CIRCLES INSIDE CIRCLES – Chapter five

Circles inside circles

Chapter five

 

I have to close my eyes and think

To remember how life feels

 

Spread ’em and squat.” the guard told him through the open food slot. ” Lift ’em and cough.”

They said the same thing every time they came to take him out of his cell. Shower, rec or commissary were the only choices it could be. Humiliation was part of the game they played, enjoying the chance to abuse him and make sure he knew they were in control. Oh, he knew it. He learned that a long time ago.

“Yeah, we need to make sure you don’t have something shoved up your kiester.” The second guard laughed, thinking he was some kind of comedian.

He said the same stupid crack every time, thinking it was funnier each time he said it. No one ever accused these guards of being smart. If they were, they wouldn’t be working as prison guards for minimum wage. They probably flunked out of Car Wash Training and this was the only place they could get a job. To get stuck in a job with no air conditioning, in a broiling Texas prison, walking inmates back and forth from the shower all day was not exactly anyone’s dream job. It made them angry and it made them want to kick a dog. Inmates were dogs.

Sometimes men did have something to hide – contraband they weren’t supposed to have. A lot of it was brought in by guards the inmates were able to bribe. Those with money and connections. He wasn’t that stupid.

“Turn around and put your hands back out the slot.” The cuffs were tightened a little more than they needed to be.

He could feel his circulation stopping. It wasn’t bad enough to say anything. They’d just laugh. He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Not with needing to be cuffed every time he was taken anywhere.

He heard the cell door open. He stepped through and stopped. He knew to go no farther if he didn’t want to get clubbed behind his knees. One guard grunted as he bent over to attach the leg chains that allowed him about a foot between steps. It would’ve be easier on the guard if his gut didn’t hang so far over his belt.

Today was shower day. He could already feel the water streaming down his body, washing a couple days sweat and grime down the drain. It was one of the only pleasures he had. He had clean clothes on for the day. Prison whites. Not really white, though. He didn’t think the prison used soap in the washers. Cut costs a little. They didn’t smell too good, neither.

Jamie preferred to wash his own clothes in the sink if he had enough soap. That was a big if. If he had money in his account for commissary purchases. Each month the prison gave them three of the tiniest bars of prison made lye soap and that had to cover all his cleaning needs. If it didn’t, tough .He could buy more if he had the money when they took him to the comm.

“Get a move on it, Cummings. You think you’re the only one we gotta babysit today?”

They got that right. Glorified babysitters is all they were. His shower boots and soap were rolled up in his towel, shoved under his arm as they started walking down the hall doing the prison shuffle.

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Dang these showers were grimy. Moldy. So many dudes had to use them between cleanings. As he got ready to step under the water he noticed the guards were talking to other men. If he was lucky they’d forget the time and let him have a longer shower.

Good thing he wasn’t a puny ass. Nobody would try to get over on him for sex. The smaller dudes always had trouble. It wasn’t because they were gay. Spend enough time in here and some didn’t care what sex you were if they wanted to get off. They weren’t past doing a gang rape or retaliation, either, if the guards intentionally looked the other way.

As the water passed over his body it felt like heaven. They were supposed to get three showers a week but it didn’t always happen. Guards were lazy. The heat got to them, too. He closed his eyes and started day dreaming, thinking about the past. . .

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Jamie didn’t know what he was going to do, now that he was free. It was all he’d thought about for four years. Now that it was here he realized he never thought past it. Freedom was his goal and sometimes he never thought he would have it again. After a few days his family went back to doin’ what they were doin’. The novelty of having him home had worn off. He didn’t really know his family anymore, or rather they didn’t know him. He wasn’t the same person he was when he went in.. Nobody was fixin’ to help him. Not in any real way.

Everyone grew up while he was in juvy. His older brother got married. His sister had her baby and another one. She had her own problems. His little brother didn’t have much to say at all. He didn’t hardly hear from anyone while he was gone. Mama was busy with everyone who always needed her for some reason or another. He thinks he only got four letters from her in four years. He’d been on his own to survive. No one knew what he’d been through and no one wanted to talk about it. What was done was done. No one wanted to talk about why he was there in the first place. It seemed to him like he gradually became guilty for what happened. It seemed easier to let sleeping dogs lay where they were. Wouldn’t do no good to try and make anyone understand.

He took to walking down the hill from his mama’s house to the convenience store at the corner. Behind it was a shabby little apartment complex for people down on their luck. Barely furnished apartments ironically nicknamed “Little New York” because it was similar to a one rough block in a not so nice part of NYC. Some people were okay but it mostly drug dealers, prostitutes and pimps.

He met a white girl named Morgan living with her soon to be ex-boyfriend and her two kids. She had moved here from California and her old boyfriend followed her here soon after, without asking her if she wanted him to come. She couldn’t kick him out because he had no money to get back. It didn’t last for long, though, and he was gone. He thinks she bought him a bus ticket and took him to the station until she saw him get on the bus and leave.

He liked her. She had quite away with herself. Sassy and confident. They hooked up. She had the most beautiful smile and he was horny. They got along – more than got along.

Right about then Hurricane Katrina crashed into Galveston and made is way up through East Texas, knocking out the electricity for weeks, tore off roofs and destroyed billboards like paper. Morgan and the kids went to stay at her grandmother’s house up the street from the apartments.

He tried to go see her but her dad, a dead beat dad who ignored her during all her growing up years, now thought he could tell her what to do today. He’d coming running out the house             yelling and waving his Bible, “Get the hell off our property or I’ll call the police.” That’s the last thing he needed – and this man was a long time druggie and alcoholic. It wasn’t like he had a problem with him being black. Morgan’s cousin married a black man – two of them – and had a set of mixed twin boys, and her brother had a daughter who was mixed. No, it was because they weren’t married and that was against the Bible. Born agains were the worst.

Morgan got pregnant. He was going to be a father. He wanted to dance he was so happy. But she wasn’t divorced. They filled out a common law marriage form but never filed it. It was still mixed up in his stuff from the jail before he was sent to the first prison. He stuff was mailed to her mom in the Keys. She told him years later she still had it.

Now her mom was flying here with her husband to visit with her daughter and grandkids. She didn’t know about him. She definitely didn’t know Morgan was pregnant. She said she didn’t want her mom to know yet. She couldn’t tell her face to face because she’d be upset.

“What were you thinking? Getting pregnant when you’re struggling to raise the two you already have,” she could hear her mom saying. Morgan decided to wait until a better time to tell her. Problem was, that time never came.

The town was torn apart by the storm. Flooding. No electricity for a couple weeks. Roofs torn off. Billboards ripped apart like pieces of paper. Motels had opened their doors for free to refugees fleeing the damage down south. They trashed their free lodging. Stole everything that wasn’t nailed down all over town. They even broke into the vending machines to steal all the snacks. They also took every available job in town which made it harder for him or any other local people looking for work.

Morgan nearly had to drag him to the hotel where her mom got a room. He didn’t believe her when she said her mom would like him. Why should she like him? He knocked up her daughter who was still married to someone else. We stood outside the motel room door. The kids were jumping up and down, banging on the door yelling, “Nana. Nana.”

When the door opened, the kids rushed in attaching themselves to a taller, thinner woman who didn’t look like Morgan in any way. The first thing she did was whip out a camera to take a picture of the first second of the visit. As the kids grabbed onto Morgan, she is laughing, I’m looking nervously at the floor, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. I wasn’t ready for this – a family photo.

“Look up at the camera, Jamie,” she asked, but I shook my head and stared at my feet.
“Come on, Jamie, look up and smile,” she teased. Not a chance, but at least I was smiling as I looked at my feet.

That was the picture Sonni kept. She told me she used it in blog posts when she wrote about me later. This was the exact moment our lives collided. Was it fate? I didn’t know – and I’m sure she didn’t know, either, how much it was going to matter. If by chance Sonni and I had never met, both our lives would be different today. It’s the little things, maybe even unimportant things we have to pay attention to that set our lives in different directions.

“Cummings. You think we got all day? Get dressed. We need to bring others down,” the guard said, breaking his thoughts in half.

It was okay. He’d been able to leave the prison for a little while and took a trip in his head. All was okay right now. They cuffed him and started the prison shuffle back to his cell. Even though everything didn’t work out okay, there were parts of things that brought a little smile to his face once in a while. He needed to remember that when he started to get down.

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The phone started ringing.  I answered it to hear, “Mom! Jamie was arrested,” Morgan cried into the phone, calling me in Key West. “I don’t know what do.” Stunned, I stood there, knowing things were going from bad to worse very fast.

“He went out with friends to party at an illegal gambling club. One of them had a gun in his backpack and tried to rob the place. Jamie ran but they caught him. He was driving my car and the police impounded it. I couldn’t get it out. I lost it.”

I never knew if I was getting the whole story from her. I thought it was probably common to not tell your parents everything going on your life. I know I didn’t, but this sounded like a story with another shoe to drop. Over the next few years I got different stories from three people about what happened that night and tried to piece it together as best I could. But if this news wasn’t bad enough, here was the other shoe.

“I’m pregnant.”

That comment sat me down on the edge of the bed with a shocked look on my face.

“How far?”

“Almost five months.” Okay, an abortion was out of the question.

“Is he going to get out?”

“I don’t think so, mom. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I don’t think so. He’s at Bartlet County jail waiting to find out. He’s been told it could take months to find out what’s next. But I don’t have months to wait. I can’t get to my doctor appointments. “She paused for a few seconds to let that sink in..

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I didn’t know how. I kept telling myself I was going to tell you tomorrow. The more time went by the harder it got. I knew you’d really be upset.” I stayed quiet and let her talk.

“It’s a boy, mom. I’m having a little boy. The doctor’s been watching my blood pressure because it’s been up and keeping an eye out to see if I’m having symptoms with eclampsia again, so I can’t not go to the doctor.”

Morgan had a grand mal seizure 24 hours after her last birth, as well as falling in the hospital and fracturing her back in three places. She didn’t find out about the fractures until long after they healed wrong. The hospital never took x-rays when she complained of pain. I had a right to be worried about a third pregnancy.

I had helped her get an apartment while I was visiting the past Thanksgiving. This was only a few months later. I didn’t know Jamie was living with her but she didn’t need my okay. She lost her waitress job at a local Mexican restaurant. The economics in town were bad after the hurricane and no one was going out to eat. The whole town was trying to help the families who were hurt by the storm. A lot of people were destitute, so the people who could afford to go out to eat, didn’t. They didn’t want to be seen spending money they could be using to help. Being pregnant and not feeling well, the restaurant let her go. She was going to find it hard to get another job for just a little while. No one was going to hire her. She was up against a wall.

“Was Jamie working?” I didn’t see how they were managing.

“No, but he gets a disability check for epilepsy.” I didn’t know enough to question that.

“He’d been helping me take care of the kids while I work and that helped me a lot to not have to pay someone to watch the kids.” It seemed logical. I knew how hard it was to find good childcare you could afford. It didn’t send up any red flags.

She went to her stay with her grandmother. She had a big house already full of other family members down on their luck. She would have helped if she could but she didn’t have room for her to stay. If she could stay with me it would be better. Only thing, it would take her away from Jamie.  She wouldn’t be able to see him for the rest of the pregnancy, or after. It wasn’t an easy decision.

“That’s when I got the courage to call you, mom.” As she talked, Megan was playing with a bright red pair of infant sneakers with a white Nike swoosh on the side. Jamie brought them home one day. “He was so happy he was having a baby. Now he won’t be there.” I could hear the sadness in her voice. What a hard place to be.

I knew nothing about our justice system. No experience to compare it to. It was a world apart from anything I ever had to live through. I did have to raise her and her brother alone the first half of their lives. I kicked their father out when I was pregnant with Morgan. He couldn’t take care of himself let alone kids. My mother came to visit for a couple weeks when Morgan was born and was in the delivery room with me just like I was in the delivery room when their son was born.

My mother instincts kicked in. The only important thing was making sure they were okay. I had a little dollhouse apartment attached to the back of my house. A small livingroom/bedroom, semi kitchen with a full fridge, microwave and single burner, and a full bath with a tub. There was a second floor loft with a wooden railing that looked out over the livingroom. The older kids could sleep up there. There was a wood boat ladder to climb up top.

It could work. As long as she was able she could work with me at my store, located where the cruise ships docked, she’d have money to live on.. Afterward, she could bring the baby to the store. I bought them bus tickets. Her grandmother packed enough sandwiches to feed the entire bus so she wouldn’t have to buy food along the way.

I never thought my daughter and I would live and work together or that I would be able to spend time with my grandchildren everyday.. We never see things coming that can direct our lives to go one way or another. Sometimes, inside a tragedy good things can still happen.

I’m glad I had a chance to meet Jamie before all this happened, when all he had to worry about was whether or not I would like him when we met, in seemingly simple times when he was too shy to look at the camera. But even simple times had worry underneath I didn’t know about. At Thanksgiving I didn’t know Morgan was pregnant. A long time later I found out he had no disability check to help support the family.  That was a twisting of the truth Morgan thought I didn’t need to know. All choices have effects and all causes have an effect of some kind.  All of this was the law of cause and effect at work.

Jamie called fairly often. He needed to talk to Morgan. He was scared and the thought of prison was horrible. Jail calls were expressive. Twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes gouged the families who needed to talk to their loved one. I’d spend only a few seconds saying hi before getting Morgan to the phone. Fifteen minutes went by fast. After I got the first phone bill I had to ask him not to call quite so often.

Today I’d give anything to be able to talk to him. Over the years he became a special person in my life. Knowing him has changed my life. I hope I changed his. I didn’t know when I received that first letter from him, apologizing for calling so much what it was going to mean in the future. But right now . . . we had come full circle.

 

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Stay current on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build followers for Jamie with the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. It gives him a purpose when he gets out that he can help other lives. Much of the information is not on this blog and it’s important we reach people everywhere. We have a government now even more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years – making crimes out of things that were never crimes before to placate the prison corporations. It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself, because, yes, it can happen to you, too.

 

( If you realize there has been a name change from Megan to Morgan from other chapters, my daughter didn’t want her real named used.  I was going to name her Morgan so we settled on using that)

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If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

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Sonni’s Side of The Story – Part 1

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

 SONNI’S SIDE OF THE STORY  – part 1

 

     “Nana, Nana”, I heard through the door. My grandchildren were banging on the door to the hotel room my husband and I had just checked into. I could hear childish laughter in the hall when I opened the door. My two young grandchildren came running into the room as I opened the door, greeting me with hugs around my waist. Too much time always passes before I get to see my grandchildren again. They grow so fast. I know now how my parents must have felt because I always lived so far from them when my own children were young. I might do a few things different if I had the chance to do it over again. Unfortunately, we never get a do-over and paybacks can be tough when we see the consequences of choices we made. It has been so hard being separated from my family for long periods of time. This time it has been two years. It was a happy time to see my daughter when she came into the hotel room with her current boyfriend coming in behind her.
      I had my camera in my hand, wanting to catch that first moment to look back on in later years. As it turned out, I have looked at that picture almost every day for the last couple years because it is on the opening page of the blog, “My Name Is Jamie. My Life In Prison,” I write for Jamie Cummings, the young man I met that night,
      The year was 2005. My husband and I made a trip to Texas from Key West, Florida, to spend Thanksgiving week with my daughter and grandchildren in Nacogdoches, a small university town in East Texas. It’s the town I lived in for a few years when I was married to my children’s father. My daughter chose to move to this town as an adult to be around her father’s family. It was a comfort knowing my daughter and grandchildren had family support.
      Jamie was a very shy, polite, young black man, a little over six feet tall, with a fair amount of meat on his bones. He clearly wasn’t starving, but he was clearly uncomfortable. No matter how hard I tried to coax him to look up into the camera for a picture, the photo I ended up taking of the four of them had him looking at his feet with a big grin on his face. It’s an endearing photo seeing his embarrassment. He had to be nervous, not knowing what kind of reception he was going to get from the white family of his girlfriend, but this was not the first black significant other of someone in my family. Skin color doesn’t matter to me. It isn’t how I judge someone’s worth. My only concern for Morgan was if she was happy, and it appeared she was. I didn’t know anything about Jamie, but on the surface, at least, everything seemed okay. We had a nice evening sitting in the building of the hotel’s heated indoor pool, talking while the children played in the water. Jamie clearly enjoyed the children and it was obvious they liked him, too.
      The following morning my husband and I treated everyone to breakfast. In Texas, children are raised to say yes ma’am, and no sir, every time you ask them a question. I don’t think I have ever been ma’am’d so many times in one day. If a child only answers a question with a yes or no, an adult will ask them, “Yes what?” until they get, “Yes ma’am”. If all children were taught to respect adults there would be less rude kids in schools who think it is okay to be disrespectful and say anything they want to teachers, or anyone else in authority. Children today are lacking the fundamentals of respect we showed adults when I was raised. It’s easy to see how much that has effected how they treat most things in life. Even Jamie ma’am’d me when I asked him a question. I told him it wasn’t necessary but as hard as he tried, he couldn’t stop himself. Since the habit was too ingrained to change, all I could was laugh.
      When you least expect it, life throws curveballs that end up affecting your life to the point of sending it down a completely different path. Jamie Cummings was one of those curveballs. He affected my life in ways I could have never imagined at the time. He became an important part of my life because we were there for each other during times of crisis. After after quite a few years passed, I realized he had a story that needed to be told.

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     Soon after my husband and I returned to Key West, Morgan called me and announced she was pregnant – again. She probably knew during the visit, but didn’t want to tell me and face to face and hear my reaction, for several reasons. One, she hadn’t known him very long, and she was having a hard enough time taking care of the two children she already had while trying sporadically to go to school. She also hard a hard time after her second child was born because she had eclampsia, a complication of pregnancy that can lead to seizures, as well as other symptoms. Morgan did had seizures after the birth and they continued as silent seizures for several years. To get pregnant again would be risky. Another pregnancy would have a high likelihood of more complications. It automatically put her new pregnancy in the high risk category.
      The first time she got pregnant, Morgan was only fifteen. In her immaturity she was so completely sure she could raise a child, go to school and work full time, all at the same time. She lost the rest of her youth and any possibility of finding out what she wanted to be. No more dreams. Only a life of raising children without having enough money. I understood how hard that was. I laid all the possible consequences out for her, assuring her I wasn’t going to raise my grandchildren. She needed to be sure this was what she wanted. I knew it would be her education that was going to suffer. I also knew if I made the decision for her, she would resent me later. It’s hard for a young girl to make a decision like that when they are too young to have any wisdom. She had to decide and know whatever she chose, it was going to be a choice she was going to have to live with. I would support whatever decision she made.
      This happened more than eighteen years ago, in 1995. The boy who was the father of her son wasn’t in the picture to help her. She received no help from him or his family through the years. He eventually landed in prison. Morgan and her son raised each other. He turned out to be a good kid with a good head on his shoulders. he’s going into the Marine Corps toward the end of 2016. She has the right to be very proud of him. She did a good job teaching him right from wrong. She depended on him to help pick up the slack when she was tired from working all the time. For many years he was the man of the house and helped raised the little ones. She was a fierce mother. At least Jamie has known through these years that his son, Jamie Jr., who was born after he was incarcerated, has been well cared for and loved.
      The year of our visit in 2005, Morgan was struggling to finish school at the local Jr College and was working as a nursing assistant. But that job, in Texas, doesn’t pay well. She hoped to go on to nursing school or business administration in the medical field, but her life pulled her in too many directions and she was unable to complete it. Now she was adding a third child; a baby with someone she had only known for a few months who wouldn’t be able to help financially.
      Jamie, too, didn’t have any education or experience to find the kind of work that would support a family. Love does not conquer all. It was a hardship neither of them would be able to easily overcome. On top of that he has epilepsy, which not only makes him unable to get a drivers license, which limits jobs, there were also medical concerns. Neither of them thought of the hardships they would have, bringing another child into their world with no money to care for it. Love does not pay the bills, either. But at least they had love and for a very short period of time they were happy. It didn’t last long.
      The only thing I could do was shake my head and keep my fingers crossed. It was not enough. Morgan always had a lot going on in her life. It was about to triple and I knew there was nothing I could do about it. She was in la la babyland and already buying little things for a baby boy. I remember being told about a cute little pair of red Nike infant shoes Jamie had bought for him. Jamie was so happy he was going to be a father. That never changed, but what happened next was tragic.
      About thirty days after we returned home I got a frantic phone call from Morgan. Jamie had been arrested, and her car had been impounded. She couldn’t get her car back because the fees were too high. She was frantic and didn’t know what to do. She tried to stay close to Jamie to support him while he was at the jail waiting to go to court, but without a car she couldn’t get the kids to school or make it to her doctor appointments. Since she had a high risk pregnancy, if she waited to long to get another doctor no one would take her because they wouldn’t want to be responsible if anything went wrong. She knew she couldn’t stay there. Family was only going to taxi her around for so long. There was no way she could survive on her own.
      Her grandmother wouldn’t let her move in with her. She had already taken in too many family members who couldn’t seem to get their lives together, and Jamie’s family wasn’t an option, so I bought a bus tickets for them to come to Key West to live with my husband and myself. In the back of our house was a small, connected apartment. She would have her own place and have privacy. It was a tiny place with a loft, a refrigerator, microwave and hot plate, a full bathroom and small livingroom. It looked like a dollhouse with a high pointed ceiling. There was a wooden boat ladder that went up to a loft where the two oldest children slept, which overlooked the livingroom. Morgan slept in a narrow day bed in the living room. It wasn’t nearly big enough, but at least this way I was close enough to help her and the kids when they needed it.
      No doctor in Key West would take her. I finally found a doctor in Miami, a eight hour round trip drive for every appointment and a planned C-section delivery to make sure her doctor would deliver the baby instead of a stand in at the Key West hospital. Key West wasn’t equipped for emergencies and there were complications with the delivery. The umbilical cord was wrapped around the babies neck three times. He could not have been born naturally. Jamie and Morgan had a son.
     Although Morgan promised to wait for Jamie, she was young and didn’t understand what kind of commitment that would mean. For a couple years she wrote to him every day, promising she would wait, until it finally hit her that he was going to be gone until she was more than forty years old. Gradually, she resumed her life. After all, she reasoned, they had only been physically together for a few short months. There wasn’t enough time invested in the relationship for her to wait that many years. She needed to justify to herself  why she wasn’t waiting for him. It was understandable. It is hard for anyone to give up the rest of their youth. It was tragic for Jamie, though, because she didn’t know how to tell him.  She stopped writing.  he wanted to believe she was still waiting for him but it became obvious she wasn’t. He was the one inside a small cubicle with nowhere to go. Her life went on, while his stayed the same. Life couldn’t move on for him. There was only his past and his dreams for the future, and those dreams were evaporating.
      Memories of Morgan and imagining what his son was like, even if he couldn’t see him, were the things that kept Jamie going. He wouldn’t be able to help take care of him, or spend those first precious years with him as he learned to crawl, walk and talk, but he could close his eyes and pretend he was there. It was heartbreaking for him to miss this part of his son’s life. There are many people who have had the opportunity to be a parent but run in the other direction, but here was a man who desperately wanted to be a part of his son’s life and couldn’t. But your children are always your children no matter how old they are, and someday Jamie will have the chance to be a father. For right now, though, it has given him the reason to stay strong and keep fighting for his life.It was his reason to stay encouraged. We would make it through this time. Being a father was a way to make up for not having a father. He did not want his son to go through what he went through.
      He was sent far away from everyone, to the other side of Texas, so it was almost impossible for anyone to visit. He thought of Morgan as his wife and that was how she was listed on his paperwork so she would be able to call the prison if she needed to. It would take two days each way to drive across the state with three children. He was alone. He only had one visit during these first few years he was incarcerated. Megan came with the kids, and brought his mother with her. He didn’t see anyone again for another six years.
      Jamie rarely heard from his family. It was like being dropped into hell for eternity, because seventeen years feels like an eternity. He was young – only twenty two. It was almost as though he had died. It ground him down. He had already been gone for four years before this, in juvenile detention, so he guessed they really didn’t know him anymore, so why bother writing to him. He was prone to depression and it made it worse. Jamie always gave them excuses. He thought it was probably because he gave his mother a hard time when he growing up. Hogwash. When you love someone, you make time for them.
      Jamie believed Morgan intended to wait for him to get out. He knew she loved him, but if he didn’t make parole someday, their son would be ready to graduate highschool by the time he got out.  He might make parole someday, but it wasn’t when you are black, poor and locked up in a Texas state prison.

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     At the time, I owned a retail store at the Westin Hotel that catered to the cruiseships that docked several times a week. I was able to give Morgan a job before and after the birth. Being able to have her and the kids near me for a year and a half is time I will always cherish. Little Jamie was a beautiful baby and it was nice having a new baby in the house. Morgan brought him to work with her, and many times I was trying to change diapers and make a bottle while working the cash register. It was chaotic.
      I fixed up a little supply area near the register with carpet and a gate when Jamie got big enough to crawl around. When the cruiseships unloaded we had wall to wall customers.  It wasn’t an ideal situation, but I so enjoyed having them there. The baby was quite a hit with the customers. Having my daughter live close so I could see her every day was something I never thought I’d have again. This was before the economy crashed, along with my health. To make matters worse, the BP oil spill happened in the Gulf, and the tourist trade took a big hit. Cruise prices were lowered down to the price of a motel room and no one had any money to spend.  But right now it was only 2007 and we had no idea what was coming in the near future.
     Morgan wrote to Jamie regularly. While he was still in jail he was able to call, but each collect call was $25 for fifteen minutes so I had to restrict how often he could call. The price to make a phone call was been a huge problem in the jails and prisons. It was a burden for many families who couldn’t afford to pay that kind of money. It’s important for inmates to be able to stay in contact with family. The jail phone services were raping the families to get every last dime they could. Recently, because families have been fighting back, the phone charges have been lowered, but it could be a temporary change. The fight isn’t over.
      I didn’t have much communication with him at that time, beyond asking him how he was doing when he called. I felt bad he was in there. It sounded like he got a raw deal. Megan was trying to get money together to help get him an attorney. His brother said he knew someone who would take a deposit and they could pay it off. She sent him a fair amount of money but the attorney didn’t materialize and she didn’t get her money back.  Jamie did seem like a good person when we met. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened that put him in there. I didn’t think I was getting the whole story, but most kids don’t tell their parents everything. I know I didn’t. I went with my gut which told me he got a raw deal and I still believe that now.
      Morgan kept me informed about how he was doing. After he was sentenced he was moved to a prison in West Texas. He was now no longer able to make calls. After Jamie was moved it was difficult for both of them. Even though Morgan couldn’t see him when she was in Key West, when he was moved to West Texas it was though he had moved to another country.  After the baby was born I knew it wouldn’t take long for Morgan to want to go out with friends and party.  We were in Key West, after all. For some time she tried to continue writing to him on a regular basis. I thought it might be possible she would want to continue the relationship when he got out.  I knew she cared for him, but it proved to be too long to wait.  She didn’t want to be alone.
      They stayed with us in Key West until little Jamie turned one year old. After that she wanted to go back to Texas. It was devastating to see her drive off with the kids. But now She would be close to her father’s family and also Jamie’s family, and they would enjoy being able to see Jamie’s son.  The little apartment was too small with three children and she would never be able to make enough money to live here on her own. The cost of living is too high in Key West if you don’t have a decent income.

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I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog and those who have been reading the chapters of the book as I write and rewrite, finding my way. I’m very determined to do this, and do it right.  Every time you share something on your own SM, you help me tremendously. Every new address on the mailing list gives me more credibility for publishing. I hope you continue to give me pushes in the right direction.

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Chapter List:
A Message From Someone Who Cares  (forward)
Everyday Dreams
I Love You Always, Daddy
Jamie’s Story
The Nightmare
A Roof Over My Head, Three Squares a Day and Free Medical
Sometimes They’ll Give You Candy
There Is No Place Like Home – part one
There Is No Place Like Home – part two

Please fill out this form to receive a monthly newsletter about info on the book. I estimate it is half finished. find out if you missed any chapters I posted. If there is anyone who would like to be a “reader” – be another pair of eyes – you’d be more than welcome. Sometimes it’s hard to see your own mistakes. I would email the chapters to you so it would be easier to read. Let me know.

There Is No Way To Be A Dad In Prison

Jamie Cummings jr
Jamie jr age 9

(Sonni’s note: Today, July 2015, little Jamie has dyslexia and is making it hard for him in school. It’s easy for other kids to think he’s stupid because he can’t read but he’s actually very bright – if you read the question to him. He finished third grade and needs to repeat it because to be able to go into fourth grade he has to be able to read the question the math question. I don’t know that holding him back. A year solves anything. Reading other subjects will just continue to get harder. He has qualified for a teachers aide, but it doesn’t change the fact he has dyslexia. Jamie, the dad, feels helpless not being able to be there to help)

April 4th, 2014

It seems he’s got a bad case of it. He’s having a hard time learning how to read and make his letters. Megan has it, too, but nobody knew it when she was young. They never picked up on it. They found out when she went to college and then they had to give her textbooks on CD’s and gave her tests orally. She still has a problem with numbers and letters. But it seems like Jamie’s is worse because they noticed when he was only in the first grade because he had trouble making the letters in his name. Megan had to take him through a lot of testing and appointments with the school to get him a tutor. Hopefully, with the extra attention he will get better. It’s been hard, though. You see, when you are a little boy and your dad is not around it hurts bad.

Even though Megan is with another man, he accepts that man because he is little. But it isn’t the same as having your own dad. When Megan and I were together, her other kids, Alex and Alyssa accepted me, not just because I was with Megan, but because I loved her, and them. When I was young my dad wasn’t there, but I didn’t accept anyone else even though there were other men in my mom’s life. Do you see where I’m going? Some dads have a chance, but not many. Some men try to be a dad and some don’t. Some don’t care about other men’s kids. They don’t feel any responsibility to them and they don’t love them. But I love all Megan’s kids. I think of all of them as mine. I wish I knew more about how they are doing. I want Jamie to know that even though I can’t be there every day I love him so much. I care how he is doing in school. I wish I could know more about how his school day is and what he is learning. I hope his writing gets better so he can write to me, even if it is only a sentence or two. That would make me happy. But I can tell you, I could never accept my son bonding with another man. I am his father, his only father.

I should be able to see Jamie once or twice a month. What’s twice a month? Is that too much to ask? I have seen him so little. I want to be able to talk to him. I want him to see me. I want to tell him how important he is to me. I understand we have to get to know each other through letters, but the thing is, he’s only seven. You and I understand the rough road in life and we can explain things in letters. Jamie can’t do that. But he is important so I have to find a way to get through to him. I need to change things for him so he never goes through what I’m going through. I can start that by changing who I am. Change the karma. That will affect his life, too.

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