Mark with two of our three children, Dylan and Sarah, on April 28
just before we headed home from the Rancho Vistoso Resort in Oro Valley, AZ.
Dylan (holding our ratty old cat Gimli) watches Jacob check the oil in my car.
I sneaked these picture from my kitchen window on Saturday, April 25th.
We made yet another trip to the Tucson area last weekend, one that was pretty important to our family. Due to their work schedules, Jacob and Danielle were unable to join us this time, but Sarah, Chris, Dylan, and I made the 3.5-hour trip to southern Arizona on Sunday, April 26.
Brotherly silliness ensues.
Despite being unable to join us, Jacob came over on Saturday to be sure my car was fit for travel and then took it over to the car wash and made it look nice for our trip. My kids are simply awesome!
They just crack themselves up!
We left our mountain home at 12:30 on Sunday and turned toward our resort in Oro Valley, just northeast of Tucson. With one brief stop in Globe, we were able to reach the WorldMark Rancho Vistoso Resort at exactly 4:00, our official check-in time. That is deeply satisfying to OCD people like me!
Dylan drove us from Globe to Oro Valley. It was a two-car trip.
Sarah and Chris followed in their new Jeep liberty.
Sunday, April 26th
With Dylan driving, I was free to take pictures of scenery en route, like this.
And like this.
Sarah and Chris soon after checking into our 2-bedroom unit.
We were still getting all our stuff moved in.
Dylan and Sarah enjoying our traditional vacation dinner of
grilled chicken and potato salad on Sunday night.
This is how I found Dylan in the Murphy-bed when I awoke on Monday morning.
He'd made himself a man-cave because it was "too bright" to sleep after the sun came up.
When Monday morning dawned, we got up early, ate a quick breakfast of deviled eggs (which I'd prepared the previous day), and drove to the Greyhound Bus Depot in downtown Tucson. This was the whole purpose of our trip, the BIG DAY we'd been waiting for.
After serving three years for (nonviolent) crimes related to his addictions, with which he's been struggling since childhood (literally, since the age of 9), my first husband, my children's father, was released from prison in south Tucson. Due to uncertainty surrounding the status of the house Mark inherited from his father, it looked like his only option during parole was to move into a halfway house. Knowing the low success rate for parolees in halfway houses, I agreed to have Mark come stay with us for the next eight months, until the end of his parole.
Mark (left) disembarks, wearing his "blues."
We arrived at the bus depot around 8:45 and waited another 45 minutes, until the shuttle carrying the newly released inmates-turned-parolees arrived. The kids waited anxiously to see their dad as a half-dozen men in new blue tee-shirts and jeans, carrying cardboard boxes of their belongings, unloaded from the van. And then, finally, there he was, free at last.
We'd all squeezed into Sarah and Chris's Jeep for this little outing, and now Mark climbed aboard, too. Our next stop was a thrift shop called Savers, where Mark had heard we could get clothes cheaply. He now owned nothing but the clothes on his back and the little box of papers, letters, deodorant, and toothpaste. He also had a money card containing $121.98, the sum of his earnings in prison. It isn't much, but I think there are times when being forced to start fresh is a true blessing.
Dylan captured this shot of our buffet stop.
We soon figured out that the clothes at Savers were cheap because they weren't worth much, so I decreed that we would buy clothes at Walmart later. Then we headed to the town of Marana and the Golden Corral Buffet there. During our weekly Sunday phone calls with Mark, I'd asked what he wanted for his first few meals of freedom. Without question, he wanted to start off by stuffing himself at an all-you-can-eat buffet!
Mark with Sarah and Chris inside Golden Corral at the end of our meal.
For the first hour after he joined us, Mark was even quieter than usual and had a rather bewildered look on his face. Then, several times throughout the morning, Mark would open his arms wide and look up at the big blue sky and let out a big sigh of satisfaction. At one point he said, "It feels strange to be free." It was kind of sweet.
Budding photographer Dylan grabbed my camera and started taking extreme closeups.
Thankfully, my face is blurry. I think he's better with landscapes...
He got this shot of Sarah leaving Golden Corral.
From Golden Corral, we moved on to Walmart in Oro Valley, near the resort, to buy a couple pairs of jeans, some shirts, a pair of shoes, packages of socks and underwear, and some swim trunks. Mark expressed his desire to burn all the clothes issued to him by the prison and never look back. I can't say I blame him.
Now we're talking! Dylan took this gorgeous shot from the Walmart parking lot.
I've taken dozens of pictures of the Santa Catalina Mountain Range over the years
and never managed one that looked this amazing!
Back at the condo, Mark, Dylan, Chris, and Sarah relax before dinnertime.
Mark hasn't lost his touch. He grilled those pork chops to perfection!
Must be where both our sons got the golden griller touch!
Gathered around the dinner table on Monday night:
Mark, Sarah, Chris, and Dylan.
Mark's request for his first home-cooked meal (or resort-cooked?):
Grilled pork chops, buttered corn, and mashed potatoes and gravy.
I added the homemade chunky guacamole, which is delicious on pork chops!
Off to the pool after dinner! The guys hit the hot tub first.
That big splash was Mark hitting the water.
Dylan makes the next big splash.
Mark's first breakfast request for Tuesday morning was fairly modest...not!
Fried eggs, bacon, hash browns, English muffins, and chocolate milk!
Preparing to head back home, pausing for one last picture:
Chris (age 37), Sarah (age 25), Mary (age 60), and Mark (age 46).
Dylan got this shot of my car from the Jeep behind as we drove home.
Our little mini-vacation had to come to an end at last. We stopped at the Carl's Jr. in Globe, where Mark wanted to try the El Diablo burger and I got my usual lettuce-wrapped Super Star. Then we were back on our mountain before 4:00 on Tuesday afternoon. We did some shopping for an air mattress and bedding so Mark could settle into his own room. He was finally reunited with our middle child Jacob and daughter-in-law Danielle. And we all went out to eat, introducing him to our favorite Chinese place. He liked it a lot.
A week has gone by and it's been great. Mark was always easy to live with, and now that he's been clean and sober for over three years, it's even more comfortable. He tells us he is turning his life around, and I know he means it. I hope he can do it, but only time will tell, as he faces the temptations that will surely come. Meanwhile, his kids are loving having him around!
Tuesday, April 28, 2015: All together at last at China Wok!
Dylan (age 17), Sarah (24), Chris (37), Danielle (21), Jacob (23), and Mark (46).