After almost a year and a half I hugged my son two weeks ago. It felt so good. And I even managed to sneak in a kiss on the cheek which he did not appreciate but I did!
The process for getting approval to go see August at the prison hasn’t been easy because in 2016 I had to get an order of protection and eviction against him. He had been breaking into my house and stealing from me and it was the only way I could have any recourse when he did. It was a horrible moment in our relationship. To sit in court and publicly reject my child. My child who already felt the deepest level of abandonment anyone can feel was being rejected by the person he most wanted to be connected to. Another stellar parenting fail. But I knew that continuing the path we were on was not going to be healthy for me and it was not going to help August learn anything about what was expected of him. So I had to get that vacated because anyone who is a victim of an incarcerated person can’t come to visit them, lest they use that opportunity for revenge apparently.
So two weeks ago I went to the Putnamville Correctional Facility. In case you’ve never been to a medium-level prison, let me give you a little idea of what’s involved. I was wearing a modest sleeveless summer sweater, crop jeans and sandals. When I got there I found out sleeveless isn’t allowed so I now own a t-shirt from the House of Marathon Gas Station down the street. Can’t wear any jewelry; no fitbit, no bracelets, no earrings no matter how small. I even had to remove my toe rings which I never take off and which was a bit of a challenge.
There are vending machines and I was advised by August to bring quarters so I am now standing with a bowl of quarters in one hand, my shoes in the other and a key to the locker containing all my other belongings waiting to go through the metal detector. But apparently that’s not good enough because before that I get patted down by a female guard (who I might now be dating). Then through the metal detector (thank goodness I was wearing a no-wire bra; that would have had to be ripped out) and a special cell phone detector. Shoes back on and a stamp on my hand. Through a door, ID and stamp checked. Mind you I’m only five feet from where I just was. Then follow a line on the ground over to the visitation building.
Once over there I wait outside. A guard calls me in and I sign in. I cheat on the previous guard by getting patted down by her. She rattles off an amazing list of rules which there is no way I’ll remember. She brings me into the visitation room. The room is surprisingly pleasant. Many little sets of a cube wooden table and two chairs. One side of the table has an “X” where inmate sits. I am assigned a spot. I have some time to look around.
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
There are many different combinations of people visiting. Some are obvious; boyfriends/husbands and girlfriends/wives, parents/sons, families and fathers. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see children visiting their fathers here. They have pictures on the wall obviously drawn by children who have visited and there are murals painted all around to make the place seem less sad. Nothing about the faces or demeanors of the people seem hopeless or tragic. Everyone has on their, “Everything will be OK” looks.
August finally walks in. He’s wearing a khaki jumpsuit. He’s always been skinny and other than a few more tattoos he looks basically the same. The hug feels great. We sit down and chat. It’s not really awkward because we talk all the time. But it’s slightly weird. We haven’t been in the same room in almost 1 1/2 years other than a courtroom. He’s recently gotten a tattoo on his neck-a cross in the middle with a devil on one side and an angel on the other. The angel is naked. I guess if your son is going to have an angel tattoo on his neck it’s good that she has a nice rack.
I try to talk about important things. He tries to listen. I try to get him to think about his life. He tries to say the right answers. What he thinks I want to hear. We keep things civil. I hope that these visits will propel him to want to get out and do the things he needs to do to make that happen. He has come into the visit having to go to the bathroom so the visit gets cut short because as soon as he gets up the visit is over.
We are together about an hour and a half and it is glorious. As horrible as so much of parenting him has been, I miss him every day. I miss seeing his face and his smile. I miss going to movies with him and when he liked to help me with things. They were such brief moments but they were glimpses of who he could be. I get to go every two weeks will be so helpful for me and I hope for him.
Again, not a place I ever thought I’d be. Amazing the lives we find ourselves living.