My father was charged six years ago and sentenced four months back. While the last six years have changed drastically for my family and have seemed to be the start of the prison sentence already, the real day has come. Surprisingly, I was able to sleep through the night. I woke up at about 5:30am the day that he was surrendering. The weeks leading up to his surrendering my sleep patterns were different. It was harder to fall asleep, I had so many nightmares and I would wake up in panic because of the anxiety I began to develop. I woke up and stared at the ceiling for a little while, thinking about how the day would actually unfold. I thought about how he was feeling, which had to be much worse, so I knew that I could be stronger than I had felt.
At about 7:00am I went into the kitchen where both of my parents were. I made non-sense talk to try to lighten the mood, but the truth is it can’t be changed. My father asked my husband to pick him up a pack of cigarettes. Typically, we would try to talk him out of smoking, but on this day we felt if it kept him calm, so be it. My father paced the floor and went outside for frequent cigarettes. Eventually we all knew it was time to get dressed and so we did. We kept trying to ask my dad to eat, but he just couldn’t. Eventually we all got in the car and proceeded to Canaan Prison Camp
The car ride there was close to three hours. Trying to keep a sense of stability and strength on this ride was our goal, but how can you? How can you pretend that you aren’t dropping your father off and won’t have him home with you for two years? We had many moments of quietness and quite a few bathroom stops, but we tried so hard to talk about how to have a strong mind. Most of that in the moment we felt was for him, but I recognize now that it was me, too, who needed to believe the words I preached.
As we got closer to the destination my father began to ask how far we were, how many miles and how much time was left. This made the tension in the car even worse, but we still tried to lighten the mood. At no point, did we cry or act upset, we reminded him of what he needed to do and say and how he could do this! We talked about how many people have come and gone and have had this experience. “If they could do it, dad, then so could you.”
We first passed a state penitentiary and I said “is this where we need to be?” Luckily, we were wrong; this didn’t look like what we were prepared for. We drove a little further and there was the sign for USP Canaan. We drove in and followed the signs. We drove passed the camp that my dad would be in, and thought, hey doesn’t look too bad. We continued on to the main entrance where he would self-surrender. When we got there he was like; “okay let’s go” and quickly got out of the car. My sister, my mom and myself were like “what is going on aren’t we going to wait a minute and talk before”, but clearly this was like a Band-Aid he needed to rip off and just get it over with.
We all walked in with him. The guard greeted us and told us to have a seat and begin to say our final goodbyes. My sister and I knew it was time to go so we first hugged and kissed him. We let him know that we loved him and it would be okay. He asked us to take care of our mom, and as tough as it was we held it together and left through the doors. We cried as we walked to the car and waited for our mom.
About 10 minutes later our mom came to the car in tears. We all sat for a few minutes and reflected on what just happened. In a way it felt like we could breathe, because as bad as it felt, a part of it was completed. The security guard saw the nervousness in my mom, and surprisingly had compassion, he told her not to worry that he would be fine. He actually told her that she probably wouldn’t recognize him when he came out and that he would be healthier. My father having many health issues was a major concern for us. My mom told the security guard at the desk how worried she was about his health; he reassured her that they would respond faster than an ambulance would to our house. He gave her some advice on how to reach him and learn more about the camp, which of course we already knew because of Justin. We left, upset, but this part of it all was under our belt. We all felt accomplished and defeated at the same time, but were ready for the next hurdle.
We all sat and wrote letters to him, sent him money and books. Now we wait for the phone to ring, for a letter to appear for any sign to know that he is okay. For my dad I can’t even imagine the feelings that he may have, but for all of us I can attest to the fact that we are at the edge of our seats.