problems even if I couldn’t see how. And He did.
While coming home one evening after my training at the hotel, I noticed a hotel with a sign advertising “best rates in town”. I called the number and learned I could have a nice furnished room for $145.00 weekly. I made arrangements to stop and found it to my liking. It had two full-sized beds, nightstand, dresser, two lamps, double sink and small refrigerator, small desk and two chairs and quite sizable. The concern I mentioned earlier was the several failed attempts of living in a hotel room especially since my addiction of smoking Crack was mostly done in hotel rooms. In Cleveland and Philadelphia, I relapsed so badly I could not maintain my room and I feared the same again. But, I needed to make a home and it needed to be done quickly. The blessing of this place was it was just down the street from where I worked. The bus ran between both places, although at night, I would have to either call a cab or walk. I could use the exercise and found walking to be to my advantage. It would take only twenty minutes and having gotten over my pride to be seen walking at 10:30 pm, would be more than I could have ever planned for myself. God knew of my needs and provided well. In fact, shopping was only another walk about fifteen minutes in the opposite direction, or again, taking a bus, getting the things I needed quickly and catching the bus going back in the opposite direction back to the hotel and all done in little more than one-half hour!
Looking back now I know having found work, at night, was a blessing which would have been more than enough support to keep me from wanting to return to a life of addiction. This would be the main difference than previously and I was determined to make the best of this situation. In the words of Deanna, Don and Maxine’s daughter, my niece,
“It’s a start, Uncle Roy.”
Yes it is. It’s a start. And it is up to me to make the best of it.