Life goes on.
I knew that when my students couldn’t bear to miss out on another birthday, another graduation, another break up, another funeral, another family reunion; I felt it like a throbbing pulse, standing in the enclosed yard, looking out of those fences, the absolute agony of being powerless to celebrate, comfort, or fix things. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that’s their punishment, that’s the idea behind prison, and everyone of them did something to get there. That knowledge didn’t always make it easier on my heart.
At the same time I sympathized for my students, I understood the plight of their families and friends. Without Dad (or Mom) or son or brother around to bring in the bacon, fix the plumbing, negotiate a new radiator, and help entertain the terrible toddler once in awhile, it’s easy to grow frustrated and independent.
Both parties have legitimate needs and concerns. How relationships of any kind survive that mystifies me.
One thing I’ve learned this past week is the difference in time. In prison, everything slows down with schedules, security, and uniforms. Management and procedures change periodically, but overall prison remains monotonous. I see that now. Out here, on the outs, as they call it, real life moves at an incredible speed. We had less than ten days to find a place to live and move before my husband began his new job which would tie him up for about five weeks straight, leaving me to make a home out of whatever we could find and establishing my kids as quickly as possible in their new setting. My life is unusually busy these days, but even in quieter moments it moves faster than inside prison walls.
The day we signed our lease we also met with our pastor, picked out paint colors, deliberated on new appliances, and tried to figure out how to get everything done in 48 hours in order to move on to other pressing projects. That night I sunk into my host’s couch exhausted and didn’t care that we were watching NBA finals. After a few sips of tea, I honed in on the teams and the scores. Oh! Miami was playing. I knew someone rooting for the team with all of his heart and mouth back at my old facility. I can picture him clearly now, but I know that memory will fade like an old photograph. Is it like this for prisoners’ families, I wonder? Going about your day when suddenly the tiniest thing reminds you? A city name, a color, a song, a phrase, a dull moment and I’m wondering how so-and-so is coping. Yesterday was PTR day I realize another moment, so then I wonder if certain individuals moved up in their status. Did Lt. D. miss my brownies or banana bread this month? None of this should matter to me anymore, these questions have no legitimate bearing on my life and I can no longer affect those individuals, but they will continue to grab at me for awhile.
My days will fill with blueberry picking, water slides, reading lessons, coupon clipping, gardening, marketing, and all things pink. Less and less will my heart and head be troubled with the shadows, thank goodness, but I won’t ever forget, just like a mother never forgets her child, no matter how rotten. Even the best of mothers can not always make the trip to those prison gates. A flat tire here, an extra shift there, the needs of a husband or another child detain her. Life. It goes on. Meanwhile, for the prisoner, life stands almost still.