A Letter to my 5th-Grade Self | Dennis Cockerham

Mixed Family | Dennis Cockerham

Dennis Cockerham
Son of Rory and Sue
West Point, Nebraska
March 28, 1972

You don’t remember this

You used to live with your parents
There was a family

There was a mom
There was a dad
Brother and sisters

Two boys
Two girls


Living in a house
All together

Parents divorced
You were 4 years old

That is how Stacey and yourself

Older than you by one year

Ended up
Living with grandma and grandpa

Originally from Iowa
Went Back

Mom wanted a fresh start
4 kids
Too Much

She moved
Norfolk, Nebraska
She took
Christine and Chad with her

Stacey and you
Signed over
James and Myrtle Webb

Mom and dad
Our grandparents

As unbelievable
As this is going to sound to you right now
It won’t

You will come to believe
Great things
Through your experiences in this life

I write
To me
Of the past

A way of introduction
To the reader
Of the present

To introduce us
To the world

The date today is
March 2, 2020

Turn 48 years old this month

Such a distance
From where you are now

Some of this may seem
Hard to follow
Even now
The emotions resonate
Enough to distract me

I promise you
I know your tastes
Pulled to the adventure
As you are

Like the themes you make up
In your head
As you play
Hot wheel cars in the basement

Riding the edge of the law
Like The Dukes Of Hazzard
Doing bad
To do good

So many years later
I understand

I understand why you relate
To this contradiction
Recreate the same theme
Over and over
In new and inventive ways
In the safety of your imagination
In the basement
Where nobody comes

I don’t want to take these times from you
These moments of peace
This way you play out the confusion
Now your life

Replicating it in your favor
Finally the hero
Loved by all

There is a reason
Why I have chosen now
To reach out to you

You are 10 years old
You are in the 5th grade

It has been brought to your attention
Things at home
Not as they should be

You did not break the swing set
You did not throw the first high heel shoe
You are not a liar
You are not worthless
You do not deserve what comes next

Right does not
Have the same outcome as wrong
Bad and good
Are not the same thing

A plan has been put into place
A way out
No more pain
You are thinking

You are about to take it

I am not going to tell you not to
I know
I still feel the aches
You are hiding under those clothes
I still get lost in the confusion

The tears you shed
The sense of failure
After another try

A try to do right
To do good
To receive praise
To get her attention
To have her love you, too

It is necessary

I do
Want to give you an understanding
Of the weight of this decision

In the basement
With the hot wheels
You always get away

Stealing from the rich
Giving to the poor
Police chasing you

You do not get beaten
You do not get caught
Escape punishment

This fantasy
That you created
This hope that you need to be true
This possibility

It is not

I write this letter
To you
From The United States Of America
Federal Prison Camp

I am here
Sentenced May 12, 2018
55 months
Possession Of A Firearm

This charge itself
Does nothing
To explain the process
That landed you here today

This is your 7th incarceration
Since turning 18 years old

3 times in Iowa
2 times in South Dakota
This is your second Federal number

Prior to these events
You spent close to 8 years
State Of Nebraska
Juvenile System

8 Years

Starting shortly after reading this letter

In just hours from now
You run away
The decision
Based on fear
On the confusion
On the injustice

It creates the pattern
For the rest of your life
You don’t even realize it
Until today

It is not all bad
We are not alone
I write this letter
to you now
Too introduce us
To the world

We are part of something
Something greater than ourselves
Able to share our journey
Our life
All it entails
With many

Those themes
We imagined in the basement
Those stories we put together
To make our world
Make sense

It is these very things
They inspired
Gave us the ability
to communicate
To our self
To others

To express the way we think
The way we feel
The way we relate

Let our hope be
That each reader understand
We are not proposing
That we have the answer
But instead
Through our example
Our path toward a solution

This running away
From the feelings
From the confusions
From the problems

It need not be taken

And to you

The impact
The abuse
The addiction
The confusion
The contradiction
The realization

It is precisely these things
That brings us together today
Finally complete
No longer torn
With strength and courage

Love You,

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[…] these faces every day when I walk this prison yard. I hope that these words or those of Noah and Dennis will touch at least one if not all of you in a way that will make you realize and keep you safe. […]