This is the story of Grandma, and her descent into the mystic prodded along by the DEA and Federal Prosecutors in the Northern District of Florida. Perhaps unwittingly and as they say - just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you can't be followed.
Conspiracy laws grease the skids of our justice system. When you're charged with conspiracy and exercise your 6th amendment right to trial, the outcome can be astounding, and the cost is unsupportable.
This twilight was long in coming, but just before the year of our lord 2007 it commences and I sit beside Bijou. She is my mother and this is a filial duty that must be fulfilled, albeit in an ever more neglectful way. Her breath come in wisps and starts, and her eyes mist like a cloud of smoke. She has lost her past and enters an altzheimers unit in the beautiful protective assisted living Inn.
This is John Knock. He is the object of prosecutorial overreach.
HE IS THE OBJECT OF THIS OVER REACH AND CHARGING DISPARITY
In 1994 John Knock was indicted in the Northern District of Florida as a co-conspirator with Claude Duboc, a man with French and American citizenship. Claude was arrested in Hong Kong with in a matter of weeks. He was extradited to the United States and hired Robert Shapiro to represent him who in short order referred the case to F. Lee Bailey who became co-counsel. Bailey was eventually disbarred because of the greed and corruption on all sides of this debacle.
Although John had not worked for many years, he was also indicted. John was arrested in France by Interpol at the request of the United States in 1996 and was held in the infamous Prison de la Sante in Paris for three years while he fought extradition. In 1999, he was extradited to the Northern District of Florida to stand trial. John's attorney was Michael Kennedy of New York. In 2000 he was found guilty of conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana, and money laundering. He was sentenced to two life terms plus twenty without parole.
During the mid 1990s, John's mother (who is also mine) began to show symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. This is the story of a rather intriguing legal case and a simultaneous descent into the mystic.
It is a tragic story, but my family is ironic and therefore there is humor.
His story is titled GRANDMA'S MIND WAS STOLEN BY THE DEA.
Grandma had a rather fanciful name - Bijou. On this day Bijou is lying straight and still in the hospital bed that was delivered a week ago. When I enter her room, I'm calm, but in that private state of trepidation one enters when dread is too common an emotion. Always squeamish about anatomy and functions of the body I wonder how she will make this final transition. I've been calling death the next stage of life, but death is death. The room is the same, furnished with a few of Bijou's family pieces that would fit in a standard assisted living dwelling. She recently believed she was living in an institution, but thought it might be something like a college dorm. I was only grateful that she did not morph this lovely facility into a prison, since she has been so intimately familiar with International and Federal Maximum security jails. This twilight was long in coming, probably beginning with the disappearance of her youngest child, John, but in the year of our lord 2007 the mystic rapidly descends. Her breath comes in wisps and starts, and her past is gone.
A small slant top desk sits next to the kitchenette and a walnut chest on chest is in the corner. A tan leather library chair and two small bookcases are placed in front of a large bright window that opens onto an enclosed courtyard. An octagonal pedestal walnut end table sits next to the bed. There is one out of place chair upholstered in blue velvet. It is small by lounge chair standards, but intrusive all the same. This is the chair, beloved by all, with atrophied musculature and worn and tattered joints. With the push of a button it lifts you to your feet -- if you begin erect, it folds you gracefully to your seat and can recline. Bijou said it was beautiful and thanked me for it, but she didn't believe she needed it, and seldom sat there. If she was told she was 93 she would look at you in disbelief.
Several weeks ago I told Bijou where her children are. They are lost to her. she may see a son in a crowd on c-span, or think she hears her daughter in the hall, and wonders why she doesn't come in to say hello. Paid angels care for her. They clean bodily fluids, decide how she should dress eat and sleep. She is now compliant, and her contentious spirit is soothed. She is in the mystic and lost, but the routine is locked in granite and it is not in my best interest to find new threads. I show her a picture of her children. She knows which one I am, but still her breath passes and she softly whisper. "Those are my children, you're all so old." I go through the names as I have so many times. This is Nancy and she just retired. "How could I have a daughter who's retired?" This is me and I'm building a new house because mine burned down. She looks stricken. She always greeted the adversity of others as if it caused her physical pain. This is no exception even though I've told her many times in the last year that my house burned to the ground. Each bit of information is new and fresh, and to the teller it is a bore. This is Jim and he lives in Washington, and this is John. She has long forgotten he is in prison. She asks what he is doing and I say he reads a lot. The responds, "I'm sure that makes him happy."
This day is different. Three days ago she held my hand tight and when I said my name she whispered, "I won't let you go." She did of course. Today the television is on and what sounds like noise to me seems loud and clanging. The hospice nurse is attentive more to me than Grandma. I am in greater need. I find a tape of a grand child's violin concert and insert it in the tape player, and we all feel better. I must look and study this event, as it is monumental in my life even without seeming so. Bijou's once smooth face is smooth again with soft pink and blue coloring that surprises me. Her hands are soft and clean and betray their lack of use. The clean white sheet covers her body, but protruding out the end are her feet encased in what looks like pastel foam booties. I would like to sleep in them. I knew it would end like this - just me and Bijou - but never prepared for the quiet scene. The hospice nurse is like an oracle to me and I will depend on her to tell me how to feel and behave, but especially for her knowledge. My nervous system will only permit me to stand erect, so that is my destiny in this room. I will observe her face with the newly closed eyes that burned like milky sapphires. She is still, and I wait anxiously. I pass through many layers of time and space till the hospice angel says it is done. My eyes swell and spill, not with regret or grief, but for lack of knowledge and closure for grandma, for me, for John and all our family. Pride and past history have become broken promises.
It's 1988 and I ask my father if he ever smoked or drank alcohol. "Well, I don't think so - well maybe I smoked a little rope behind the barn. My mind flashes back to the clear black and white picture of his father's thrashing crew from the 1920s. Their farm was so well tended and appointed that it was used on the cover of the Sears Catalogue that year.
It was in Iowa and the word rope was strange. Suddenly I knew his code. The next picture that comes to mind from the leather bound album shows a proud crew in front of a lush field about to be harvested. Underneath is the explanation.
OUR HEMP FIELD
In the 40s and 50s every summer we went to Iowa to visit our grandparents and other relatives and to see how the farm was doing. In 1945 Grandfather Knock died so most of these visit were considered to be going to Grandma's house. At this time the farms were owned by my Grandmother, my Father and his brother Joe, younger by six years. They were farmed by tenant farmers.
There was a sense of permanence and pride in the land. Calvin and Joe were part of a hardy stock of American immigrants and they knew their roots. Their Great Great Grandfather, Harm Hindricks Knock lived in Ostfriesland Germany with his wife and children. This was an area of fiercely independent people who resisted the dogma of the church and the state. They believed in equal status to all creeds and civil rights separated from creeds. In this area the intrusion of a strong central government had been resisted for centuries. Harm participated in the revolution of 1848 - or the Danish Prussian War, was wounded and succumbed to his wounds.
Harm's children and widow Anna decided to take action to assure their future and began to make plans to come to America Where they believed "All men are Born Free and Equal" These people were part of the German Forty-Eighters who left Germany because of their disappointment with the failure of the revolution to bring more freedom and self determination. They made plans by selling land and goods and finally in 1857 they booked passage on the Schooner Antje Brons which would leave Emden Germany on June 8, 1857 to dock six weeks later in New York. It was a smooth and apparently uneventful trip.
They landed in America and made their way across the country to find land to farm and shape, and make familiar with their traditions. Maybe they would even be able to have the smell and texture of the land they left behind. They were thinking of ownership and community, something they could create and give birth to. They had an idea of permanence and generations. Ostfriesland was a place inhabited by people who craved civil rights and separation of civil and religious rights. There had been an early history of independence and perhaps they had a premonition of what was coming with the Prussian War. They had an easy crossing by way of the North Sea and reported a calm passage. Landing in New York, they easily cleared immigration and they made their way to Illinois where many friends and family had settled.
In 1927, my Great Grandfather Eilert H. Knock wrote about the settling of these farms. At the end of his story he explains that he wrote it so that the younger generation may have some idea of what the pioneers had to contend with. He was an infant when the family made their way across the country from New York to Forreston, Illinois. When he was ten his father and two of his father's brothers saw that Illinois was becoming very populated and additional land would be difficult to acquire. In the spring of 1867 the families left for Iowa where they expected more and better land and opportunity in the open rich prairie. The three brothers would become Grundy county Iowa pioneers. They left in covered wagons and crossed the Mississippi River on a ferry at Dubuque. They made the trip in early spring and the roads were mud and ruts and the horses were exhausted. Even so the trip was made in two weeks..The women came only part of the way in the covered wagons. The remainder of the trip they took the train, coming to Marshall town. When they arrived in Grundy county they bought farms. Eilert and Harm Knock bought farms that adjoined. This became the home of our hemp field.
During the first year in Grundy County, all three brothers bought farms. Eilert and Harm Knock bought farms that adjoined.
Great Great Grandpa's Farm
Calvin's Grandparents Calvin's Parents
The lumber for the first house they built was hauled by wagon from Ackley and they had sleeping accommodations on the first day that the lumber arrived. Little by little more settlers came, and gradually the prairie was broken and the county was settled. The pioneers were industrious and economical and slowly the community grew. In 1870 they built a school house, and shortly after that they built the German Presbyterian church and cemetery of Colfax township. This was in close proximity to Our Hemp Field
Calvin and Joe with parents
Joe and Grandpa 1942
Grandpa Knock was a young fifty five year old when he retired and left his farm in the care of hired hands and tenant farmers. When I was born in 1941 in Luverne Minnesota, Grandma and Grandpa Knock lived in a large craftsman house in Grundy Center Iowa. I remember his soft hand holding mine as we walked around the house or went to the farm. He was silent and with a halo of calm surrounding him. He smoked cigars and let me swing him in the glider on the large front porch. There was a cutting garden in the back yard with flowers of every shape, color and fragrance. My older sister, Nancy and I went with our parents from Minnesota to Iowa in a very large pre war grey Dodge. There would be no new cars till the war was over. Sometimes during the war we had to go by train if there were not enough rations for gas and tires. Calvin's younger brother Joe was serving in the Navy somewhere in the South Pacific. Sometimes they knew where he was and sometimes not. My father was the only other child, and when we arrived with him we were welcomed and cherished, very quietly. Stoic Germans did not speak of sorrows. Grandpa Knock did not see his younger son again. I know my father spoke German as a child, but I never heard a hint of the guttural German accent from any of the relatives. They ere deeply patriotic and independent. During the ill-conceived WWI, my father told me that an unnamed group of outsiders had come to their community and threatened to tar and feather their Presbyterian minister.
As soon as we arrive we run up to the attic to find our toys always housed in a large trunk. The wide dark aged oak floor boards smell of oil and wood. The toys are the same ones played with by my father and his brother. We listen to band concerts on the big front porch. My seemingly ancient grandpa, although only in his fifties, rests on a glider. Nancy and I play on the floor. It is quite exciting waiting for the band to play in the large white band shell on the lawn of the Court House across the street. If they sell popcorn at the stand next to the band we will get some. My grandma is meticulous and bends over to pick up a piece of lint she sees on the carpet. She fixes meals made of fresh lettuce, corn and tomatoes. All the vegetables have been fresh picked, although not necessairly in her garden as it is reserved for flowers.
Beth and Nancy 1943
Grandparents Nancy and Beth
Grandma Bijou Nancy Beth
The chicken is fresh and fried. We eat in the dining room on china housed in a large built in sideboard. If it is extra hot, we can sleep in the large screened in sleeping porch upstairs next to the bedroom where our parents sleep. On the way up or down the stairs, I stop on the landing and slide open the pocket doors that open like a balcony above the living room. I feel bold and sing and dance, although I don't recall anyone ever asking me to, nor asking me to stop. It is my own silent pleasure.