Friday, September 01, 2006


Being a prison mom, some things are just part of my routine anymore. One thing I do weekly that is normal, and yet not-I go to the post office with an addressed envelope and get a money order for my son. The prison commissary account is the only way we can give anything at all to him, so along with the weekly bills to pay, there is always a money order. Our local postal clerks know the routine, too, and so always ask if I want a money order when I come in. (They don't know why for sure). Last week there were two of them. One was for his needs, the other to save for a large want-a keyboard. He is allowed to have a musical instrument providing it falls within certain guidelines, so any extra money we get becomes a money order for him to save towards his keyboard (for now). We can't give him cash when we come to visit and we cannot write any personal checks to him. We can only bring ones and fives when we visit for the vending machines in the dayroom.

Letters are another part of my routine. In this computer age, e-mail has largely replaced handwritten letters as the accepted means of communication. It's convenient and fast. But, our son does not have access to a computer, so the only means of communication we have with him is snail mail. This seems unnaturally slow when e-mail messages can come back the same hour. But, the advantage is in the anticipation, and for prisoners the mail is their lifeline to the outside world. Anything they receive is welcome and really the highlight of their day. So letters have a much greater significance than just being a routine retelling of the week's events. I try to save other things to add to the envelope, pictures, news clippings, special things of interest or that are funny. I try to always be mindful of things I could send, and what is happening as our days rush by.

It is routine to plan a monthly visit to the prison where my son is incarcerated. The journey is too long to make any more frequently, unless it is an emergency or a special occasion, and even then, we don't have control over our schedules to the point that this is even possible. It is our understanding that in the first few years of a sentence, prisoners are placed as far away from their home environment as possible. There is some wisdom to this, but seeing as they cannot leave the complex, I certainly look forward to the day when we don't have to plan a visit-we can just go after dinner or on a Sunday afternoon. The drive is long and tiring, but we know this is the only way to ever see him, so we look at every month on the calendar and try to decide when it is best to go.

It is routine to never feel completely normal and to worry about the future. Some weeks are better than others, and some weeks just seem so hollow without our son here. I can't think about years of him being gone. I can't think about how hard it may be to live in society again, and will he make it? But I do. All of those feelings are now routine, and they will be for a long time to come.


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