My mama spent the better part of her adult life behind bars.
It’s a disturbing thing to say but true nonetheless.
Fact is a goodly number of my people have spent time behind bars.
A poetic thing really, given that I grew up in Georgia and later became the Oregon Bureau reporter for the Tri-Cities newspaper, which includes Pasco, Kennewick and yep, you guessed it — Richland.
Rink as the paper calls him was known to all of us as Uncle Tub.
It was a nickname given to him by his older brother Roy. Roy told me he gave that name to Tub because he had the bighead — Tubhead.
I’m not sure what Rink refers to. You know how southerners have such a penchant for nicknames.
The only nickname Mama ever had is Seester. Uncle Charlie always called her that: “Hey Seester.”
When I was little the family referred to me as Sissy. Well, mostly that’s what Brother John called me.
A student asked me the other day if I’d ever spent time in jail. Yes, I said.
Of my own choosing. I had the Sheriff arrest me and book me on a drummed up charge of Driving under the Influence. They put me in one of those orange jumpsuits — which wasn’t really all that bad because orange is one of my signature colors. Took my mug shot, which I still have around here somewhere, and put me in solitary confinement.
Since I knew I wasn’t going to be in jail longer than 24 hours, it really wasn’t bad. If you are claustrophobic like my husband or my daughter, it’s not a place you want to spend a great deal of time. My jail cell wasn’t anything like those roomy ones you see on TV. It was more like a quarter of the size of a the old-fashioned college dorm room. Just enough room to squat and sleep, but not to kneel and pray, which is the thing I’d really need to be doing if I was going to be in jail for any longer a time period than 24 hours.
Unlike her brother(s), Mama didn’t spend time in jail because of any wrongdoing on her behalf. She was there because she was a prison nurse. People in jail get sick just like anywhere else.
They get colds and the flu. They have high blood pressure and strokes. They have addictions of all sorts, and some have AIDs. Sometimes they cut themselves or others.
I never understood how Mama treated some of those people.
If it had been me, I would just let some of them die. Like that man who murdered those young parents and left their baby in the graveyard, crying by her lonesome. I might have tarried before helping him after somebody, not him, cut his throat and left him for dead in his prison cell.
I’ve been thinking a lot about prisons and the people who inhabit them as of late. (I find it completely and utterly ironic that the best health care in the system is granted without question or argument to inmates, but that’s another debate for another day.)
Mostly I’ve been trying to parse out this question — do you suppose there are people for whom redemption is no longer a possibility?
Because if Satan, who was perfect in every which way, can get his butt tossed out of heaven, doesn’t it stand to reason that we could do something equally as offensive and cause God to reconsider his first offer?