My son and I just celebrated his 43rd birthday one Sunday not long ago...he in a state prison, me in the prison state of my heart. It was a bittersweet day for me, for him I can’t imagine, though being incarcerated on any day must not be a picnic, much less your birthday.
Last Friday I received a letter from him. I picked it up from my mailbox and let the anticipation of hearing from him build. (Often I’ll tear open an intriguing mail before I start up the mountain, two miles can seem like an eternity.)
He was sentenced to five years in March. Multiple felonies all having to do with drugs. I doubt very much if he would be serving prison time for just using...no, he was selling it to support his habit. This is disgusting to me. It isn’t bad enough he has affected his life, and those of the people who care about him, he has been the one responsible for other families’ nightmares. He doesn't even see it.
As I drove I contemplated all of this. He’d gone to prison just three days after I took him to lunch...and two days before I became so ill last month. He had called me from the county jail facility about a week into his incarceration. Though I was so very sick, I accepted the collect phone call. He had sounded upbeat telling me (as I coughed and struggled to catch my breath) that he would be leaving the local facility in a few days and would not be able to call for at least a month. I told him he had gotten a state tax refund, “What shall I do with it?” I asked. He told me to give it to a “friend” of his to bring it to him. I complied.
So now I was sitting in my bedroom slicing through the envelope with a red letter opener full of ...that’s just it, my hopes of having a relationship with him were dashed already, having been through 23 years of his drug use and self-centered behavior.
With a mixture of love and equal parts dread I took the single sheet of school style paper out of the envelope and began to read his words to me.
I hope you are well. I haven’t heard from you since my last letter before I left the county. I'm not sick anymore, well maybe heartsick. I never got another letter from you son, sorry.
I am now at ______. I never even knew such a place existed.
That makes two of us. Things are okay here. I’m working in the kitchen to help pass the time. How nice. Don’t know my release date until I see a counselor whenever that is. As it sits I have less than 29 months to go. So I will keep you up to date. I’m sure the time will just fly by son. By my calculations it would mean somewhere around October of 2012. I’ll mark my calendar.
Happy Early Mother’s Day. I know I know I know I’m here when I should be out taking you to Brunch somewhere. Oh, why would you think that? I don’t remember even one Mother’s Day brunch with you. It’s okay son, usually you don’t even acknowledge the day. I'm grateful you even remember. But like you said we are right where we are supposed to be. I did say it, someone told me this in my last eight months of struggle with the pain of losing my husband and you (again) within days of each other. For the first time in my life I started reading the Bible New Testament and Psalms. Oh really. I think I have a couple of your letters telling me that same lie thing when you spent two years at a live-in rehab. I also am jarred by the familiarity of those same words echoing from a thick, black stinky phone held to my ears ten years ago when I sat across from you in the county jail...a thick glass partition separating us. Well, maybe this time eh? Knowledge is the key to life so if there are any classes that I can attend I will surely sign up. Such wisdom now.
Okay now for the serious stuff. I take a deep breath. Everything up to this point had been what...not serious? The State refund check that was sent to me...well the prison sent it back to the state for some reason. Oh my...let me think why they might do that. Oh yes, it could be because you owe the State Superior Court thousands and thousands of dollars which they keep trying to collect from you through my address and phone number. Oh whew, that $168 will get them out of my hair for sure. I guess they can’t cash it or some other reason I am not sure. So, to save any more delays or problems like that in the future...cause I will be getting my Federal Tax Refund check resent cause they had to deduct $58.00 that I owed. Oh. Good, you are looking towards the future. So a check should be coming to your house for about $1,600. I’ll keep an eye out for that for sure son. Please Do not send the check to me here. Could you either 1) Hold on to it for me 2) See if the bank would ISSUE A MONEY ORDER then send the money order in my name to me or 3) Cash and send the money through JPAY.com or just cash it and hold the money until I get out. Hm-m-m-m so many choices you have given me. Still trying to manage life while incarcerated I see. I guess it isn’t easy. Well, you didn’t happen to mention how I would go about cashing a check made out to you. How do I do that son? Give me another multiple choice okay? I'll hop right on this.
Thank you mom and once again I’m sorry I am not there to help you....But I will use this time to help myself. A mother couldn’t hope for more than this. I miss you and the dogs. I am not in paradise. WHAT? Prison isn’t paradise. Go figure.
I don’t need any money. That’s why you spend time telling me what to do with your tax refund check I suppose. They feed me okay and supply basic needs. More than some of us get. But if you could send stamps, envelopes and stationary I could write more often. Sure thing, I’ll hop right on that. I guess your many friends haven’t. Any questions about what you can and cannot send VISIT CDCR.com. Oh yes, the website I visited and on page 443 found a confusing list of what and from where I can buy this stuff. My head is about to explode.
Love you always...I love you too son, gotta go figure out how to make your life easier, will write soon!