"Will you be coming to the hearing, Mom?" Such hope in his voice. "I won't get to see you because it's done over a video screen and I don't know if only the parole board can see me, but it helps if you have family there."
"Yes, I plan to be there. I was thinking of visiting you on Sunday but with the price of gas it will be the hearing." I hate being dictated down to the penny due to the economy and distance that's between us. But it is what it is.
"Yeah, please come to the hearing Mom and skip the visit. It starts at 8:00 here. And thanks, Mom, thanks a lot."
Meeting up with a Fella from my church and support group who is starting a ministry to inmates, we travel the distance to the prison where Cliff resides. Arriving much earlier than necessary we pass the time getting coffee at Tim Hortons. We yakkity yak all the way and more about Cliff. The Fella is planning to mentor Cliff while he's incarcerated and beyond. This means so much to me as Cliff hasn't really had a lot of stand-up men in his life. His father loves him but in my opinion and experience, is incapable of having a positive, uplifting relationship with anyone close to him.
Finally, 8:00 arrives. I check in at the desk and hand over my I.D. The officer says "okay..they'll begin around 8:30 or so and, by the way, only one of you is allowed in." Hmm....coulda swore Cliff said 8:00 and the more at your hearing the better, but that's the system we deal with. 8:30 rolls past, 8:45 waves as it goes by and finally around 9:00 am, the officer calls out, "If you're here for a parole hearing please step up to the desk." A flood of females, about 10 in all, and one elderly man come to the desk. "There's been a scheduling conflict so the hearings will be later today." In my mind I'm thinking about my work and how many others standing there are not at their jobs. The officer continues. "Come back at 10:30 and we'll be setting up then for the hearings." I calculate quickly where my car is and offer to The fella to drive me back there and I'll get my car and come back myself. He said no, we'll just come back.
Out we go and Fella's wife calls to see how the hearing went. I speak with her and tell her that for a quick minute, the redhead in me tried to rear it's unruly self, but the trusting God in me, threw it's hand across my mouth and put me back into "don't kill the messenger mode." Ahhh...so many were praying and I knew it right then!
Upon returning we sit and wait again and finally at 10:50 the hearings begin. I get called in about one hour later and go through the process of being patted down (with a quick apology by the female officer for having to fondle me so to speak), opening my mouth, showing the bottoms of my shoes and then removing them to show the bottoms of my feet. Finally I get my hand stamped and approved and am escorted to another holding area. "Walk ahead of me, m'am, and please take a seat at the second gray chair on the left." Sitting in my chair in the holding pattern area waiting my turn, I glance around at the walls and ceilings knowing that their must be cameras somewhere. Someone's watching me, I'm sure of it! The redhead, she keeps trying to get me in trouble, thinks about picking her nose or mooning someone, but again it's squelched by the angel on my shoulder.
The door to the hearing room opens, and out walks the woman that went in ahead of me, and her prisoner! My hopes are jumping with joy inside and shouting "you mean I get to see my son, face to face?!" The joys we can find in the moments of struggle. The next minute someone calls out to me "are you the representative for Cliff?" I answer that I am and around the corner comes Cliff with his escort! My eyes are quick to take in his appearance and notice immediately just how awesomely healthy he looks! He's sunkissed and tanned. His hair is trimmed nicely and he's grown a little goatee again. Looking dapper even in his prison attire we walk into the hearing room. I said, "I thought you were on video." "So did I!" he replied. We were both pleasantly surprised to find that the gentleman holding the hearing is on the video.
What seemed slow and methodical as I listened to the moderator interrogate my son was actually rather timely and quick. I listened carefully as Cliff replied to the questions and wondered if he'd answer them honestly. To the best of my understanding and recall of his life, he did. His questions to Cliff were the ones I've asked him myself. "Why should I believe you will manage and fulfill your parole better than your probation?" Cliff said, "I want out of this loop and to never be in a facility again. This is the most clean I've probably ever been in and out of jail. I am thinking clearly and I know this is not the life for me." The moderator replied that he was not so naive to not know that Cliff could get drugs while incarcerated. Not as many as on the street but they're in there and Cliff's remained drug free. Mr. Moderator sat back and asked me what I had to say. I made a statement and mentioned that one thing that was different than before is that I've learned through my meetings, to set some boundaries for myself and that my life will have a structure that will hopefully keep me from being manipulated and taken advantage of. I also mentioned that Fella has offered to mentor Cliff and Cliff has agreed to be mentored by Fella. The moderator was pleased to hear this and emphatically pointed out that statistics show what a difference a mentor can make for anyone with addiction issues. He concluded the hearing by saying that this information would be given to the parole board to review and Cliff will hear from the board with a decision in 5-6 weeks.
Quickly it's time to exit. Allowed to give Cliff a hug was a very special moment of course. He thanked me for coming and said he loved me~I've had permission to hug Cliff only three times this year. As I was escorted down the hall to exit, he called out "bye, Mom."
"Bye, honey!" I called back. Oops.
Just as if he were leaving home in real life for a real job as a viable, contributing citizen and just as if I'm a regular mom.
In my dreams this one comes true.