When my brother told me he might be going to prison, I couldn’t believe it. In my eyes he could do no wrong. I had been holding him up on a pedestal since I was a little girl. Even when he did things I didn’t agree with, he was my rock.
This time, however, he did something really wrong. And even with that knowledge he was still the person in my broken family that I could turn to for really solid advice.When I drove up to the prison, I remember a high fence with barbed wire at the top. It had looked like every other prison I’d ever seen. Only this one wasn’t the movie set of the Shawshank Redemption. It was a real prison that my brother was now going to live 15 months of his life in. Not only would his once free life be full of rules and regulations, but so would everyone who visited him.
I wasn’t allowed to bring any paper money into the prison because maybe I had gotten it from someone who uses drugs and left a residue on it. Or perhaps it would be a way of bringing drugs inside. If I remember correctly I was permitted to bring $5.00 in change in a clear bag. Who knew that ziplock had so many uses? This money was to be used to buy food from the vending machine should we get hungry during our visit.
After sitting for a while staring at the door my brother was to come through, I felt a great deal of discomfort. I didn’t want to be there anymore than he did. The door finally opened and out he came: still my rock of a brother only this time he wasn’t dressed in a custom tailored Hugo Boss suit. He was wearing a tan prison uniform. Being a very strapping, handsome guy, I have to say he looked pretty damned good in it.
He acted very differently than the brother I knew though. Instead of the big wide smiled teddy bear hug I would normally get from him, he was very methodical. His movements seemed very slow and subtle as if to make himself invisible. As he later explained, he did not want to draw any attention to himself. And that he acted the same way on the other side of the door. He just wanted to do his time without any trouble.
We talked for awhile. About what I really don’t remember? He ate a microwave hamburger from the vending machine that he asked me to go and get. Our visit was pretty much over before I knew it. He told me that every time he goes back through that door they do a cavity check to make sure he isn’t bringing anything back inside with him. To this day that has stuck with me.
I couldn’t tell you how it was to live on the other side of the door. Only he can, but this I can tell you. My brother has had a monumental spiritual awakening in his life since that time. He has turned into a giver rather than a taker.
He is still my rock. And even though he is not perfect, he will always be the person I turn to for solid advice.
My sister Alison is an award-winning advertising copywriter – she says that this was the most difficult thing she’s ever written.