I thought I was ready for today. I was mistaken.
I finally saw my daughter today. I sang worship music all the way to jail and I covered her and myself in prayer but when I entered the parking lot, the chains, the barbed fences, the institutional veneer and the reality stopped me in my tracks.
There's a certain sense of relief walking in to visit despite the fears that try to sneak in. A little pride even tried to sneak in as we sat in the waiting room in our nice clothes and my pretty makeup holding the keys to my less than average car in the parking lot. Addiction has no limit, no standard, no prejudices. I am not above sitting in dirty waiting rooms afraid to use the bathroom. I was there to visit someone I love just as much as everyone else was there to visit someone they loved. I am not exempt. She is not exempt. Addiction happens to every social rung on the ladder no matter where you think yours is and no one is exempt from taking care of their child no matter what the circumstances deliver.
Jail, visitations, funding commissary accounts and accepting collect calls was not something she grew up with. She seems so comfortable. She seems to feel at home. I struggle to understand how this is "normal" to her now.
Our name was called and it was time to finally see our child. Like the movies, we were faced with a cold, steel bench and one telephone handset staring at a see through divider separating us from our beautiful daughter. As she walked in, I couldn't reach her, I couldn't hug her, I couldn't brush the hair out of her eye and kiss her on the cheek. Similar to what a parent of a premature baby must endure visiting the incubator, we could see her but we couldn't touch her, hold her hand, rush in and pick her up to save her. We could only watch and wait.
We made small talk as long as we could. I told her how beautiful her long, blonde wavy hair was. We discussed her striped pants and plastic shoes. My stomach turned into knots as I let my mind wander to how she spends her days. The tears streamed out of her fathers eyes as well as my own. Something in her changed as she saw us cry. She's avoided us for so long as to not see the physical damage, the bags under the eyes, the darkness to our once cheerful dispositions. She couldn't deny that we were hurting. We didn't do it to pile shame on. We didn't cry to manipulate her into admitting she needs help. We cried because we are watching our child behind a pane of glass that separates her and we can't save her.
I will stand by and continue to hear every chain breaking. I will continue to visit. I will continue to hope. I will continue to tell her there's another life, freedom, never ending love from us, laughter, beauty and hope.
For those of you that have done what we did today... the driving away, the realizing the raw reality of their lives... you are stronger than you want to be, braver than you should have to be, but like you, I will continue to be grateful to do it as long as I need to.
As parents to the preemie who finally gets to hold their child and take her home, we will also wait for the day where our visits aren't bound and separated. You see, our child is growing again too. We believe certain life is being breathed into her again. To those of you sending her cards, books and prayers, you are more treasured than you know. We know your time is valuable and your lives are busy but you mean so much to us for doing what you do. She's realizing that her real family never left her.
For today, I believe in my heart that more chains are breaking and she is one step closer to freedom.