Prison visits were both wonderful and terrible moments in our lives. Wonderful because we got to be together, hold each other (however briefly) and talk to each other while we looked into each other’s eyes. Terrible for so many other reasons – the location, the atmosphere, and the reminder of the reality that prison was a part of our family’s story. For fifteen long years, every visit was that way – bittersweet.
The beginning of our prison-visits journey was marked with so many firsts! The first time we stood in line to see Ron, the first time we smelled that stale, musky scent of prison air, the first time we heard the big mechanical doors close out the world outside, locking us inside the prison with a loud hum followed by the clank of the metal lock engaging. As we walked into the prison visiting room, the sight of so many families packed into a room, all crowded around knee-high tables, sitting in old stained chairs assaulted us. Worn-out looking mothers and grandmothers were trying to keep children quiet, distracted, and calmly sitting at the tables while they talked with the men sitting across from them in prison blues.
I didn’t want to be there, and yet I was so happy to be there. Soon, we would be able to see Ron, hear his voice, and see his smile! The time between sitting at our assigned table and the moment Ron walked into the room was tortuously long. The vending machines and microwaves boasted long lines of family members seeking the best tasting meal they could find to enjoy together. We would make good use of the waiting time by joining the crowds to choose our family meal for the day. This was an important part of our visits – and not just because I am a total foodie. It was during the simple moments, like family meals at home, that we missed Ron the most. We did our best to create a family meal experience while we were all together. The processed food from the vending machines was amazing when shared as a family meal!
Finally, the door that separated the prisoners from their families opened to reveal Ron smiling as he walked confidently into the room. Every time I saw him walk into a visiting room, my heart skipped a beat and emotions flooded over me – relief, joy, and grief – all at the same time. I was now minutes from being in his arms for a full 5 seconds. Five whole seconds! It is so crazy how much difference 5 seconds can make. I would hold him so tightly while the boys held onto us as tightly as their little arms could squeeze. Those family hugs carried us through so many years. Read more…
Ron and Catherine Tijerina are true catalysts for change. They are authors, nationally‐renowned speakers and Founders of The RIDGE Project and TYRO Support Services. Their inspirational book, High Five – Love Never Fails, is available on amazon or click here for a FREE e-book! Order yours today.