Picking Up broken Pieces
“My summer is all about sweating. Endless sweating. It’s 103° today and there is no AC,” Jamie began writing in a letter to Sonni.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m playing Chess, Scrabble or watching TV,” he wrote. “I sweat. I’ll sweat off a few pounds by the end of the summer. lol.”
“I wish I were home so I could enjoy the summer with the kids.” That thought made Jamie stop writing and follow his imagination.
Putting his pen down, he stared into the universe inside his head where the kids were playing and he was there enjoying it with them. Throwing a ball to his son, he imagined he clapped when the child picked himself up and came running willy nilly into daddy’s arms. Jamie picked him up and swung him around in the air, both of them laughing. Reality came crashing down.
Missing this time was one of life’s cruelest jokes. His son will never be a young child again. He won’t ever experience the good times of childhood, between father and son, when they could be together.
There will be no memories of him in his son’s mind when he thinks of his growing up years. His father was never there to celebrate a birthday. No! It was everything. His father wasn’t there taking part in any aspect of his life at any time. He wouldn’t know if he loved his father or not. There was no part of him in his life.
He remembered his happiness when he learned he was going to be a father. Another of life’s painful jokes was knowing he didn’t have the job skills to support them. You can’t feed a family with love alone. He had been out of juvenile detention for less than a year. He didn’t know what to do to get his life going. He had no one to teach him the direction he needed to go to make the right choices.
He spent his time hanging out with friends who also had no idea what to do with their lives. He always thought he would have found a way to make it work but he didn’t have a chance. Life took over and set his fate in motion. It was no longer in his control. All of his choices were now made for him.
He could always find a way into his own little world to escape for awhile. Thinking with his eyes closed slowly put a smile on his face. Did the kids think about him sometimes, too, or were they forgetting all about him by now? It didn’t matter. He wouldn’t ever forget about them.
“I dream about walking open-arm to Morgan and the kids and gathering them into a big hug,” he wrote after he picked up his pen again. “But they will all be grown up by then, and I won’t be able to pick up my son and swing him around.” Would his son even accept him after all this time? Would he be angry?
Jamie knew how it felt having an absent father. There was always a hole inside. He couldn’t even fill it with a face because he didn’t know what he looked like. How do you love someone who isn’t there? How can his son love him?
There was a man who recently wrote to him and said he was his father. How was he supposed to take that? He wasn’t entirely sure that this was his father. His mama never talked about him, so where did he come from? Where was he?
“I think my father just got home from a place like this. Never once in my life did he write to see how I was. No explanation. What was I supposed to think?” He continued writing.
“He wrote to my mom, I was told, but he never asked about me. Now he’s home and it’s the same way I guess. I did finally get one letter from him asking me to give him a second chance to be a dad.” This next thought was hard for Jamie.
“So I told him okay and asked for one thing from him. Give the love to his grandson that he didn’t give to me. I never heard from him again. Why did he even ask?”
Jamie stopped and thought about that for awhile before he continued writing. Why would his father not want to know him? How could he not want to know he was okay? He began writing again, “I understand what you said in your letter about prisoners not writing and how it ends up hurting their children. Please don’t put me in that category. I would give anything to be a father to my son. Sometimes my head is in a bad place. It is hard because I know how it feels. Jamie is too young to know if I write. But that doesn’t mean that me not being there isn’t hurting him. He needs to now he has a father and he is loved. It pains me deeply. I would do anything if I could fix this, but I can’t”
Pretending to be with his family gave him a fleeting moment of happiness, followed by feeling the pain of his heart ripping in two. Sometimes it crippled him.
“No one I love wants nothing to do with me. Out of sight, out of mind,” he wrote unhappily as he went back and forth between love for his family and feeling rejected by them. He couldn’t think of what he did to cause them to be that way. Was it his fault? If it was he didn’t know what to do to fix that, either. And he sure couldn’t fix it from in here.”
“I really needed somebody to talk to about it,” He wrote. “I can’t keep it straight in my head.” Being able to pour out his feelings on paper helped him make sense of it.
Every day Jamie sat and stared at the wall, thinking about his sentence and felt like giving up in every way, but he couldn’t. His son was important and that thought is what kept him glued together.
“I’m sorry, mom. I have to go.” His brain felt pulled in every direction. “My head really hurts pretty bad right now. ” He put his pen down and rested his forehead in his cupped palms, elbows on the steel desk. He gently rubbed his temples with his thumbs, pretending they belonged to someone who cared about how hard this was and knew how much pain he was in. He wanted comfort; someone who would make it all go away, even for a little while.
“I love you, mom. I know you care. Thank you for your love and understanding. Everyone needs someone to talk to now and then. God bless you. God bless you.”
Jamie broke down and wrote to his family again because he needed a little help. He needed a fan. It would help dry the sweat that soaked his body. The effort of breathing made him sweat.
It wasn’t unusual for at least a few men men to die in here each year because of the heat, especially the older ones who were sick with something. Even he, as young as he was, passed out a few times from heat stroke when his body overheated. He doubted they would do anything about it. Paying someone’s family off if they tried to sue the prison was cheaper than putting AC into an old prison. Oh well, they probably think, someone died. Who cares. There is more where they came from. A lot of the inmates didn’t have any family who cared if they died.
He didn’t have money in his account to buy stamps so he was considered to be indigent. He could send letters and they would be mailed, but the mail room would keep track of that money. When money was put on his books they would take it back. He owed them for ten stamps already.
Jamie asked if someone could please send him $22 to buy a fan but he didn’t get a letter back. Maybe they would have the time to write to him next week. He had a lot of reasons in his head why a letter didn’t come. Most of all he didn’t want to believe it wouldn’t come.
He had no choice. He asked Sonni and she sent the money to be deposited into his account. Maybe it was pride. When he asked her he apologized up and down. What else could he do? He didn’t want her to think he was using her.
Worrying most about his mom he still wanted to know if she was okay. She didn’t have to send no money if it was hard for her. He loved his mom and just wanted to hear from her. Maybe she was busy and didn’t have time. That was the justification he used.
It would soon be little Jamie’s third birthday. He sent a letter inside a birthday card asking to please tell him happy birthday for him but he hadn’t heard back. Three years old already. Birthdays were hard for him. It drove home even harder how much he was missing. How many would pass by before would share one with him.
Jamie did what did every day. He sat on his bunk and stared at the wall, praying to make it through the day so could cross it off and begin the next one.
Sonni waited for these letters from Jamie to know he was doing okay. She couldn’t do anything to help him besides be there for him and answer his letters. Encourage him and let him know he wasn’t forgotten. Prisons scared her. She was afraid to call if he needed her to, but she did. It was out of her comfort zone. When she called the warden or medical unit she afraid of saying wrong thing. She was just beginning to learn what the prison system was about and it wasn’t what most people thought.
Jamie poured everything he was feeling into his letters. She had no previous understanding about life in prison except what was shown in movies and TV shows. She didn’t know anyone who did time in prison when she starting writing to him. Going through these hard times with him was the first time she understood the devastating toll it took on the lives of those inside. Some were very dangerous people, but she knew many of them were badly treated by people far worse than the ones who were locked up. She was not going to the same thing others had and stop writing. She would not let him suffer with no way to release it.
Maybe this was the reason that brought them together. Everything happens for a reason. That is the law off cause and effect.
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