I get asked a lot about my brother. Mostly about how he is doing. And honestly it changes on a daily basis. I go to visit as often as I can, typically every week. I dread going to visit. Even a year later, I am still not used to it. I am also worried for the day that I do become used to it, I hope it never happens. You can tell for some people/families in the waiting area that they are used to it, that this is normal for them, that they’ve been here before. I try not to judge but I always feel out of place. Depending on the day it can be very busy. If so, then you wait until your number is called. I try not to talk to much to anyone because you never know who they are there to see. I was naive about that at first. But what if the person they are there to see doesnt get along with the person you are there to see….or many other things. Every time the same process, you check in with the visitors guard, show them your ID and who you are there to see, they stamp your hand and give you a key for a locker. You can only take in a vending machine card, visiting pass and your ID, everything else goes in a locker. Most of the guards are pretty friendly with me now as they know who I am. I try to be respectful and make it easy for them. You go through a metal detector. I try to look and dress as plain as possible. Trust me I am not trying to impress anyone there! Once through the metal detctor you then go through a set of doors and show your ID to another guard with your stamped hand. They will then open the second set of doors into the visiting area. Once in the visiting area you give your pass to the guard….and honestly Im not really sure where they take it then. But the pass indicates to them which inmate you are there to see. I have my favorite guard, he is an older guy, always gives me crap but in a joking way. He knows my brother, he knows everyone in my families name, he pays attention. Then you sit in an old chair and wait. There is a small plastic patio like table in between you chair and the inmates. I usually wait about 30 minutes. The guards blame my brother for being slow, and my brother blames the guards for not calling him. I can’t help but watch other people around me. It breaks my heart to see kids coming to visit their Dad’s. I always wonder how these guys all ended up here. Then I wonder…..how did I end up here? How am I visiting someone in prison? By the time my mind really starts to wander my brother comes out. We hug tight. I try to keep our visits fun, making jokes, laughing. Its the only time he really gets “away”. I get him food from the vending machine. He usually wants the same thing every time, chicken sandwich, ruffles chips and a coke. Every now and then a coffee. I used to try and stay all day, but its exhausting. So usually I just stay a few hours now. Leaving is the worst. My heart hurts as I walk back through the double doors and he walks back into prison. I almost always tear up as I walk to my car. No matter if we had a great visit or not…..leaving him there is painful.
Today I visited after being gone for 2 weeks. We were both excited to see each other. He was hungry right away. We chatted just about the week. Then we just started arguing about things. You can tell we were both just frustrated. I wasnt telling him what he wanted to hear and in turn he was treating me rudely. We sat in silence for a few minutes and then I said we should change the subject. He said he wasn’t mad at me just this whole situation. I started crying….which since he has been in prison I have never done in front of him. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to sob even harder but just hid my face in my hands. I wanted to run out of that place. But I didn’t. I picked my head up and realized he had tears in his eyes too. As hard as this is for me, it is that much harder on him. He can’t cry in there so I made a stupid joke. We both laughed and the rest of our visit was great. This is reality. This is our reality anyways. There are good days and bad days but the fact is no matter what I will stick by my brother, I will let him vent, I will understand when he is taking it out on me, I will be there to pick up both of our pieces. That is what family is all about. And right now that is all I can offer him.