Here's the piece I read at LTYM - Little Rock on Mother's Day..
A group of young men, handcuffed and shackled together, were ushered into the courtroom. One by one, the deputy unlocked the handcuffs and the men were instructed to sit on a long wooden bench against the wall. My eyes scanned the row, and filled with tears when they came to the prisoner seated third from the left.
Was that really my son? He looked so scared, so unsure of himself. He looked tired and much older than his 18 years. It was hard to imagine what he had been through in the last 24 hours and harder still to imagine what would happen in the next 24 hours.
My ex-husband called me the day before to give me the news that Brian had been arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Arrested… Marijuana… Distribution. What did it all mean? It sure wasn’t supposed to happen to MY FAMILY. It was supposed to happen to bad families; families that didn’t care about their children; families where one or both parents were drug addicts. Not to MY Family. I’m a good mother!
As I sat there, my Momma Bear instincts kicked in. It was my God given right as a mother to protect my cub. All I wanted to do was stand up and yell at that stupid judge and tell him what a horrible mistake he was making. There was no way my son should be sitting there with those criminals. But there he was, sitting on that long, wooden bench wearing an orange jumpsuit with the words “County Jail” emblazoned on the back.
I felt equally torn between helplessness and anger. Helpless because I couldn’t just go up there and take him home. Helpless in that I couldn’t fix this – there wasn’t a Band Aid for this. On the other hand, I was so angry. “What in the hell were you thinking? Drugs?” I knew in my mind that I couldn’t protect him from the situation or the consequences of his actions, but I was still his mother. I carried him for 10 long months, went through a difficult delivery and vowed to God above that I would take care of him and love him and be the best mother I knew how to be. What now??
Brian was released on bond and a court date was set. The judge ordered a suspended sentence, assigned community service, probation for the next three years and then one final court hearing at the end of the three years. Unfortunately, he fell back into drugs and on the last court date, showed up high on meth. He was ordered to serve one year in a drug boot camp in a town 3 hours away from home.
Forms were required so I could visit. The visitation schedule changed each week, so I never knew until just a few days prior when I could visit. I dreaded the drive to the prison – it was lonely and by the time I arrived my stomach was in knots. I was allowed to bring in my keys, driver’s license and a zip lock bag filled with quarters for the vending machines. Brian was brought in to a room and we were allowed to hug upon arrival and departure. No other physical contact. We sat across the table from each other; his back was to the door and the word INMATE was on the back of his shirt. Guards and cameras were everywhere. Inmates and their families all sat in the same room. There was a soft drink machine and a snack machine. Occasionally, one of the inmates, a photographer, was available to take pictures. We talked and talked and talked. He wanted to know absolutely every detail of life at home. Funny, he never wanted to know before. Leaving him was almost more than I could bear. I would get in my car, fumble for the box of Kleenex, turn on a Michael Buble CD and cry most of the way home – every.single.solitary.time...
Only by the grace of God did I survive the next year.
Brian had a lot of time to reflect on the bad decisions he made. He had time to realize he desperately needed to make some changes. He worked the 12 step program. We talked more in that year that we had talked in the previous 5 years. His head was clear and drug free. It helped me, too, because I truly understood I couldn’t fix Brian and his problems, only he could do that. I was learning to sit by and let him take charge of his life.
As his sentence came to an end, he was back in court. Our lawyer asked me to bring clothes and shoes just in case. What if he wasn’t released? As I sat there waiting, another mother sat down beside me. I could tell life had been rough for her. We looked at each other and she grabbed my hand and held it. It didn’t matter that we came from different backgrounds because that day we were just mothers, waiting for the outcome of our boys’ futures. I never saw her again, but we helped each other get through that day.
When the judge ordered Brian’s release, I sat there for a minute just to make sure I heard him correctly. Our attorney turned and told me to meet them downstairs. When Brian finally came outside, we ran to each other and just hugged and held each other. My son was free. I could hug him, touch him, look at him and know he was safe, at least for that moment.