I sat next to my Mom at the bar. I was eight years old. She was drinking shots of vodka and crying. She was pregnant, told me she didn’t want the baby and wanted to kill it.
I had not been allowed to talk to kids outside of school so in my child mind, longed for a friend, a playmate, a sibling, someone who would always be there. So, in response to her anguish I cried and asked her not to kill the baby. I told her I would help take care of it and that everything would be fine.
I remember the night vividly. She put down the shot glass, turned to me and hugged me. I had changed her mind.
She had a boy in the hospital alone. No one was there to support her through the birth. A friend dropped her off and my grandmother picked her up the next day.
I did help take care of that boy, in much more intense ways than I could have imagined.
From his birth I had been left alone with him. I fed him, changed his diapers, rocked him to sleep and when it was time to run, I carried him.
From school age, I walked him to school and picked him up. Helped him with his homework, took him to the park to play, fed him. When it was time to run, I held his hand.
Then, we were separated. I needed to take care of myself. When I was ready to take care of him again, he was not the same exuberant and outgoing brother I had remembered. He had an edge. He was only ten.
I put a roof over his head and fed him. I put him in school, after school counseling and martial arts. But, he was angry and acting out, thus began the next phases of his life; juvenile hall, jail and now, prison.
Through letters and visits to all of these institutions over the years I’ve watched him grow and mature.
In my last visit to him I was able to hug and touch him. I had not been able to do this in fifteen years. When he spoke he let his tears flow freely in a roomful of other prisoners and visitors. I took in the deepest of pain and regret that muddied his eyes and hoped to reflect comfort and peace in return through mine.
I miss that little boy and still see him in that man.
When reminiscing, he reflected upon the stories of that little girl who took care of him. He remembered our days at the park, our crazy meals and he remembered being chased and our running away. He felt indebted to me, though his gratitude did not save him from the choices he would make that would lead to a life of debt repayment to society as a whole.
What am I grateful for?
- Understanding that physical and mental imprisonment is distinctly different and that many people wither away in mental prisons wherein it is not so easy to minister to them, because their bars are invisible to sight.
- Understanding the soul destruction of choosing the comfort of an unhealthy situation over the discomfort of leaving it. Children taken from abusive parents more often than not do not want to be taken away, because it is all they know.