My Sunday, May 2, 2010, column is based on a phone interview with a guy now in prison who stole a Eugene man’s war medals, then returned them with a note of apology. Strange, huh? Here’s a young man, now 21, who clearly had a hard-edged, heroin-addicted side to him and yet, despite his binge of thefts for drug money, listened to his conscience.
I wrote a column about this incident two years ago. Then, about a month ago, I wound up at a Eugene meeting of relatives of prisoners. Fascinating evening, really. Afterward a woman came up to me and said: “You wrote a column about my son. He’s the one who stole the war medals, then brought them back.”
That’s how I was able to link up with Michael Blankenbeckley Jr. by phone from the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, where he’s serving a 9 1/2-year sentence for 17 counts of first-degree burglary.
At the end of my May 2 column, I mentioned a letter he wrote to his 1 1/2-year-old son, Nicoma, a boy whom Michael held only once before being he was incarcerated until 2016. Given Michael’s past, there’s some pretty amazing perspective in his thoughts. It’s a noble bit of writing — and is better use of this space than anything I might put together myself tonight:
Hello, Buddy, it’s your dad. You’re such a beautiful and special little boy. I’m so proud to have you as my little boy. I love you with all my heart, and I have so many dreams for your future. I hope that you (when you’re much older) choose a profession that makes you happy with yourself. I hope you never have to be around some of the things dad had to be around when I was a little boy. I hope you grow up never having to experience the feeling of regret and hatred. I hope you learn to always believe in and stick up for yourself and your loved ones. I hope you recognize your character flaws, and are mature enough to work on them with a very gentle, loving attitude.
I hope you will grow to treat women, old and young alike, like princesses. I hope you’ll grow to value life and learn to see the beauty of everything and everyone. I hope you learn to see the falsities of your environment. I hope that that you can always hold your head high, and be proud, with a clear conscience about your decisions in life. I hope that if you find yourself crawling down the wrong path in life, you’ll be strong enough, and care about yourself and your family enough, to work hard and get yourself back on the right track.
Through everything, though I want you to learn from your mistakes, you’re going to have to grow and learn from your own mistakes. That being said, I hope you never have to make the same mistake twice.
Son, there are so many beautiful opportunities out there for you to access. I hope you make yourself available to them. I hope you turn out so much smarter than I turned out. I was just so unable to deal with pain (emotional pain) in my life that I turned to drugs. I can never take back any affects my being in prison may have on you, and that really hurts me, buddy.
A lot of times in life you come to a crossroad that requires you to make a decision that could affect you for the rest of your life. I hope that when you come to a place like that you are mature enough to make the right decisions, to weight the pros and cons of your decisions.
No matter who or what you grow up to be I will love you all the same. You are a beautiful young man, and one day will be a mature man with a wife and kids and a home of your own. I love you very much, Nik.
Bye, bye. Love, Dad