We drove south for about 2 hours and just when we were in the middle of seemingly nowhere, we saw it... lots and lots of buildings surrounded by fences and barbed wire loops. We found the one where Jack's mom was at and pulled up. This was a totally new experience for us, we had no idea what to expect. The guards were super nice but professionally suspicious because they had to be. Our car was searched, Dan was wearing shorts and was told he couldn't, but Praise God we had his dry cleaning still in the back seat wadded up waiting to be taken in, so he was super stylin' in his polo, flip flops and wrinkled pin striped suit pants!! :o) The next station we were frisked, and ID'ed and told what we could and couldn't do.... we headed into the visitor area.... A lady stopped and said "oh' by the way, you know you're going to be talking through a window and on phones to her, right?" nope. we didn't know that. My heart sunk in disappointment, I don't know if it was more for her or more for me and Jack. Apparently she hadn't done the right paperwork to get to be able to see Jack in person.
So, we entered into the sterile room and got assigned a window and waited... we had to wait about 45 minutes due to the daily count being done. Anyway, she finally appeared. She couldn't look much older than 15, but cute as a button. I could see Jack in her, although seeing her told me that Jack probably resembles his dad a lot too. She seemed happy to see him. It was challenging though because Dan and I could talk and hear through the phones but if you've ever tried to get a 8 month old to listen on the phone... it's not easy. So, he really couldn't connect with her much.
I found myself talking a lot to her. She was very engaging and has the most cute voice. We told her what Jack's been up to lately, and about what we've been up to. She started right out telling us how hard of a time Jack's dad is having with all this. She admitted that it's not as hard for her because of this being the 3rd time she has had a child taken away from her. We told her that due to paperwork and requirements to go see Jack's dad who is a lot farther away than she is from us.. that we weren't going to be able to go see him anytime soon... probably not until he's almost 1. I hate that, but it's just the way it is right now. She tried to be understanding... but that girl, she is all about that guy.
She really didn't show much emotion when it came to Jack. I don't know what I was expecting, and I'm sure having a soundproof window in-between them didn't help. But there was definitely a lack of connection between her and him, it was almost like we were going to visit a former babysitter of his or something. She was really interested in talking with us though... I know she's probably lonely there. So... we talked.
2 hours passed very quickly and Jack was a trooper even though he was so sleepy and this was so off schedule for him normally. His mom went on to explain/complain about the unit she was at almost like a teenager would about their parents after being grounded and stripped of privileges. From a conversation with the entry guard and then hearing what she was saying it was beginning to sound like she wasn't having an easy time there and that there had been issues and consequences for certain actions. Her basis of thinking she was going to be getting out this coming fall was Obama's economy plan and how she's heard his cutbacks will hopefully entail the release of non violent first time offenders. That may be true. That may also be what she hopes is going to happen. I'm sure it's easy to cling to whatever hope presents itself.
Regardless, I did find myself having lots of compassion on her. I don't know why I've thought before that prison in America was not that hard of a place to be... but I do know after this visit, I had a new perspective on those who find themselves serving time for whatever reason. I also thought what a huge ministry that must be for believers who are guards or inmates. Hope. So many I'm sure look for it to be outside that place... but what some I'm sure know is that it is within you. I wrote Jack's dad in a letter that many people live free lives but are bound to a life of misery and bondage to sin.... but what a perspective it is to think that some have had to leave that "free" life to find Christ in prison and although may be "bound" are truly free and truly can find joy in every circumstance. I'm hoping and praying this is the case for Jack's mom and dad.
As we said goodbye, we gathered our things and were checked outside to the gate. We drove off in silence as Jack drifted to sleep almost immediately. We really didn't know what to think. So much of what she said we were having to process and wonder what was her experience and what was reality. We felt good having seen her and heard her voice. We wanted her to know we cared about her. We wanted her to know we loved her son and that he was thriving!
Dan looked at me and said, "you know, we got into this offering our care for 9-12 months and then they agreed to let us adopt him after that if they couldn't care for him. Well, this probably isn't going to be resolved anytime soon and will probably take a lot longer until he is either permanently with us or back with his parents.... we may even be looking at 2-3 years."
I said, "I know. I think I knew that from the beginning"
He said. "Yeah, me too."