Sometimes I look at my family and realize it's not a really rosy situation. At all. Sometimes, if I say all the things wrong in my immediate family at once, I realize it sounds pretty awful. Most times I don't say anything about it, except in blogger land.
The reasons are many. Firstly, I don't want anyone's pity. Also, it's hard to talk about it without getting emotional. Another reason is that I realize most people don't know what to say or how to react when I tell them what is going on. The almost last reason is that I pride myself on being strong, independent, happy no matter what and able to handle it alone. The final reason is that I'm a little embarrassed.
Once people know about the details of my family life--well, then, I feel like it's almost impossible for them not to make judgements, assessments, and opinions of the situation. It's also hard for them not to share opinions. These don't have to be bad things, but they usually aren't good things, either.
That disclaimer being disclaimed--I went to see my brother in prison for the first time last Saturday. It was hard. I've avoided it for a long time, mostly because I've been living in another country.
He's been in prison since April. He has the same name as my father, stole my father's identity, cleared my parents out of their meager savings account so he could buy drugs. He ended up high, hungry, alone, and I believe shoeless--arrested while living in a park just down the street from my older sister's million dollar home.
Sounds like a Lifetime made for TV movie. Which I hate.
In prison, rightly so, my brother is clean and sober. That means he is himself. That means he is quiet, scared, lonely, sweet natured, and full of remorse. When he is high--he is loud, fearless, ugly, scary, and hurts every one in his path.
The problem is that my brother shares the depression problem of my mother. It's severe. Instead of trying medication, he turned to drugs around the age of 16. He's never really stopped. He is now about to turn 28. It's been a long road for all involved. He has two illegitimate children. He has no career. He's unhappy. He doesn't have a lot of hope. He cries a lot now.
I walked into the prison with my mom feeling pretty sorry for myself and my family. Why us? Why do you always have to deal with these things?
Inside I was able to talk to my brother for about 15 minutes via a computer monitor and a telephone receiver. The visits can only last 30 minutes. While my mom was talking to my brother for her 15 minutes, I looked more closely at this old man who had entered the same time we did. He was about 80, bent over, and had three small children with him. The children were 6, 3, and 2 months. The six year old was trying to calm the 2 month old. She was swinging him around and, in all honesty, not doing much to help the baby's discomfort. I went over and asked if I could hold him. The old man looked gratefully at me as I saw him talking to a young woman on the monitor. I held the little baby and noticed that his head was misshapen, his eyes at different levels on his face, and that he was most likely suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. I made eye contact and smiled and cooed at him. He immediately perked up, smiled, grabbed at my hair, and was happy.
I looked around. There were people just like me in that prison visiting room. There were sweet parents talking to sons, there were mothers with babies talking to fathers. We could have been at church instead of prison by the looks at everyone.
I talked to the two little girls and found out that this man was their great grandpa. Their mom was in prison, and so was their aunt. The baby was their nephew. Their great grandpa took care of them all by himself and each week they came in to see their mothers.
That broke my heart.
I watched this great grandpa labor to stand up. He tried to take the baby so he could kneel down and put him in his carseat. I did it for him and then asked if I could carry the carseat to his car for him. He gladly accepted. He thanked me. He got in his car and drove away. I went to my car and just sat there for twenty minutes before I could drive away.