The Silence of My Thoughts

I am sitting here in grief.

Grief that is not mine to possess.

I can touch the memory of laughing with my son last night.

Talking about his future.  Memories from the past.

Enjoying the moment between us two.

He sits with me now in the quiet as I write. 

He is working.  I can reach out.  He is there. Breathing.

I see life.  His life.

My heart is heavy for the mother. The father.  They belonged to him. 

He was theirs.  His heartbeat. 


All they have are the memories.  Palpable. Grief. Life. 

That space in between.  Disbelief.

Primal. I can feel them.  

I must hold my head.  I can hear their piercing screams.

It is my imagination. The cries.  They belong to me.

I reach out. I hear silence now.  I see life.  I see my son. 








An Immigration Journey

Antonio Grimaldo came to the U.S. in 1997 as a 17-year-old. He had friends who had come here who were working hard to build a better life. Antonio knew he wanted a better life too. He spent his first seven days in America in the back of a van with sixteen other people in the heat of August. That trip started in Arizona, on to Chicago, then NYC, and lastly to Antonio’s stop in Arcadia, Florida, where he immediately began working in the fields picking oranges. When that job ended after a month, he traveled to North Carolina to work as stoop labor picking tobacco and cucumbers for a few more months. He soon learned he had an uncle living in Athens, Alabama, who would help him find a job and a place to live. Antonio arranged for transportation to Athens, Alabama, but was dropped off in Atlanta because the driver mistakenly thought he meant Athens, Georgia. Antonio then had to buy a bus ticket to Birmingham, Alabama so he could finally make his way to Athens, Alabama. Remember he was only 17 years old, had been in the U.S. for just a few months, and spoke limited English. After boarding the bus in Birmingham, he realized as the sun was coming up, he had taken the wrong bus. He said he still does not know where that bus took him, but he had to get back to Birmingham. He made it back to Birmingham, and this time he was assured he was on the bus to Athens, Alabama. Each stop, he would ask the driver, “Is this it?” The driver would say at each stop, “Not yet, but you are on the right path.” Antonio remembers stopping at the bus station in Decatur, Alabama, on Grant Street which was around the corner from where our office is today. His next stop after Decatur was it. His destination – Athens. The bus stopped at a store in Athens.  Antonio looked for a bus station but the driver said, “This is it. You are here. You have arrived.” Indeed, he had made it, but did not realize his American journey was just beginning.  He now had to work hard, pay his bills, and stay out of trouble.  His first step proved to be the right one – he got a job in Decatur in 1998 where continues working today.


Antonio started the immigration process in 2005 with an immigration lawyer in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina hit, Antonio’s immigration case stalled. In 2007 he was asking friends if anyone knew an immigration lawyer in the area. A mutual friend told Antonio about Allen Stoner. In 2007 Allen began working on Antonio’s case. It has been a long labor-intensive process for Antonio, his family, and Allen’s law office team.  In 2008 Antonio returned to Mexico where he was required to wait six months to complete the visa process.  He stayed in the state of Jalisco with family and then journeyed on a nineteen-hour bus ride to the American Consulate in Ciudad Juarez. This was the final step.  The next day Antonio returned to the United States as a lawful permanent resident.  From 2008 through 2018 Antonio continued to work at his job, build his fluency in the English language, and assimilate into the American culture.  In early 2019 Antonio applied for U.S. citizenship.  On December 20, 2019, Antonio was sworn in as a U.S. citizen – 13 years after his first meeting with Allen.


January 17th, 2020 was Antonio’s 40th birthday. He came to our office for a visit holding his mini American flag and Certificate of Naturalization presented to him at the citizenship ceremony.  The bus station is no longer around the corner, but he can walk out of our office, take a few steps, and see where it was located. Antonio reminisced that as a 17-year-old, he could not have dreamed that he would be visiting his immigration lawyer 22 years later as a U.S. citizen. Immigration law may be our business, but it is also a labor of love for our team. We are committed to all our clients, and we are honored to do what we do.  It has been a privilege for us at Allen R. Stoner, P.C., Attorney at Law, to be with Antonio on his American journey.


Coming Back, Again

I think too much. What if? Or, I don’t give a flip what you think. The extreme. Recovery tells me that alcoholics do this. The extreme. I wonder if there are people who don’t descend into Alcoholism who do a 180 when the mood hits them.

That’s what happened to me. I did a 180, which took me on a vertical decline. Declines can only be vertical? Is that right? See, there I go again. I think too much. What if I tell this story, and my insurance drops me? I have to trust that sharing and helping others is what I am supposed to do.

In August 2018, I had been in recovery, again, and sober for two years and almost ten months. My husband and I were at the grocery store. We were pissed at each other. He was going in to get the few items we needed. I told him in a concise commanding voice, “And, get me a bottle of wine too.”

I still remember the physical movement of his head and his eyes when one is taken aback. “What? Are you sure? You think you can do that?” I think he was relieved that maybe somehow we would be nicer to each other that night if we shared a bottle of wine. Isn’t it romantic to share a bottle of wine? I told him to go ahead and get two bottles so we would have a backup. In my experience, I would always need a backup. And I was always prepared, especially when I was drinking.

So, on a beautiful hot summer evening, my husband and I shared a couple of bottles of wine. We talked about life. Solved some of the world’s problems, and for a night, we both forgot about our most recent conflict.

Then, as I have heard many times in recovery, I was off to the races. That was August 7th, 2018. One week before my 56th birthday. I had this. I could drink successfully. Something else recovery teaches is that Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Each time an alcoholic relapses, the drinking gets worse- faster. According to my experience, this is a correct statement. I won’t tell you the stories in between August 7th, 2018 to December 25th, 2018. I will tell you that the police had to come to our home two times that evening of the 24th because my family was concerned about me. This was the first time the police have ever been called to our home. Ever. Not proud, but it happened. I ended up being taken away by ambulance late on Christmas Eve and spent Christmas Day 2018 in the hospital. In all of my years of drinking, this was the first holiday I had ever ruined.

Let me tell you about recovery. I have been in a 12 step program that encourages anonymity, which I respect. When I reentered recovery that time in 2015, there were people in recovery who did not appreciate that I was public about the 12 step program, though I never announced it by name. Some would tell me they didn’t like it, and some would passive-aggressively mention it in meetings. But, I did not let that deter me. I believe it is essential to be honest about Alcoholism. I would never want anyone to think that recovery doesn’t work. It does. I also think there is more than one recovery program. Each person must find what works to keep one sane and sober.

This is my coming back essay. Yes, on December 25th, 2019, this past Christmas, I eased into my one year birthday, again, in recovery. What I have learned is that I can’t drink without ending up in an awful place. I want it to be all romantic and elegant, dry red wine in crystal glasses, but it is not. Red wine, my friends, will kill me. That’s the truth.

The recovery program Allen and I entered July of 2019 is Recovery Dharma. It is working. I have found peace there. The 12 Step Program works as well. For me, it does not matter what I do or what happens to me; I have this voice that thinks that I can drink a couple of drinks and stop. I can’t. So, I will continue to share this information, this struggle, because I can be happy, joyous, and free, but I still want to drink. But I’m not going to drink. I like who I am when I am not drinking. I like me, sober.