Saying Goodbye | Missing Them Already

We had a wonderful time with my dad and brother today. Even though it didn’t end well, with a migraine for me, and a stomach ache for my husband, the rest of the day was really nice.

We dropped the kids off with my in-laws in the morning, meeting up at McDonald’s for breakfast before we went our separate ways. They were headed off to Branson, Missouri – while my husband and I were off to see pick up my dad and visit my brother in prison.

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We drove an hour to pick my dad up and then two more to make it to the prison. I drove and my dad sat in the passenger seat, while my husband sat in the back. My dad knew where we were going, so he was my Mapquest.

We talked about my brother a lot. My dad is still so sad about him, as we all are. It’s all right there under the surface. He can barely talk about him without tearing up. We talked about God a lot too. It was really nice having those hours of quality time listening to my dad share his heart with me.

The visit with my brother went well, despite the fact that I had a wicked migraine. My brother especially enjoyed seeing my husband again. They had such a precious relationship outside of prison. I know my brother misses him so much. They used to hang out together a lot. To be honest, I think my brother enjoys my husband more than he enjoys me – and I don’t say that in a sulking way at all. I think its sweet. I wish things were different and my brother could just pop by like he used to and spend the night playing video games and poker with my husband.

The two of them “cut up” and relived “old times”, because that’s what you do when you visit a “lifer” (someone in prison for life) – you relive the old days because that’s all you really have. In our case, nearly nine years ago he was locked up, so we have to go back at least ten years to relive memories.

I sat next to him and just looked at him most of the visit. He’s changed a lot. I barely recognize him when I see him. Each year takes such a toll on him. He would never want to hear that from me. He still thinks he’s a young buck, and according to his age, he is still young, but prison years are different than our kind of years. Prison life is hard. And it shows on the body.

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(I’m the only one with a big smile. haha I stick out like a sore thumb. The rest of them look like its a prison picture, I look like its a family reunion at a park or something. Oh and we can’t touch in the picture, prison rules, so that’s why we are all just standing next to each other.)

He had me feel the permanent bump on his head from where another inmate beat him nearly to death last year. He made light of it but I know that experience was terribly frightening but in prison you never want to let anyone know you are scared. You have to present yourself as a bad-ass, even when you aren’t really a bad-ass.

He ate lots of vending machine food. Little pizzas and sandwich’s and pies and chips and nuts etc. He sucked through two drinks and probably could have had more if we would have stayed longer. Two and a half hours into the visit, we decided it was time to leave. Those hours fly by in some ways and crawl in others. The seats are terribly uncomfortable, the bright over-head lights hurt the eyes, the noise is incredible. But the company is worth it all.

10533599_1512712302296616_109013610_nI got a hug goodbye. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see him again. That might have been my last hug for a couple years or more. I really don’t know how often we’ll come back to Missouri for visits once we move to Texas. As I approached the door to leave, I turned back around. There he sat. I cry now as I relive that. I waved and left my brother behind, in prison, for life. It still hurts so bad, friends. It doesn’t get easier. It really doesn’t. I miss him so much.

We drove to T.G.I Friday’s to treat my dad for his birthday. And as we sat there, talking, and enjoying each others company, eating good food, a wave of sadness hit me. My husband asked what was wrong. I voiced my sadness about my brother not being with us at the birthday dinner. That made things somber for awhile but I couldn’t help it. I miss him so much and ache for him. I physically ache for him. My heart hurts, its a pain you can feel.

Driving back home, my dad and I talked non stop. Mostly about my dad’s childhood, which gave me a lot of insight into why he was the way he was when I was growing up. Made me sad for my dad as a little boy. I’m happy he let me in on his life though. It really helps me to understand the past more and get to know my father on a deeper level.

At one point he began to cry, I touched his arm and said he is loved. He touched my arm back. He’s a fragile man. So much pain about so many things just under the surface. Not because he’s feeling sorry for himself. But because he’s sensitive, a lot like me and my brother. And he’s had a rough life. Like my mom has had. And much like myself and definitely my brother. But despite the rough lives we’ve all lived, we never blame God, or see Him as the author of the bad. He is our rescuer and we are thankful for Him.

We dropped my dad off at his truck. Hugged and lingered a bit before taking off. We plan on seeing him one more time before we move to Texas. I’ll miss him. We’re just getting to know each other again. He’s just now getting to know his grandkids. And it makes us both sad. But, we’ll make it work. Somehow, we’ll make it work. Just like somehow we’ll make it work with my mom and step-dad and the rest of the family.

Today was a good day over all. Spending it with three of my favorite men. I’m blessed. I have a lot of men in my life that love me. I have my three boys, step -dad, dad, father-in-law, and my amazing husband. I’m surrounded by love. I’m not just lucky, I’m blessed. And of course, the two awesome ladies in my life – my mom and mother-in-law!

#goodbyemissouri #texasbound

 

Visiting a Prisoner

10554243_256850031180709_2134960713_nAfter a three hour drive, we pulled into the long line of other cars waiting to drive onto prison property. See, you can’t just wait in the parking lot of the prison. You have to wait off the property, on a side street, and wait until a certain time before you can park and go check in.

When its “time”, we all drive up “no more victims rd” (yet another painful reminder why we are at prison) going really slowly up the road because if you’re even only a couple minutes early they will turn you away.

Once on the property, everyone makes a mad dash to park, and get inside the prison building. The goal being, the first in line. Today we were far from the first in line but still got in rather quickly. We wait in line with countless others whose loved ones are in prison. We watch as a young lady was reprimanded for what she was wearing; a white tshirt. She was made to get a cover up.

Before you can check in, you empty your pockets of everything but your ID and lock it all up in the small lockers they have when you first enter the building. You can’t bring picture albums, or gifts, or your phone, or a camera… nothing can come into the building except your ID and money.

Once at the front of the line, you step forward and hand the guard your photo ID. They plug you into the system, making sure you don’t have warrants. If you do, they arrest you on the spot. Of course, we don’t have warrants but it’s still nerve wracking. You sign in, are stamped on your hand, wait in another line, and then are once overed with a wand before going through further check in processes.

Once you have been wanded, six people can go in at a time. You walk through another set of locking doors and hand over your ID’s again. You show your hand under a special light to make sure you have the stamp. If everything’s okay, they then unlock another set of doors, which walks into an outdoor tunnel, with fencing, and barbed wire. You’re walking deeper into the prison.

You walk through another set of locking doors to another set of guards who again look at your ID and then let you into the final locking door that walks you into the visiting room, where there are more guards you have to check in with. They seat you at a small table with terribly uncomfortable chairs, where you wait for your loved one. In our case, my brother.

He walks into the room in his white prison shirt and gray prison pants. You are allowed a quick 20 second hug, before sitting down. The room is rather large. And packed. There’s a kids area, a large areas with vending machines with food, locked up bathrooms, glaring lights, lots of noise, and an area with chairs and glass for the prisoners in solitary confinement – who don’t have the privilege of a contact visit.

Two hours go by quickly and before you know it, its time to go. You stand up, hug your loved one again for 10 seconds, say your I Love Yous and start the process again. As you leave your beloved behind in that horrible reality, you present your ID again, and again, before you are finally “freed” from the prison grounds.

This is our reality. And the reality of countless people who love inmates. Moms and dads and grandparents and cousins and uncles and kids and brothers and sisters and friends and wives and husbands. There are many of us. More than you would ever guess there were. Because we love our prisoners and see their hearts and know they are good and kind – they all made mistakes and all broke laws – but they are all God’s children and all worthy of love. So we give our love. We drive six hours and spend lots on gas and food and on vending machine food – which they gobble up like its the finest restaurant they’ve ever eaten in.

This is the life of a prisoners loved ones. This is what unconditional love looks like.

Bloom | Goodbye Missouri

10549632_351195825005557_344005220_nWe’re setting off on our epic Texas adventure in two weeks. Two weeks from tonight, actually. We’ll be leaving Missouri behind – 35 years of being a Missourian, now blooming into a Texan.

I’m nervous and excited, happy and sad. So much on the horizon. So much unknown. Leaving a lifetime behind, looking at a lifetime ahead. The roots we put down, not uprooted. We start all over again, from scratch.

Our children will remember very little of Missouri. They will be Texans. It makes my heart heavy to think they won’t remember much of the place that birthed them. But it also makes my spirit sour as I think of the state that will grow them.

We are to leave behind so many family members who loves us dearly. This is the most painful part of the process. We will miss my family greatly. We will miss being 20 minutes down the road from the people who created me and the people who have loved us well.

#bloom #5minutefriday – LisaJoBaker