He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother

 

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

Sonni’s Pinterest Boards

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

One Foot After The Other (and Don’t Look Back)

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The only legacy of real value you leave behind when you leave this earth is the effect you had on other people. It is powerful because you can change lives – for the better or for the worse. Affecting someone’s life means they will affect others. Lift them up or drag them down. In that way you live on through others long after you are gone.

What you do, say and think always has a consequence. We see that work in a negative way when parents, teachers and preachers teach children to be prejudiced and judgemental toward others in many ways. They grow up to be racist adults, or teens who bully classmates they think are inferior. They were taught to think like that.

Instead, think about how you want to affect the world around you. Take responsibility for all you do and don’t blame others for your life. This is what I have taught Jamie. He is responsible for his life as we all are. I have tried to show him through example. I’ve tried to teach him what he had no chance learn going through his youth. I’m sure his mother loved him. That love is unconditional, but we can only teach what we know.

The more you give the more you get. You reap what you sow – what goes around comes around, no matter what faith you practice. I practice Nichiren Buddhism. It has taught me more about myself than any other teaching. It taught me compassion for all people, not just people you decide is worthy based on your chosen faith. It taught me how to live and I’m still alive – so I can finish what I’ve started.

Life has been upside down the past few months. I didn’t have time to put out a newsletter  because there are only so many hours in a day. Many people have followed the blog at My Name is Jamie. Life in Prison and read blog posts about the reality of prison and how it affected his Jamie’s state of mind. I hope to think that being there for him and  knowing someone cared, helped him get through days when he felt like giving up. He couldn’t understand why his family wasn’t there to help him go through the extreme loneliness of a prison cell.

When I tried to encourage letters and explained to his family how lost Jamie felt I was told, “Just because he got hisself in trouble doesn’t mean my life stopped.”

I was then told, ” 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,” I was told. “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 replied. “Tell me what the lie is.”

Silence

I couldn’t understand that attitude. This came from a blog post I wrote 3 1/2 years ago, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother” These excerpts were taken from that post. It still brings me to tears. I was helping his brother and for that I got slapped down. How dare I care. He’s the father of my grandson but his welfare was not my concern. 

I do not write about this in the book. I don’t say how I feel. The book isn’t about them. The most I say is how lonely he is not understanding why no one writes to him and I don’t mention any names.

Trying to finish the book and making the money to pay an editor has been a challenge. Opening an online store to make money has been fun – but more expensive than I thought. I didn’t know what I was doing. I paid marketing companies for guidance. I worked it and now I think I have a nice looking store with good products and I work on getting it in front of people every day. Slowly sales are picking up. Now I’m building a new website around the store that will have more to offer than just items to buy to give it value. I’ve learned, though, that making money the first year in business is difficult. Just staying afloat with enough sales to cover overhead eats up the most of the hours in my day and all of the profit. Most business apps have monthly fees. There are fees on top of fees.

My health is declining. I’ve been fighting for more life for 20 years when Hep C was diagnosed. Everything that could go wrong, has. I was stupid in my early 20’s and through a boyfriend I did IV drugs. It didn’t last long, but it was too late. But everything happens for a reason. What has it taught me about myself? So much. Symptoms started in my mid 30’s. I have fought hard to stay alive and today cancer is showing its head – again –

Radiation on my head after ear removal

The ugly scar you can see part of near the bottom of the photo toward the left is a botched skin graft that was supposed to heal into a thin line that eventually would fade. It is 6 months old and painful to touch because it cut into nerves. It’s more than 3″ long and still inflamed. The Dr wants to shoot a bunch of needles off cortisone into it. That will be painful. The red ball on top of my ear that looks like a wad of gum is where my ear was cut off. The skin graft was supposed be fashioned into a place my glasses arm could rest. A kinda sorta ear . There is nowhere now to put an arm from glasses. The bandaid is the biopsy site where the lump is. But hey! My hair color is real!

I’ve had several issues with cancer. Liver cancer and skin cancer – common with liver transplant patients. Which was in 2012. In Oct 2018  I had skin cancer and a pie wedge was cut out of one ear. It didn’t stop in January I ended up the top half of that ear cut off. “I am confident I got it all,” the Dr said. But he didn’t. I had radiation and it burnt off the hair on the side of the head. It didn’t stop it. Now it is spreading  internally and I have a lump on my neck. On July 15th I am having surgery – a neck dissection – to cut out all of the lymph nodes on the side and back of my neck and more radiation. If it spread further then it’s chemo time. My body can’t fight it because I’m on anti- rejection meds to suppress my immune system to keep the liver. I have lived so far for a reason.

My transplant doctor told me they lose more transplant patients because of squamous cell carcinoma than anything else. The fight is on.

I say this only because. . . I don’t know why I’m saying it other than it has complicated my life further and I’m trying to figure out where to put it in my head. I spent 12 years writing to him and 3.5 years writing this book and recording the music and videos to promote it. It’s given me a reason to keep going. I have to finish it.

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I wanted to write this book for the many people who have been through prison and understand the psychological effects of long term isolation. I want the profit from the sale of the book to help Jamie start his life again and be a father to his son, my grandson. Certain people have tried to turn this into something ugly. People enjoy negative gossip. They have no idea what this book is about. They have never read it or asked about it, but they’ve known I’ve been writing it.

Now Jamie is out, and the book isn’t complete yet. I need money and I’m stressing over the lack of it. I need to pay professional editors to work with me. This is why I started the store. Thank goodness he didn’t have to do the entire sentence and was paroled four years early. Now he can see his son, his only child.

I had just finished radiation from the last surgery and I couldn’t be there when he got out. No one was there. For thirteen years he was “Inside The Forbidden Outside. ” It was his first time being on the outside and he had to take a bus to his brother’s house. He had no way to call me even if he could. I was on a train headed back home because I found a lump on my neck.

A friend of 40 years, another musician, also a Nichiren Buddhist (and my 2nd ex-husband) suggested I start a gofundme campaign. It is really hard to ask for money. He told me there would be people who understood. I was amazed because I already have had a couple contributions. If you read the campaign you’ll see I will be sending them a free copy of the book and music when it’s published.

I estimate I have about 6 chapters to rewrite. This is the 2nd draft. With a story editor to guide me I’m sure there will be revisions. I can’t put out a book that is less than professional. There is also sequel planned, because this book only goes in time from 2006 to 2016. The sequel picks up there and goes through getting out and re-entry. Cancer isn’t going to stop me from finishing. But maybe, because of what is happening I should extend the chapters beyond 2016.

A BIT OF JAMIE’S EARLY LIFE, BEFORE PRISON.

To understand Jamie’s story a little more if you haven’t been to the blog and read the pages at the top ot any early affiliates

Jamie  spent so much of his life removed from society, never learning how life works. Four years in juvenile detention starting late in his 16th year, to keep his little brother from being sentenced after hitting a cop with a broom when he forced his way into their home. The cop knocked down their mother and broke her wrist. They wanted to send a little boy to juvenile detention for defending his mother because someone needed to be responsible and it just wasn’t going to be the cop. There have been many articles in the media showing cops doing the exact same thing to other families, but back then in the late ’90s the internet wasn’t what it is today.

The attorney convinced Jamie to do his brother’s nine month sentence, except they had no intention of letting him leave until he was 21. By then he was so depressed he was kept in a different facility far from home for incarcerated youth with mental issues. Epileptic seizures and having no family near was wrong.  He lost the rest of his youth and high school years. When was he supposed to develope the wisdom and social skills he needed to understand to get through life. Who were the right people to be friends with? So he picked the wrong people to be friends with. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong friends put him in prison before his son was born. I took care of my daughter until my grandson was a year old when she left to go back to Texas.

I helped Jamie through his prison sentence because everyone in his life who should have been there for him – wasn’t. No one helped him after the first year.  Letters and visits were as rare as snowstorms are in Texas. Money for things he needed, such as stamps and hygiene products or paying his medical fees were paid by me as well as books to read, extra food, ( he’s a big man) and even candy to bribe the guards.

Our letters are a journey through what went on his head. The emotional toll. He suffered through the heat with no air conditioning – summers when he passed out from the heat, and when guards cuffed his wrists and legs during a seizure, or when 5 guards picked him up and rammed his head into a wall or wouldn’t let him see a dentist when his impacted wisdom teeth got infected.

I will be there for him to lean on until his knowledge and experiencecatches up with his 36 years and he is a confident, strong man with a life of purpose.

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Jamie’s Mountain

Inside The Forbidden Outside

Chapter Three

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Jamie sat still on the edge of his cell bunk, lazily dozing off and on with his head in his hands, not aware of time passing. Time doesn’t matter? Why think? The future too far away to matter. Flashing thoughts and images pass through his mind quickly change to something else. Concentrate? What’s the point? This wasn’t one of his good days. He would have given long ago if it weren’t for his son. He didn’t want his son never know who was. It wouldn’t fair to him. It wouldn’t fair to Sonni, either. She has done so much help him. He couldn’t change anything about his life or affect it in any positive way. Anyway, it was too frigging hot to care. It is, what it is, what it is. While he thought he swung one hand back and forth like he was conducting an orchestra.

The only difference between existing and not existing was if he paid attention to the drama in his head, and only then if he wanted to latch onto any piece of it. It was easier to live in this non-reality space than the one his physical body lived in. It took too much effort to want to stand up and pee. There was nothing to bring relief. Nothing to break the monotony. . . nothing.

He hoped he’d hear his name at mail call. Maybe there would be a letter or book, maybe a magazine from a subscription Sonni had taken out for him. Anything to fill the time until this day was over and he could cross off it off.

He was hungry. They were on lockdown again. One month out of every three. Food rations were cut to the bone. Lots of peanut butter or plain meat sandwich. No mayo or mustard. Baloney and white bread.  The lockdown came early this time because there was a gang fight in some part of the prison. He had been waiting on a food box from Sonni. She could spend $20 a month at the main commissary, or $60 at one time every three months. They would deliver it to him. Now it won’t get through until lockdown was over. He smiled. She had a bookstore, approved the prison, send him three sexy lingerie magazines full of beautiful women. Eye candy, she wrote – to make him smile. It worked. She wrote he must be awful horny after all this time with only his left hand to keep him company. Yeah, he thought smiling, they could write about these kinds of things after all the years they been writing letters.

Not everyone was lucky enough to have someone like Sonni. He didn’t know what he would have done without her. He’d be pretty damn lonely that’s for sure. And he would have forgotten what a stick of deodorant looked like. Hygiene costs money. You do not want to be in this unit during the hot and humid summer months in Texas with a bunch of stinking men, aside from the unit always smelling like piss.

In her letters she kept asking him to dig in his memories and tell her things about his life growing up. That was hard to do. He didn’t want to remember any of these things he stuffed way down inside so long ago. Who wants to dig up things better left buried?

She’s writing a book about him. He would have never thought his life was worth writing about. The only thing he was good at was doing the wrong thing. She asked him if he had a happy childhood. Birthday parties, holidays, fun times? It made his head hurt. He doesn’t know what happy means, then or now. Did he have happy memories as a kid? If he did, he should be able to think of them. They should pop right up. He couldn’t keep putting her off.

He got off the bed, turned on the faucet and soaked a cloth called a Cold Pack. They sell ’em at the prison convenience store. Convenient my ass. A guard cuffs and shackles him once a month and leads him down to the commissary like a pet. He doesn’t always have money in his account to buy anything if she isn’t able to transfer a few bucks into it. She has money struggles and helps as much as she can.

These cold packs, he thought, must have some kinda chemical in them that gets activated when they get wet. It’s better than wetting a towel, which is what he usually does. When you lay them on the fan and the air blows, it creates cool air for a little while. He uses it sparingly because they only last so long, and it’s not like he can go to the comm whenever he feels like it and buy more. But today he needs a little relief.

He put the fan in place to blow on his face and laid down. Maybe he could fall asleep for awhile. Think back and try to remember things he could write about to Sonni. What is she thinking? His life is important? It’s depressing and it gets him down. If not for her he wouldn’t be able to even hope he got something when mail call came in. So, was he a happy kid? He sighed . . . .

================================

 

Everyone else had a dad, why didn’t he? His older brother and sister each had a dad. Even his younger brother, born a few years after him had a dad. They spent weekends and holidays with other family. Family who weren’t part of his life. Funny, not ha ha funny, but thinking back, he and his mom never talked about it. He never asked who his dad was and she never told him, at least not until he turned 32 a few years back. But he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself explaining anything. First things first.

Birthday parties? No. At least not the kind you think of when someone says it’s their birthday. No party invitations. No friends bringing presents. No balloons or party hats. No pictures of everyone yelling, ” Make a wish, Jamie. Blow out the candles!” with a camara flash going off in his face. What would he wish for? To be like everyone else? No. No parties like that. Nothing special. He remembered a few cakes, but if he ever had a party he sure forgot about it.

His mom had a rough time raising four kids by herself. The older they got the harder it got. She went to school to be a nursing assistant and after that she worked hard. Sometimes two jobs. When you’re a kid you don’t understand how much money it takes to raise kids. He did learn, you can’t work full time and stay home being a mom. Family was nearby but mostly they had to take care of themselves. The older kids took care of the younger kids.

He only had snatches of memory. Incomplete thoughts and pictures. He was a loner, even as a little kid. Because of his seizures he didn’t go outside and run around like other kids. He wasn’t sure if it was because they were afraid of him or if parents didn’t want their kids near him. Maybe they thought epilepsy could rub off. All he knew, he had very few friends and he always lost the ones he had

When he was six or seven his mom would take them to the park and have picnics and sometimes they went to the zoo in another town. We didn’t go many times but we made the best of it when we did. We also flew kites a few times. That was okay – more than okay. It was fun to run and watch the kites take off with the wind and dance around the sky. It would be fun to ride a kite and see the town from way up in the air and see the tiny people way down below. He’d feel so free without a care in the world. That was a good day.

He also loved fireworks, exploding into arcs of color, each one more beautiful than the next. One 4th of July they were ready to leave togo watch the fireworks. He was excited about going all day. He and his little brother were dressed in look-a-like outfits. At the last minute mama said they couldn’t go. He doesn’t remember why. All he remembers is hearing booms in the distance while wishing he could see them.

He didn’t have a bad childhood. He had ten aunts and uncles. He really loved his aunts. Two of them died, one when he was in juvenile detention. He flipped out with grief. He couldn’t handle knowing he’d never see her again.But was his childhood happy? No, he couldn’t call it that. He’s aware now he was mostly depressed. He felt invisible. The seizures were pretty bad. The kids were used to it happening. “Mama, Jamie’s having another seizure,” they’d yell.

When he was eight Jamie and his older brother ride to the store on their bikes. While in the store he stole a bag of skittles. Afterward, he showed his brother. He smiled and took it from him and tattled to his mother. He got sent to his room. His brother probably enjoyed getting him in trouble.

He had a friend, Brandon, who came over to play. When he found out he was grounded went to his window and asked what happened. He was upset he couldn’t play. A week later, playing together at Brandon’s uncle’s house, where he lived, Brandon’s mom came. He has never seen her before. His dad was there, too. The boys went outside to play basketball and left the grown ups inside. They found soon enough it would be the last time they’d ever see each other. They said goodbye and he watched them drive off. Jamie walked home mad and sad. In his mind the parents decided they couldn’t play together anymore because he stole a pack of skittles.That didn’t make sense. No one explained anything. Whatever, it was the last time he saw Brandon. He was the last real friend he ever had.

Jamie had to smile a bit at that memory. Kids understand so little. But at nine it was the end of his world.

Maybe his brother thought he got too much attention but he was only guessing. He doesn’t blame anyone for things they did as kids. Maybe it did look like he got too much attention. His brother kicked him into a ditch one time when he had a seizure and he didn’t help him get home. He let him lay there. A seizure knocked him out for hours. Muscles don’t work and his brain gets scrambled. He can’t get up and walk home like nothing happened. It was hard making it home that day.  He didn’t want to remember that, did he?

He doesn’t think his brother liked him much growing up. Still doesn’t. Maybe that’s why he ignored the letters he wrote. He could visit if he wanted, but he doesn’t. He lived close to this prison. He wasn’t always close. Sometimes he was in a prison far away.

Sonni called him once and asked him why he didn’t come. He said, in a so-what kind of voice, “It’s not my fault he’s in there.” Nobody said it was. Sonni sent him a video of the song ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother.’ Jamie wanted to see his brother. They aren’t kids anymore. Guess he doesn’t want to see him. He can’t change that, but it hurts. That’s life. He hadn’t seen his younger brother or sister, either. Every three or four years, one time five, his mom came, but she never answered any letters. He guessed she had her reasons. She’s still his mom. He loved her very much. He probably gave her too hard ‘a time growing up so she’s done spending time on him.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When he was twelve he had brain surgery. It was scary being wheeled down the hallway on a stretcher. He was used to getting needles all the time having his blood tested. But it’s different when they’re going in and looking at his brain. What if they did something wrong? He knew his mom was there waiting for him. Having this thing wrong with him must’ve been really hard on her. They tried to stop as much of the brain bleeds as they could. It helped. It didn’t stop the seizures but it did slow them down.

His only friend growing up was Keithy. He was an older cousin, and he was sick, too. Sickle Cell anemia. They were the “sick ones” and were always together. One day when he was about fourteen he went over to his house. He had been away, visiting with his dad. When he came home he was sicker than usual. While they were playing a game he started to cry. His mom came in to help him and she called Jamie’s mom to come pick him up. While he waited Keithy’s pain got worse. He could hear his cries for help. It hurt so much to hear him in pain and there was nothing he could do. After that, he wasn’t allowed to see him very often.

Jamie became depressed and couldn’t pull out of it. He began disappearing in the middle of the night to go walking. He did it over and over. He couldn’t lay in his bed at night so he walked. He must’ve scared his mama. She checked him into a children’s hospital to get help. He hated it there and begged her over and over to please come take him home. One day she did, but she didn’t tell him why.

They talked on the way home, about everything except the most important thing. It was fairly long drive. When they pulled into town she drove to his cousin’s house. There were a lot of people there. He still didn’t know why she came for him. He realized a long time later, she knew he wouldn’t be able to handle it. She didn’t want him falling apart in the car. She took him by the hand and led him into the back room of the house. There he was. Keithy was laid out. He was dead.

This is the way Jamie found out his cousin had died. It was a crushing blow. His mother couldn’t find the words to tell him.  He reached out his hand that day and gently touched him. His skin was so cold. That is when it really hit him. He closed his eyes with tears swimming behind his eyelids. He tried to keep it together but he didn’t think he could. He was never going to see him again. His brother grabbed him by the shoulders and said, “Don’t cry!” Then they fell into each others arms, chests heaving with sobs. He cried for the loss of his friend’s life. Cried because his heart was broken for the boy he loved. Cried because his disease had killed him before he had a chance to live his life.

Then we buried him.

Jamie laid there, hands behind his head, staring at the gray ceiling of his cell. Tears were silently running down the sides of his face. He was glad Keithy never knew he ended up in prison. It would have broke his heart. He still thinks about him. Some pain never goes away.
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After Keithy died he began hanging out with the wrong kids. Even though he lived in a small town there were still dudes who thought of themselves as wanna-be gangsters. They weren’t like city gangs where kids were born into extreme violence and drive-by shootings, but there was buying and selling drugs and some carried guns and knives. They got in trouble doing stupid stuff. Jamie wanted to feel like he belonged somewhere. Excepted. Friends. He didn’t have that closeness anywhere else. He was more a follower than a leader. He starting getting into trouble and becoming defiant.

Sometimes for a few days he slept in other places instead of coming home,  He’d sneak home to eat, shower and take a nap when his mom was at work. She’d usually catch him. He never got too old for the belt.

He was found passed out in the middle of the street one day. A man who saw him thought he was on drugs and was going to call the cops. Before he could, another man who recognized Jamie realized he’d had a seizure and called an ambulance instead. He was lucky the cops weren’t called. There’s no telli what the cops would have done.

Because of trouble he got into, the court gave him one year probation. It was decided he’d live with an uncle near Dallas for one year and attend tenth grade there. He was strict with him. He was also a parole officer. It ended up being his last year of formal education. He kept Jamie on a short leash. When he wasn’t in school he couldn’t leave the house. The only time he could go anywhere was when he rode his bike to see his probation officer. He learned to enjoy the long ride.

He began community service at the local boys and girls club. One evening, riding his bike home, it started getting dark. He was being careful riding on the sidewalk. A man in a truck pulled out of an apartment complex driveway with his headlights off. He couldn’t see Jamie coming down the sidewalk. He hit the front side of the truck, flew over it, breaking his left leg when he landed. He was knocked unconscious and later woke up in the hospital.

When he completed probation his uncle asked him to stay and finish school. He was doing good, but Jamie was homesick. If he had stayed would he have finished high school? Would his life be different? It was only a few short months later his life changed for the worse when a cop forced his way into their house.

The choices we make matter. He grew up without anyone teaching him why certain things matter. He sees that now. His mom did the best she could. She took care of us, fed us, bought us clothes, had my medical problems to handle, and she did a great job. Her way of teaching was giving us rules to follow and if we didn’t we got the belt. She was fierce with that belt.

Most every kid he knew came from a broken home. A mother can’t do everything. It’s harder he thinks in black families because the goal is to keep their kid safe and at from the cops. We learn early as kids we are not supposed to reach as high as white kids. There is always that shadow hanging over you. Prison is the end for so many black men – women, too, especially in the South. If you can’t go to school and a good job how do you feed your kids? The doors that line this hallway? Behind almost all of them are black men.

In his family there were four broken relationships with four dads. He didn’t know his but he’s gotta be out there somewhere. He had no dad to teach him anything. He can’t go back and fix that. If he knew it before he might’ve made different choices. He let white society push him through the pipeline to prison because he didn’t really understand years before that it existed.

Now he’s given up seventeen years of his life to pay for it by going through hell. But he knows he can choose his future. This he knows after ten years. His story has to go through those years so you understand.

One important thing he learned is he can’t run away from his life. He has a mountain to climb, and that mountain will appear wherever he is, in some form or another. If there is something he needs to learn he can’t fool himself into thinking he can avoid it or walk around it. He is where he is because this is his mountain to climb. Win or lose.

But right now he’s gonna get up and re-wet his cold pact and maybe sit down and begin writing a letter . . .

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

( Sonni’s note: The chapters of this book I’m writing is at the first rewrite stage. When it goes through a professional edit I’m sure there will be other changes and revisions. I have found, writing a book is a process.  You don’t just write it, edit it and publish it.  It takes time to put out something worth reading.  If you want to give me feedback – please do.)

 

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Will Our Prisons Make America Great ?

alone

November 2016

Dear mom or rather, Hello beautiful,
        It was so good to hear from you and to know you are starting to feel a little better from surgery. I must say, reading your letter about your pain complications really hurt me. Yes, it hurt me so much. Having to go to your juglar just to find a vein? I know how that feels. I’ve been stuck with needles all my life because of the epilepsy. Ever since I was a baby. I hate IVs. They hurt like hell. As I read over your letter it gave my stomach such a bad feeling. I’m glad you are okay. I’m very sorry you had to go through this.

(Sonni’s note: Do you ever wonder why certain people end up in your life? Why some people come into your life and walk out five minutes later and why some people stay and change your life profoundly? Jamie is one of those people who changed my life, and I changed his. There are parallels between his family and mine that allows us to understand the pain family can cause. We both have a medical history that has affected our quality of life. Our lives clicked on so many levels that I know had we not met, our lives would be drastically different and I doubt they would be better.

There was a reason I needed to learn about the issues with our prison system and learn to care about the people inside- yes, the people being abused by mentally sick people working in the prisons, either because they enjoy inflicted abuse, or they are making profit off them on a grander scale.

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source credit: fox2news.com

That doesn’t mean that all guards are like this, just like not all cops are bad cops. But the bad ones should be kicked out of the profession since it doesn’t look they will get prosecuted. This is what makes people angry. I  have talked to quite a few inmates. They all say the same thing about guards. When a guard does something harmful to an inmates there should be consequences. If they cause a death they shouldn’t just be moved to another prison to continue abusing people just because they are wearing a uniform. It’s like Catholic priests that molest young boys.  They get moved to another parish. Why can’t they be convicted when they break the law? Are inmates less human?  Have they lost the right to live? The people inside are more than convicts, felons or inmates. They are more than whatever happened to put them there.

Sentences don’t fit the crime, if there even was a crime. After many of them are destroyed by the abuse they receive and then are let back out into society without the skills to cope, knowing the revolving door will push a majority of them back inside so the profit machine can suck up the rest of their life. What a way to Make America Great. )

I got my copy of the GED book and the dictionary. Thank you. It is good to have that to work with. I’ve skipped around reading it. I’ve read US History, US govt, world history and more. I just read about Indian Civilization. Also, I didn’t know India was the birth place of Buddhism. Just so you know I have been chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo x 1000 for you.

I got two letters from my family. That’s a first in a long time. One from my brother and and one from my grandmother. Indeed I was surprised when I got his letter and when I opened it there were four photos. He said he had a lot on his place but never asked how I was doing and said nothing about any help in any way. A My family knows you have been the only one helping me all these years and all he talks about is own full plate. He asked if he was still on my visitation list. No, not after 10 years of waiting for him to come see me. He let me know I have a new 3 month old niece. Nobody ever tells me anything. Better late than never, I guess. He sent photos. It’s the only way I feel I’ll get to see her. He has a son a year younger than my son, however I never met him. He did send an up to date photo saying he thinks he’s tough. I do appreciate the photos.  I’ll write him back. He said my mom is sick again. So did my grandmother, but I haven’t heard a word from my mom herself. I never hear about anything until it’s way after.

(Sonni’s note: It’s not uncommon for family to gradually forget about a someone inside. I guess it’s out of sight, out of mind.  The longer they are in the less they see them. In Jamie’s case, no one was ever there for him, right from the beginning. I tried to get his older brother to write to him about a year and a half ago. I called him. Family can make all the difference in the world. Depression is so common, and when someone is prone to depression it’s even harder. I can always tell what shape Jamie is in by his handwriting. He has quite a family neglect f family few different styles of penmanship and each one is a different mood.

In the last eleven years had his family bothered at all to write to him and find out how he is, it would have helped him – a lot. But no one could be bothered. No one had  a stamp. He’s never heard anything from his younger brother, and his sister? Who knows. she has had her own set of problems. When I asked his brother to write to him his reply was, “It’s not my fault he’s in there. My life didn’t stop” as if someone has had blamed him. He told me, “It’s not your concern.”  Well then who the hell’s concern is it?  Nobody else has given a rat’s ass how he’s been.  You can’t go back and undo that no matter how many letters you write now. Eleven years? I would have a hard time forgiving them. Can you tell this upsets me? But  it doesn’t matter if they are forgiven or not.  You reap what you sow.  You get back what you dish out. What goes around comes around and most of all – there is an effect for every single cause you make and no amount of forgiving wipes that away.  I wrote a post in February 2016 and sent it to his brother.  I never heard back so I don’t know if he read it.

Do you remember the song, He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother?  This is the link to the post. The youtube video is in the post. It makes me cry every time I hear it now because I think of all hurt his family caused him and all the hurt of others in the same situation.  You can read it if you like.

Thanksgiving was terrible. The food was bad. The only thing worth eating was the dessert. The dressing was too dry. Everything else was what we normally eat everyday – green beans etc. I don’t have an extra food to eat. Do you think you could send an Ecomm box?  Leah, your friend who writes to me sent me some money for Christmas. I need to buy a new hot pot to heat things up in.

images(Sonni’s note: Each yearly quarter I can order $60 worth of items from the commissary they can keep in their locker. It doesn’t affect any money in their acct. Coffee, cookies and crackers, Raman noodles, squeeze cheese. Like the kind of food you’d buy in a $1 store Cheap and not very healthy but it fills the hole and gives them goodies they might not buy. They probably trade some of it for stamps, which I can’ t buy for him, or he can trade it for other things he wants. Commissary is like money. Maybe someone draws greeting cards they can personalize. They have to get creative if they don’t have anyone to help support them. Inmates can also get pretty creative making dishes with commissary food. They can make cakes out of crushed cookies. It would be interesting to eat some of their recipes. But it isn’t just the food itself, it’s what they have to fashion to cook it in. They don’t have pans or a burner. They can buy a flimsy hot pot but it doesn’t get hot enough to boil water. But somehow they manage)

Time to go to bed. It’s late. Thank you so much for everything. I’ll be thinking of you. Get some rest and give yourself time to heal. Don’t rush it or you might hurt it.

Love you, Jamie

 

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