Sunday started out as pretty routine. I got up, drank my water, took my thyroid meds, shot myself in the leg, and prepared to be home for the day. Then I got The Message. I was going to prison.
Note: If you’ve already read about my going to Federal prison, you can click here for the pictures.
The rest of Sunday was pretty much the same as usual. I did laundry, had a long visit with DD (on her part, she’s reluctant but they both may be applying for jobs at large corporations) and another one with DS1.
I need to backtrack some and catch you up on what’s been going on behind the scenes. On May 23, a surprising voice mail came in. It was from the wife of one of the local Seventh-day Adventist pastors. She’d been looking for me for nine years and saw my name on a church officers list. She asked someone for my phone number and left the message that an old friend I hadn’t seen for almost 25 years was wondering how I was doing. What really floored me was the fact that I’d heard he was dead. It wouldn’t have been particularly surprising if he had been because the last time I saw him, he was pushing 400 lubs.
She went on. They had gotten acquainted with him when they were doing prison ministries at a facility in Chattanooga back in the early 90s. They’ve “adopted” him and go see him as often as time and finances permit. He was/is currently in Federal prison quite a distance away. She gave me her phone number and said I could call her if I wanted. I waited a day or two, looked her up on Facebook and sent her a private message asking for the address where I could write him. I don’t “do” phones very well.
I wrote him a brief letter, expressing amazement that the rumors of his death had been greatly exaggerated. I’d been doing some googling and found that prisoners have limited access to email. I gave him my email address and asked him to add me if he wanted. Well, he wanted and we started emailing back and forth, catching each other up on what had been going on.
The pastor’s wife told me he’d lost weight and offered to send me some pictures. There was a “before” that looked much like he did when I knew him. The other one was a drastic difference. The pastor and wife were in both of them and they hadn’t changed much at all. I remembered seeing her a time or two before.
On July 16, I walked into the church and there was the woman in the pictures. I went over to her, looked her square in the eye and asked, “What’s your name?” She told me and later she said she wondered what she had done. I hugged her and told her who I was—er, am. We immediately hit it off and started talking like we’d known each other all our lives. That’s when the plan was hatched for me to go with them to Kentucky the next time they went to see our friend.
A form to have me added to his visitor list had to be filled out and mailed in. Then the waiting began. They planned to go on August 8 and, if my clearance came through in time, I could go with them. I put in for two days off because the trip there takes 4.5 hours, the visit totals another 3.5 and then it’s 4.5 hours back. All in one day. I’d need Tuesday to recuperate.
I had been approved on Friday, August 5, but no one outside the prison staff would have known it if the counselor hadn’t gone in on the weekend. That was an unusual occurrence. That’s why I didn’t find out until Sunday. When I left the hospital on Friday, I told the girls I’d let them know if I would be traveling.
Wife had told me not to wear khaki, no low-necked clothing, sandals allowed, nothing more could be taken in but $20 in change and my ID.
We were to meet at the supermarket the next morning at 9. That night, I dreamed it was 9:20 and I still wasn’t there. When I woke, I was greatly relieved.
I got up at my usual time, packed a lunch and my fava beans, drank half what I usually do in water, OJ and water kefir, ate breakfast, exercised & showered, got dressed and set out.
Getting to the market early, I ran in to get a few things and took them back to the car. The couple pulled up just as I was stowing things in the cooler. It and I were transferred to their car and we took off after I availed myself of a quick trip to the bathroom.
A few potty stops and one to gas up saw us pulling up to a turnaround across the highway from the prison. That’s where we ate our lunches in the car. With the windows rolled down, we enjoyed a nice breeze and it wasn’t at all too hot.
The prison is a huge forbidding-looking place with a dome like a capitol building. I had my camera in my purse but I didn’t even think about taking pictures. Strangely, I wasn’t nervous about going inside. The pastor said some people are because they are afraid they can’t get back out. They’d gone in and out many times and hadn’t been held captive yet.
We weren’t allowed on the grounds until 2. When we went up to the waiting area on the steps, there were already a few people there. More kept coming. We couldn’t go to the next stage until 2:30. The sky looked like it was going to open up and pour. A tiny female guard came out and had us all go up under a carport affair. The rain was still holding off.
Staff members were coming out and every time the gate opened everyone looked up in anticipation but it was several minutes before we were allowed inside the gate. Concertina wire lined the top of the fence on both sides of the walkway. One gate clanged shut behind us and there was another to go through. When it clanged shut, we were in front of the building under a roof.
The guard passed out forms and pens. I had to fill out who I was going to visit, check off “no” to a multitude of questions about what I might have on my person (no, I didn’t have a weapon or drugs or marijuana, etc., etc.), fill out my name, address and the car I was riding in.
The rain started falling and I was glad we weren’t out in the open. The wind started blowing and I got somewhat wet. It felt good, though, because heat was radiating from the brick on the building.
By and by, we got inside and had to present our IDs and forms. Then we were motioned to the metal detector. The pastor and wife took off their shoes and put them along with their other things in a bin to send through the x-ray machine. I did the same but I forgot my watch. When I walked through the detector, it went off. I walked back through. It went off again. The pastor mentioned my watch so I took it off and handed it to him. I went through the third time and it went off AGAIN. The pastor’s wife looked at me like a light bulb had gone off—“DING!!” “Does your bra have an underwire?” Well, yes. Anything else and I would be sued for non-support. The guard wanded me, stamped my wrist and let us go on to the desk.
Another guard took our IDs and this time we didn’t get them back. He opened the door to the visitors’ area and we went in.
Yet ANOTHER guard assigned us our seats. It was a grouping of four chairs, two on each side of a small, low square table. The pastor’s wife and I sat on one side and the pastor sat down across from her. That left one chair for our friend. It was next to the wall and faced the center of the large room. They told me he couldn’t sit with his back to the guards.
Presently, the wife turned around and exclaimed, “There he is!” I looked but didn’t see anyone I even remotely knew. When he walked over to us, I was dumbfounded. He was less than half the size he was when I’d seen him last. His head was shaved because there is no a/c in the living quarters. All the heat soaked up by the brick in the daytime radiates into the building at night. In August, that can be brutal.
He hugged all around and settled in for our visit. After a few minutes, I found my tongue and we started talking. We mostly reminisced about our lives back prior to my move in August of ’86. He laughed about DD and her night-night saying that, no matter what we might need on the plane, that was an absolute necessity. If DD didn’t have it, we had to land and go get it.
There was the time we (he and his then girlfriend, DH and me and some others) were eating out. DH ordered half a head of lettuce and never got it. He said, “Give him a squash and he’d be happy.” I told him he was easy to cook for.
Lots more stories were told and I had to tell the couple about what our friend had done for me after DH left. He and another fellow had bought a canoe from me that neither one needed. As a matter of fact, he would have probably sunk it. They bought other stuff, too, just to make sure I had money to live on. I’ll never forget their kindness. When my car was vandalized, they fixed it up so I could still drive it. You can’t buy friends like that.
The time passed all too quickly. He had to go out once for “count” and then the pastor’s wife microwaved the hamburger I’d had her buy out of the vending machine. Always fastidious, he had paper towels as a napkin on his knee so he wouldn’t spill on his pants. He said that was a switch—my buying—because he usually picked up the tab.
He’d bought tickets so a couple of pictures could be made. One was of the four of us and the other was of him and me. I hope I can get copies of them.
Something he lamented was not being able to get bananas but maybe once a week. He has to pay for them. When they don’t have bananas, he can buy maybe an apple or an orange. Now, when I’m gorging on bananas in the mornings, I think about how much he would like to be able to do that.
The pastor prayed a beautiful prayer while we stood in a circle holding hands.
Promptly at 5:30, the visit was over. He walked us as far as he could and, after hugs all around, we were given our IDs and we left. Walking out over the hill, I felt so sorry for him. I know he had to do something illegal to be where he is but he’s a decent person. Truth be told, if everyone went to prison for doing illegal things, there would be far fewer of us outside.
We pulled up to the supermarket at 10 and I was home by 10:15. Next day, I was pretty much out of it and didn’t do much of anything. I knew getting rehydrated would make all the difference.
Wednesday, it was back to the same ol’ same ol’. The rest of the week paled in comparison to what went on Monday. I did go to the neighbors’ and grocery shopped and yesterday there was another load of CORN (NOT porn) brought to the hospital.
This morning, I told the pianist/music coordinator that I’m really not comfortable playing the piano. She was surprised. She thought I’d like switching. I wondered what she didn’t hear when I’d protested playing the piano before. I don’t have one available to practice and the piano takes a whole different set of muscles than the organ does.
This afternoon, I sat on the deck and watched the hummingbirds. Once, one of them body slammed another and I could hear the impact. They both flew away, apparently unhurt.
I’ve had a full quart of water kefir today. It’s some of the best I’ve made. I fixed it with the water I didn’t drink on Monday. It was reverse osmosis with minerals added so I didn’t add any calcium carbonate. Buying water to make it would really up the price so I won’t be doing that again.
Well, it’s another week gone and I’m still here. Not for long, though. Good night!