Monday, February 2, 2009

An Errand In The Night

Tonight, after a full day of homeschooling and piano lessons and homekeeping, and after getting dinner started for my family, I hugged my children and kissed my husband goodbye. I was going to run an errand I told the little ones, with an all knowing look between my husband and myself. "Groceries?" they asked. "No, just an errand," I retold them. Then I snuck out the back door.

I drove down the darkened highway, making phone calls along the way...asking for any messages that needed to be passed on. Mental notes were made. Traffic jams did not ease any apprehension I felt, but did offer moments to breathe. It's been a long time since I'd seen the Dallas skyline at night - so beautiful. Amazing that just across the bridge from the colorful city lights, ugliness in every form awaited me.

As I turned off the highway, I began to look for the building. It didn't take long to find it. The high fences and barbed wire quickly set it apart. It was very dark, no where to park, and cold. I saw a spot where some cars were parked in a makeshift lot; good enough. I grabbed my purse, my phone, my paperwork and headed for the building. I'm not afraid, just cautious, eyes constantly roaming for anything unusual. But honestly, this was all unusual.

I walked up the steps to a small covered porch area, and stood in the back of a line of about 50 people. I quickly stood out like a sore thumb among them, being one of 3 or 4 caucasians among throngs of hispanics and blacks. I looked around, cautiously surveying the others. Old, young, babies, teenagers, from every possible background imagined or unimagined. We were all there for the same reason. A kind woman next to me informed me I couldn't take my purse or cell phone in. So I ran back to my van, stashed my purse, returning to find I'd lost my spot in line. More waiting, more cold. It smelled of urine, filth, and alcohol.

After about 1 hour and 10 minutes of waiting outside, they finally called my name. Cox, number 18. I walked through the entrance and made my way to number 18. I sat in a white plastic chair, next to a sweet grandmother with her 3 year old grandson. They were at number 17. She spoke no english, but the little boy did. He pointed at the plexi-glass window in front of him and said, "Daddy." The boy and I played back and forth for the next few minutes, filling the time.

Finally, I looked up and there he was. He looked years older to me, and tired. As he sat down, we picked up our respective phones, and tears filled my eyes. "Happy Birthday brother," I said as happily as I could. I teased him about the stripes on his uniform, and he showed me the too small shoes he'd been issued. I passed messages on to him, and he told me stories to pass on in return. Five years is a long time, but if he's good, maybe it will only be 6 months.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my little 3 year old friend placing his fingers on the glass in front of him, sobbing "Daddy, daddy." His daddy had his hand on the glass as well, sending as much love as he could. Absolutely heartbreaking.

As I drove home, I wondered what hopes and dreams my parents had for their sweet baby when he was born 41 years ago? Did they dream he'd be president, or an athlete, or a doctor? As they cradled him in their arms, did they hope he would have a life better than their own? I'm certain they never envisioned the sort of life he's chosen for himself. What happened along the way? Why him, and not me?

My heart aches so deeply tonight, that only God can hear my groanings. Come quickly Lord, come quickly.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Oh, sweet Elizabeth. That was a beautiful, heart-breaking story. Your brother is very blessed to have you. I love you!