I’m writing in response to a poem by Anna Breslin in which she states “just write”. It’s a wonderful little poem in which she suggests that we basically “just do it”, without overthinking, constant editing, worrying about it. I have been not writing much lately due to all of the above. I thought I didn’t have any good enough ideas. This is bullshit.
On occasion, some say “you can’t make this stuff up”. I recently had a somewhat weird experience during which I found myself saying this. The fact is, if I had the great imagination of a fiction writer, I could have made this up.
I have a brother who is an inmate at a federal prison serving about 7 years for white collar crime. He sometimes falls into a type of magical thinking which was part of what caused him to wind up in his current predicament. He feeds into any rumors going around the prison regarding pending legislation that may magically set them all free someday.
In reality, there is as part of the federal prison system a drug rehab program which, upon completion, will reduce his total sentence by 9–12 months. My brother doesn’t exactly have a drug problem. He did, however tell the truth during his psych intake when he was first incarcerated and say that he has been smoking pot his whole life (at least since he was in middle school).
He looked back on this as fortunate for him when he heard about the rehab program. He applied for acceptance, and based on the information from that early psych intake, was accepted.
Upon his initial incarceration, he was lucky to be placed in a minimum security prison that is known as “club fed” because the inmates there have very few restrictions and many priveleges not available at other federal facilities. It is also fortunately in a location that is not too far for our parents or for me to go visit him. It is a long day trip, but it can be done.
He was willing to gamble with being relocated to wherever this rehab program is available not knowing if the place would be as comfortable or accessible to family in hopes of having a significant reduction in his sentence. He had heard from other inmates that the best facility where he could be placed was about 350 miles away from his current location. I was able to advocate for him to be placed there after he was accepted into the program by working with a rabbi who advocates for Jewish inmates.
Before he was even accepted into the program, he asked our parents who are 83 and 84 years old, to drive him to this new location during a one day furlough he would be granted for travel. This would mean that our parents would need to drive approximately 800 miles in one day. I was appalled that he would ask them to do this at their age. I asked him what the alternative was and he said he would be handcuffed, shackled and put on a bus for a trip that would take weeks with frequent overnight stops at medium security prisons with horrendous conditions. My parents agreed to drive him because they felt sorry for him.
Once he was designated to the facility where he wanted to go, he gave our dad the address. I offered to have Dad stay with me the night before as I live closer to club fed and I would help him with the driving. He is very stubborn and refused, saying he would just get up earlier and do it by himself. The days when he used to drive to North Carolina from New York in one day when he was 19 are all too fresh in his mind as well. The thought of my 84 year old Dad doing this by himself made me sick. My Mom’s health had been deteriorating and it was clear she would not be able to go and help drive.
My parents had this trip on their agenda before they even knew where they would have to go. In the interim, my Mom’s asthma started to bother her enough that my Dad had to take her to the emergency room. Initially, the doctors thought she was just having severe asthma, but due to her age, they decided to run more tests. They did MRI studies of her lungs, and when they saw a “mass”, they next did an MRI of her stomach. It was becoming more and more clear that Mom would not be up for my brother’s furlough for travel, although she was very much looking forward to spending a day out in the world with her son, even if it was just to deliver him to another prison.
Mom had a biopsy of the mass in her abdomen. It turned out that she has stage 3 ovarian cancer. She spent 10 days in the hospital during which time she became increasingly deconditioned. Her breathing didn’t improve, and the doctors couldn’t figure out why. She returned home with oxygen, and an appointment to begin chemotherapy on the same day my Dad thought he would be driving my brother to his new location.
Fortunately, I took over the job of driving my brother to his new location from my father before my Mom was even diagnosed. The thought of 84 year old Dad driving all that way alone was unfathomable to me.
I met a nice guy on OKCupid over the summer. He told me “I would follow you to hell and back” after we spent our first night away together. We had been spending a lot of time with each other since we met in August. He drives for a living. When I explained what needed to be done and that my father was planning to do it alone, I also felt him out for the crazy idea of using the 2 remaining vacation days he had mentioned he still has with no idea what to do with them to go on this trip with me.
He immediately understood the insanity of the idea of an 84 year old driving over 800 miles alone in one day, and agreed to go with me and help with the driving.
I remembered his offer to “follow me to hell and back”, and I figured this was a chance for him to make good on that offer. I did acknowledge that it was kind of a crazy idea, he agreed, but we figured it was a chance to go on a strange adventure together.
I had another moment of “you can’t make this stuff up” as I was using my ex husband’s funds to secure a hotel reservation for my boyfriend and I to stay overnight after we take my brother to a new prison.
My brother is planning to explain to our Mom that he is being moved sooner than expected so she won’t get upset that we moved him without her knowledge or participation.