Because of the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings, “Inside The Forbidden Outside” I’ve been re reading many letters I’ve received from him over the years, separating them into different subjects. For instance: medical care he’s received, treatment from the guards, solitary confinement – and lack of caring, help and communication from his family.

The hardest thing for him, has been been wrapping his head around the fact that his family isn’t there for him. Maybe in their head they think they are, but the reality is different. They probably were in the beginning, I think. They aren’t bad people. Maybe when he gets out they think it will pick up where it left off and everything will be hunky dory, but I don’t think so. I know how much he loves he loves his family, but I don’t think he will forget how many unanswered letters he wrote. They have no idea how many he wrote and tore up because he was venting the fact that they haven’t been there for him. I think, over time, they went on with their lives. Jamie became, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Maybe they thought there was nothing they could do and life went on – for them. Communication became less and less, and even helping him financially, so he could buy any luxury we take for granted, like real soap, became a “so what, it’s only soap” item. So he would write me, “Mom, please, can you help me?” Who else was he going to turn to? No one else was going to help him, that was clear. One relative recently told me, “It’s his own fault he got into trouble and went to prison.” My goodness sake, is that the reason they still tell themselves for not helping him, it’s not their fault because ten years he got into trouble? And oh, I can’t forget this: I was told it’s not my concern. It certainly hasn’t been their concern.

Not my concern? He’s my family. He IS my concern. He’s the father of one of my grandsons. We are connected by blood. I might be white as snow and he’s black as the ace of spades, but both bloods run in my grandson’s veins. But even if it didn’t, and I know this because of my own family, being related doesn’t mean the people in your family are going to actually take time out of their life to show they care about you.

After thinking about what was said, I realized they didn’t know him anymore. They knew a much younger Jamie. They don’t know the Jamie I know. They also have no idea what the effect of this experience of abuse has had on him. They also have no idea where he is going next. How could they? There will come a day when they will regret that as they try to claim him as their own, and he will say, “And where were you when I needed you?”

Jamie never placed blame on anyone but himself. Whenever he wonders why no one cares, he always says it is his fault. He thinks it is because he caused his mom a lot of trouble growing up? I think most kids do. So is that a reason for not helping him now? Is he getting a needed payback for being a kid? My goodness. He’s 33 now. I think he’s done paying for those mistakes. What he is doing now is a cry for help, “Please don’t let me disappear from your lives. I need you. I’m lonely. I want to know you care what happens to me.” So he waits and waits. He gives them a deadline. If they don’t write back in say, two weeks, he’ll take them off his visitors list. At the end of two weeks he’ll set another ultimatum. “They are busy,” he tries to convince himself, because the thought of them not caring is more than he can handle.

I wrote to one of his family today. I said, “Jamie needs his family.” Thinking your family doesn’t love you is hard to bear. I know sometimes he’s depressed. There are enough articles published for anyone to know about the devastating effects on the brain that are produced by solitary confinement. So I asked, “Why does no one bother send a birthday card or Xmas card? Why can no one put a few dollars in his account to buy the absolute basic necessities for survival?” My answer? “Just because he got hisself in trouble doesn’t mean my life stopped.”I guess that means it’s Jamie’s own fault for getting into trouble ten years ago,  so the family is off the hook. Does that mean, when he gets out in seven years, the excuse, when he tries to get his life together and needs help, becomes, “It’s not my fault he got into trouble 17 years ago”? When does that mistake finally get paid?

This family member didn’t know Jamie was transferred to another prison 2 months ago. I said he had no paper, no stamps, and a guard destroyed his ID. I told him everything that happened he didn’t know about. I asked him why? Why won’t anyone help? I even asked for help. He has epilepsy. He has to be able to call medical when he has a seizure. Medical care is not free, contrary to popular opinion. When I asked his mother to help she conveniently evaded the question. I know she heard me ask. I’m on disability, but I still pull it together AND send books and letters and magazines and newspaper clippings and most of all I send him love so he isn’t alone sitting in a cell that resembles hell.

He answered me with, ” I’m not going to answer this because you’re really starting to piss me off.”
“My telling you the truth pisses you off?” I replied. “If I am wrong about any of this, please tell me where.”
“Really, it’s not your concern. Jamie lies a lot”
That’s a good one. It’s hard to keep a lie going for ten years, especially when there is no reason. “It is my concern,” I said. “Tell me what the lie is.”

Silence

Everyone makes mistakes. Do we stop loving people because of it, and make sure for ten years they never forget, by ignoring them? Does it keep us from supporting them emotionally? We can’t pick up a $2.99 card that says, “Thinking of you,”put a stamp on it and toss it into a mailbox? Can’t we say, “No matter what, I love you and I’m here for you. You ain’t heavy, you’re my brother.”

He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother
lyrics by the Hollies

The road is long
With many a winding turns
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy he’s my brother
He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

Jamie’s Facebook Page . . . Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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By the I got done with this I was crying. I was feeling the pain I knew he felt

2 thoughts on “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother

    1. I talked with his brother online yesterday. After I posted this I wrote to him again. I realized, by the things he said that he only knew Jamie as he was when he was only a teenager. He didn’t know Jamie, the man, because he has ignored him for ten years. “It’s not my fault he’s in there!” No one said it was. He got angry when I pointed out that his family had abandoned him when he needed them the most. He told me it was none of my concern. I told him I was the only one who WAS concerned. I don’t know why, but this song popped into my head. When I was young, I heard this song many times. I was in high school when it came out. When I played it yesterday the tears just ran down my face. His brother didn’t get it. If Jamie meant anything to him at all he needed to stop punishing him for screwing up and be there for him. If his family thinks they will meet him at the gate someday with open arms and a cake, like nothing was wrong, it wont work. I’d like to say that cake will end up on the ground after I get done throwing it at them, but that is just my frustration talking. No one can make someone else care, but I’m done keeping my mouth shut.

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