Post the Hundred and Fourth: In Which We Visit Prison

Gentle Reader, a lot of people don’t seem to know that I have an older sister, or had an older brother. They were teenagers when my parents married*; I wasn’t born until a year or two later. My brother, D, was in and out of trouble in those tumultuous teenage years, and into his twenties. A great deal of trouble.

Doug1

He got sent to prison, in fact†. By his step-father. This improved their relationship dramatically, I’m sure.

He was first incarcerated when I was five – about the time I started kindergarten, in fact. At the time, I just thought he was going to some special big-boy school, and didn’t quite understand why he didn’t come home in the evenings. After a year or two, I could read, and read – for the very first time – of boarding school, in The Chronicles of Narnia. When I asked my parents why D was in boarding school and I wasn’t, they weren’t amused. They didn’t understand that I wasn’t joking – I was jealous.

Doug2

That may have been why they finally decided to take me to visit my brother, in prison. The women’s prison for the state was in our humble hamlet; unfortunately, the men’s facility was a two-hour drive away. A squalling six-year-old on a road-trip of that sort, and duration? Pleasant for nobody. My parents undertook it gladly, though – it was a necessary task.

We arrived, entered, were frisked. I thought that the metal-detectors were great fun. My father had to use his patented, signature glare on me – the guards were in no mood to deal with frisky children, and he was in no mood to deal with the sort of trouble I could have gotten into.

Doug3

We were escorted to what was essentially a large telephone booth. If you’re unfamiliar, there’s a formica half-counter, on which to lean and a plastic chair of the sort you would find in a middle-school cafeteria. Through the tinted, dim, window you can vaguely discern your friend or loved one’s features. There is a phone-booth style handset hanging to your left, that only dials one number.

You are permitted thirty minutes.

This is not enough time, when constantly interrupted by a child’s chatter.

Doug4

My father was trying to discuss important things, like lawyer’s fees and parole. I wanted to tell D all about my new puppy and also this thing that Teacher said and also also about this picture I drew and maybe I will write you a story in class, D!

I like to think that D took comfort in the ease that I took in his incarceration. I was never bothered by it, nor judged him for it – it was simply what was happening at the time. I loved my big brother, and that was the end of the story.

We visited him a few times after that, after I understood that he wasn’t having adventures in magical boarding schools. Sometimes, if you show up on the correct day, they even let you meet in a large white common room, reminding you of nothing so much as the dining hall of a hospital. My brother taught me to play chess in this sterile, cheerless, environment; I was seven or eight. Over the course of our next several visits, I gradually improved; I was very proud the first time I beat him.

Doug5

Eventually, he was released, and got his life straightened out – and he kept it pretty level, until he passed away. The family doesn’t much speak of his time in prison, not wanting to speak ill of the dead – I think that it’s important to acknowledge these things. After all, I spent time in prison as a child.

*********

*My father knocked a girl up back in the Sixties, when he was seventeen (she was sixteen). They married, had two children and a white picket fence, were together many years, and were miserable. It ended badly. He married my mother when my sister (the elder) was about 14 or 15; my brother was 13.

†You’re too polite to inquire, but I know you’re wondering: He was imprisoned for stealing and forging checks of his stepfather’s. He was 18 or 19.

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About Ty DeLyte

Madame DeLyte has suffered a grave disappointment - YET AGAIN - and still believes that freedom, beauty, and truth are what's valuable, rather than vulgar cash. He'd add love to that list - but, well, what can he say about love?
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