I’M OUT!

  

    Thanks to you, I’m out of prison now. We did it together! The morning they let me go, a guard came to my cell, told me to pack up, shook my hand, told me he knows I’m innocent, then wished me luck in building a new life and walked me out the door. 

   Just like that – in 5 minutes –  I was standing on the curb outside the prison waiting for a taxi to the airport. 

    It made me dizzy.  If you’ve ever seen a disoriented goldfish dumped out of a bag into a new fish tank, you know how I felt. The first thing that spooked me was how fast everything was moving. The cars and trucks were zooming at breakneck speed. I was a little embarrassed when I got scared as we were approaching a stoplight. I thought for sure we were going so fast we’d plow into the cars in front of us. But the cab driver pressed the brakes, the tires gripped the pavement, I gripped my  seat, and sure enough we stopped! I caught my breath and tried to hide my emotions from the driver. Clearly this was going to take some getting used to.

Schaeffer Cox 2023

    The next shock I got was at the airport. I was stunned by how soft and docile all the men were. They just sort of tottered around totally unaware of their surroundings, wide open and vulnerable to any danger that might come along. Prison is a combat environment where everyone is on guard and hyper vigilant at all times. Convicts quickly become battle hardened. The men I saw in the airport seemed sort of childlike, domesticated, weak, and aloof. Matter of fact, pretty much everyone seems that way. Maybe I should feel guilty for thinking this.

     It sort of sounds like a mean thing to say. But, I want you to know what was running through my mind. Another thing I thought was; “how come everyone under 30 is just loafing around in their pajamas?” Seriously, is this the new thing? The whole world is a giant slumber party?

   Speaking of slumber, from the time I was released I did not sleep for over 50 hours. I tried. But the shock and sensory overload was just too much. Someone told me this is a PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) symptom. I assumed I would be mentally tough enough to not experience those kinds of things – or at least tough enough to ignore it if I did encounter them. I’m learning that’s not quite how it works. Like running a fever or feeling nauseous, PTSD symptoms are beyond your control. They just crop up. 

    My family met me at the airport when I got off the plane. My mother cried. My father was stoic. Both of them had grown old, with white hair and frail smiles that only come from having witnessed a million joys and overcome a million heartbreaks. My two little brothers had grown up into fine young men with families of their own.

     Right there on the floor in the airport I got down on my knees and let all my little nieces and nephews crowd around me like a flock of ducks at the park, clamoring around someone with a bag of bread. It was the first time I had met any of them. But the familiarity was instant and automatic. I haven’t cried for many years now. But I came close then. 

   One of my nephews looked exactly like my grandfather who had died while I was in prison. I wrote you about that. Remember the story of the pocket knives and the matching scars we had on our fingers? I was so sad when my grandfather died. But when you’re in prison you can’t really morn. You’re still in the trenches. You suppress all that while you’re in the foxhole. Then it hits you all at once on the day you get out. It’s like going to 7 funerals, 10 weddings, and 12 births all in the same day, plus realizing you got old and won’t have time to do all the things you meant to do in life. 

    Seeing little Titus – the spitting image of my grandfather – somehow made it easier to bear the death.  I’d lost my grandfather who was my best bud. But here was a 9 year old carbon-copy of my beloved grandfather meeting me at the airport, thrilled to be best buds with “Uncle Schaeffer.” I guess new life makes losing life easier to understand. Meeting the next generation like that churned up sorrow, then settled it back down with joy. I felt myself smiling my own frail smile from the joys and heartbreaks of that day.

    The saddest part was that my own children were not there. Figuring I’d never get out, my wife had divorced me and moved on to build a new life. Now she won’t let the children see me because she’s afraid they’ll want to come live with me full time. I understand she feels guilty and ashamed for abandoning her marriage. But forbidding the children from reconnecting with their father can only backfire. I wish she’d let her defenses down and allow the kids to come see me. They are almost grown anyway. She can’t stop the inevitable. Alas! The sage does at once what the fool does at last. 

     I’m not going to fight and be vicarious with her. Time and Nature will have their way. I can’t speed it up, and she can’t slow it down. So I might as well be gracious. God presides over this as well. 

Schaeffer, 2016 in prison, visiting his children. This was the last time he was able to see his children.

    We filed that appeal we were talking about, and a few weeks later the prison told me to pack up to go home. I’m not sure exactly what happened.  The court told the prosecutors they had not shown “any” evidence of a crime, threw out the case, but then didn’t dismiss the charges. Geeez!! Everyone knows this whole thing was corrupt and wrong from the start. With your help, we dragged it all out into the light for all to see. But getting the government to admit they are at fault is like trying to get a snake to slither backwards.

    Because of this, I’m actually not totally free yet. They made me go to a halfway house. It’s like an apartment complex you can stay at for free while you get on your feet. I suppose some people might need that. And it’s nice to not be paying rent. But I’d rather just have a clean break. I’m not getting my way on this issue. So I have to be patient and work around it. That’s okay. At least I’m not in the gladiator pit of prison anymore.

    Tomorrow I’ll start looking for a job. I’ve got some intimidating attorney bills that have to be paid. But I keep reminding myself how grateful I am to be out here trying to figure out how to pay them. They say it is very hard for a convicted felon to find work. I’ll soon find out if that’s true. 

     I’m not a criminal though. I can hold my head high and look everyone in the eyes with no shame. But a lot of people shrink back and don’t want to hear an epic story like mine. One thing I have noticed is that after what was done to Trump, everyone knows the FBI and DOJ are totally corrupt. When people ask why I was in prison, all I have to say is “Russian Collusion type case” and they instantly know what was done to me. Perhaps it’s a reason for optimism. 

    You’ve been so gracious and generous over the years. I’d still be buried in that secret prison if not for you. Thank you! There’s no way I could have funded a defense by myself. You saved the day! You saved me! Thank you for never abandoning me. You saved a life and reunited a family. I’m forever indebted to you. 

   I do have $26,000 in remaining attorney fees. If you want to make a donation of $26 or $106, it would help pay it off.  It would mean a lot – Since I don’t know what these lawyers might do to me if I slow-walk them on paying the bills. What can I say? I mean, it’ll take me at least a couple years to pay these bills off by myself. They aren’t going to like that. But if you can’t afford $50 right now, that’s alright. I’m out. I’m looking for a job. And it’s all because you helped me get out. I’m grateful for you. 

    Would you please send me your email address? I’d love to be able to get in touch with you quick and easy. My email is: schaeffercox@gmail.com I don’t have a mailing address of my own yet. So you can send regular mail to the Arkansas address you usually do. It’ll be collected and held for me.

     I feel like Rip Van Winkle. This world is way different than the one I remember. Send me an email or a letter. Tell me what to expect. 

    Thank you for saving my life. It was a long battle, but we made it to the other side. If not for you, I’d have been done for. Thank you a thousand times! THANK YOU!

Love, 

Schaeffer Cox

P.S. I can’t believe I’m out now but I’m not totally free yet. I have to pay a few more attorney fees, get on my feet, and rebuild my life from scratch. I also have to follow a bunch of rules at the halfway house or else they will send me back to prison. If you want to send a donation of $101, thank you, it will help me get my attorney bills paid. Thank you for standing with me all these years. I am deeply grateful for you. 

You are the hero in my story!

Please pray that I can see my children soon! I miss them so bad it hurts. Time and nature will have their way. I can’t speed it up, and no one can slow it down. God presides over this as well. 

https://www.venmo.com/u/SchaefferCox

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