Cindy always has something to say. Today’s blog title is of course, one Cindy’s Quotes that “fits the situation.” I’ve never possessed my sisters “gift of telling it like it is with humor.” In fact, as children, my stutter was so debilitating that Cindy often spoke for me a number of years.
Have you ever noticed that the more you give- the more a few people take? It’s taken far too many years for me to realize it but, I’m older and wiser. I spend nearly everyday with my sister. We work together and we spend our spare time together as well. Over the past year, we’ve had less and less spare time due to clients and our own family.
Now and again, a few requests from family or prospects can be so “out of the park” that I have to reread an email more than once. “Asking for an apple and expecting a pie” or “inviting me to dinner and expecting me to buy the groceries and cook” might sound good to the person asking who assumes that either the customer is always right or because we happen to be related that they deserve whatever they ask for for. I make the rules around here and don’t enjoy diva behavior from prospects or even on occasion, a few members of my family.
Folks assuming they control the terms are often surprised when I advise them to find someone else to help them. I work when I want to and for whom I enjoy working with. I don’t advertise. I don’t need new clients and I no longer take on difficult people who make working with them drudgery. I work because I enjoy working but not to such an extent that it would make me miserable. “Not my luggage- not my trip.”
A few days ago, someone contacted me to send “two photographers and an Officiant but, we don’t have any money so they need to volunteer.” What the? You get the point. I’ve had so many outrageous requests in eight years that even I can be shocked. Cindy laughs while I try to understand what the writer might have been thinking when they hit the send button? I’ve never asked anyone for anything in my life. I attribute this fact to my life.
Quite frankly, in my family, there wasn’t anyone to ask for help other than my sister. Cindy and I have been self reliant since we were fifteen and left home.
In today’s society “GRATITUDE is the DIFFERENCE between APPRECIATION and a sense of ENTITLEMENT.”
It’s not only a few prospects who “want to borrow the ladder to steal fruit from the neighbors tree and then complain it’s sour” either. I have a few family members that fit the same mold.
As incredible as it may sound, last year three of my family members tried every ounce of patience I had by getting themselves involuntarily committed at the same time. While this may sound shocking, all three were committed for different reasons. My niece, Stephaney started the chain of events when her institutional sobriety ended. For those who don’t know the term, it’s drug mandated probation. Stephaney would be the first family member who appeared to be crazy although it was drug induced psychosis. To date, Stephaney has been committed 13 times since last January.
My sister did everything humanly possible to get Stephaney back on track and, we failed. We cared when no one else would and eventually, Stephaney’s behavior became a rock in a pond with ripples that spanned out. Stephaney’s daughter, Maryssa began playing the choking game and also was committed due to suicidal ideation. My father became convinced that invisible people were living in his attic and shot through his ceiling. He was also committed.
Trying to find Stephaney over and over again when she would go missing after being discharged was frustrating. We’d find her. We’d lose her again. For over a month now, she’s been safely committed at JPS/LCA. I have no idea if we will ever get my niece back on track. Stephaney has always been difficult and now faces jail time. Will it help? It certainly can’t hurt. Many Jails and Prisons are the only rehabilitation that are actually effective.
Five years ago, Stephaney was a passenger in a stolen semi tractor trailer. She spent six months in jail and six months in court ordered rehab that I paid for. I told her then that it was her last chance to get it together. I swore I would never help her again and yet, for over a year now, I’ve continued to try.
Fixing our family is something that neither I or Cindy have had much success at. Lord knows we’ve tried harder than anyone else in our lives had ever attempted but, I wonder if we tried too much with Stephaney? If maybe we had let her fail or do hard time if she would have recognized the path she was taking? I will never know.
My niece, Stephaney called my twin sister yesterday “to cheer HER up.” Cheering up someone who has spent over a year consistently disappointing her mother, her twin daughters, and myself is something that neither Cindy or I are comfortable doing anymore. We’ve had a year too much of trying to cheer up our family members at psych ward visits.
It’s hard to be cheerful when you feel helpless. You put on your happy face and walk into a world of other family members visiting their crazy relative who are often either getting yelled at or crying. You feel their pain. You know what they went through to drag themselves into the car and drive to the psych Ward before being screened and herded in like cattle. You know how hard it was for them because you’ve done the same thing.
This morning, Cindy told me “my Pom Poms are out of streamers and all that’s left is me shaking my fist.” Cindy’s right. We are both worn out with continued visits to Psych Wards or phone calls from patients aka our relatives who want or expect us “to lift THEIR spirits.”
In fact, if my father were committed again, Cindy and I wouldn’t bother visiting. On his involuntary commitment, the only thing he recalls is the day we missed visiting because we were working in Houston.
Selfish people will always find a way to make you feel guilty. Visiting my dad at Wellbridge was emotionally draining. Wellbridge is specifically for people over fifty years old.
Cell phones make it easy for your family members to call anytime day or night. My niece calls Cindy first and if my sister doesn’t answer, calls me. These phone calls are depressing. You listen to someone complain about their life who aren’t accountable for the results. Stephaney could have been married years ago. She could have had her own home and made something of herself. But, Stephaney chose the wrong path.
Stephaney also missed her court date while being an involuntary “guest” at JPS Local Commitment Alternative. Because of this, a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.
The counselor at JPS called Cindy and advised her that “picking up your daughter with an active warrant is considered harboring a fugitive. You cannot pick her up. She will be transported by the Sheriffs department.” We were of course, unaware of this and certainly not going to try and drive Stephaney ourselves after the “heads up” from JPS.
My niece had told Cindy and I to pick her up and treat her to a steak dinner before dropping her off at Parker County Jail. Stephaney doesn’t like the new plan but, it’s the only plan there is. I wonder if Stephaney was aware of the jeopardy she had planned to put her mother or I or even both of us in by asking us to transport her? Stephaney rarely if ever considers her actions and/or the repercussions of her choices.
The steak dinner part is funny to me because a steak dinner should be a celebration. Each time Stephaney is involuntarily committed or released from jail, she expects her mother and I to get her “nails done and treat her to an expensive dinner.” I wonder if Stephaney has ever considered that rewarding her for dragging us through yet another depressing escapade is the last thing on our minds? As we continue to write more checks and buy Psych Ward friendly clothing, I tally up the expenses of buying cigarettes for dad and Stephaney when she was at Sundance and he was at Wellbridge or the many times Cindy and I have bought clothing and toiletries over and over again for Stephaney as well as buying Stephaney food and begging her to look for work and support herself. We are now in the thousands. Treatment is expensive but so is gasoline, clothing and if a unit allows smoking, other expenses.
Bouncing from Mesa Springs to Sundance to Wellbridge often was so stressful for Cindy and I that we cried tears of frustration em route only to put on our happy and hopeful masks arriving in the parking lot. You watch other visitors drag themselves in. You know how they feel. You listen to them talk to other visitors hoping for good news or a miracle but weerily accepting the fate of the card they’ve been dealt.
It’s a hopeless situation to pray for a family member to stop disrupting your life. I remember the parents who sued their son to get him out of the house and now understand why. Stephaney would be happy to live with Cindy the rest of her life responsibility free. For years, my sister and her other daughter, Leigh Ann walked on eggshells around Stephaney in Cindy’s house because the Weatherford P.D. refused to help them when Stephaney was in yet another violent rage knocking holes in walls or kicking in doors again and because “she lives here.”
Cindy was forced to quit her job in order to raise the twins herself. Cindy has sacrificed her entire life and Cindy deserves peace. Both of the twins parents refuse to pay the minimum amount of court ordered child support. How much? $100 per child. People should be screened before having children.
Anyone can have a child but not anyone can raise one. Our mother couldn’t. My niece can’t. You see where I’m going with this.
There are so many parents and grandparents raising someone else’s children that it would shock you in America. All of these do gooders are older. Most of them receive no benefits for the sacrifices they make. There are heroes out there and the real heroes are those taking on the burden and expense of raising someone else’s children.
From drugs to mental illness or a combination of both- the lame excuses for not helping their parents or grandparents with the tremendous responsibilities dumped in their laps from loser parents continue. My mothers mother raised our step sister. Tammy had a shot at a normal life. Thank goodness she wasn’t homeless and living in a shelter before her 16th birthday. Our mother was a loser.
If you’ve never been around anyone on meth, you have no idea what it’s like. Anger and hostility are normal from the addict. How my sister kept it together raising those twin babies alone with Stephaney terrorizing her in her own home I have no idea but, once Cindy realized she could evict Stephaney and the police finally realized that Stephaney wasn’t the victim of domestic squabbles and that Cindy and Leigh Ann were, things changed.
Cindy and I were actually relieved that Stephaney was in Cotton County for a year away from us and the children after the “18 wheeler excursion.” Other than hundreds of dollars in phone calls or thousands spent on rehab for Stephaney, we finally had a break from Stephaney.
We finally recognized that once Stephaney was released, probation would keep her on the straight and narrow. If only we could keep Stephaney on probation the rest of her life we might have a certain degree of hope but, this of course is impossible.
Entitlement. We’ve seen it and experienced it although generally the people who think they are entitled are the people who don’t really deserve to be put on a pedestal.
While taking phone calls from Stephaney that consistently disrupt our days, my nieces latest demand is to talk to her twin daughters. Sadly, after Stephaney’s chaos filled ride the last 14 months, the twins have no desire to speak to her or attempt to cheer her up. Cindy and I refuse to force the twins to talk to their mother.
After all, they are both in counseling trying to cope with her choices already. Maryssa and Makenna don’t understand why their mother has continued to spiral. No one understands what happened to dad. I suspect a blood clot but, I’m not a doctor. It’s not my responsibility or Cindy’s to take care of our dad. After all, he didn’t take care of us. Tit for tat. “You can’t profit from the harvest without planting the crops.” Makes more sense when you hear it in terms you can relate to.
Cindy didn’t “owe” anyone the responsibility of taking care of our grandmother but, she was suckered into it just the same. Cindy was trying to give her grandtwins the comfort and security that we had never known when we hired an attorney to save the twins. She was protecting them. It was a tremendous responsibility that required plenty of sacrifice but, Cindy took on raising another generation of twins.
Stephaney has a long road ahead and at 31, needs to figure out that finding a job and stability are now “on her” rather than her mother and I. Both of our husbands are lit about our families and their chaos. Neither of our husbands have living parents or adult children “butting in” to their lives.
Understanding why Cindy and I continue to run off and try to save the day has become a cloud over both of our homes. We walk off to take phone calls from Stephaney. We don’t bring up “the latest on Stephaney” for Steve or Matthew. They both don’t want to hear it anyway. Our husbands simply want happy wives but, the “caboose of chaos” aka “our family” aren’t going anywhere.
With boomerang kids moving home, responsibility has flown out the window. These adult “kids” don’t pay rent and don’t learn how to survive on their own. It’s a problem for parents who never enjoy the luxury of an empty nest. Steve and Cindy may never know what having a quiet and predictable home life are like.
Cindy is raising her SECOND generation of kids and if you count 17 years of dealing with my grandmother mooching off Cindy while taking up two rooms of her home, you could say three generations. Even today, Cindy is angry that she allowed herself to be taken advantage of all of those years saddled with the burden of our grandmother. If she knew now what she didn’t know then she would have never allowed my father or our aunt to dump grandma on her but, Cindy is a caretaker.
Being a caretaker is a thankless task. People abuse your generosity. Trust me. I’ve had so called friends that borrowed money and never paid it back. I had one friend, Glenda, who walked into my home and took whatever she wanted from my closet. For years this bothered me but, I didn’t know how to address her entitlement to items I had sacrificed to buy. I do now. No one rifles through my things and helps themselves anymore.
My sister has a million moocher quotes because she has lived through them. “You CANNOT profit from the HARVEST if you don’t plant the CROPS” being one of her all time best received Quotes.
For Cindy, wondering if all of the people she’s sacrificed to care for all these years will pay off in our old age is a literal crap shoot. The odds of Stephaney waking up one day and recognizing all we have done to get her life on track are slim. She resents the fact that Cindy won’t allow her to move home. Sure, Cindy warned her everyday not to ever get back on drugs but, people don’t listen.
Addicts are difficult to understand. They destroy their families. My mother destroyed ours. She was a heroin addict. I have very little tolerance for addiction. It’s selfish and self destructive.
For years, Cindy and I have been “BUSIER than a narcissist with a SELFIE STICK” running here, there and everywhere to hold this family together. Sadly, no one in our family (other than our husbands) has made any effort to take notice of our own needs.
Arriving back home after yet another Psych Ward visit, I’m depressed and melancholy. I wonder if these visits will ever stop for me or my sister? If we can ever have a predictable life of making dinner and reading a book or watching a show?
All three of our adult children are too busy thinking about their own lives and futures to consider ours. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever take on. It never ends. You are always “the fixer.”
If you are lucky- one day your kids will take care of you but, don’t count your chickens before they hatch kids. If you’ve raised a spoiled brat, your needs will always be invisible.
Stephaney is now upset that she won’t get that steak dinner and will instead be transported from the Psych Ward to the county jail. We are upset that Stephaney will calling us in her boredom from Parker County at a cost of $7.30 to set up phone calls from Jail and fees $2 and up a minute to listen to her tell us how miserable she is. Prison and jail phone calls are incredibly expensive to the “families on the outside.”
The main difference between Psych Ward phone calls and Jail are money. Sure, it’s upsetting to be enjoying your day and have your relative call complaining you aren’t visiting or bringing them items they want but, at least you aren’t paying for outrageous inmate phone calls. Count your blessings. If you have a problem relative, it’s VERY expensive if they happen to be an inmate.
Thankfully, our dad still hasn’t bothered to call us after leaving his home on an internet date two months ago. It’s one less thing for Cindy or I to concern ourselves with. Trying to save dad was just as debilitating as trying to save Stephaney.
Quite frankly, neither our father or our grandmother much less our mother were good examples of parents. Cindy and I became the parents we never had. Did we overdo it and enable our adult children? I wonder myself. Were we so hellbent on being perfect parents that our own needs or boundaries flew out the window in our quest to be the best? Perhaps.
Parents raise children in the hopes that their adult children will visit or look after them in their golden years but, I don’t see that happening for either Cindy or I. Our best hope is looking after each other. Our husbands are both significantly older than us. We’ve spent the best years of our lives raising children and grandchildren. We’ve sacrificed. We’ve cried. We’ve had moments of true despair dusting ourselves off to walk in on yet another Psych Ward visit and we’ve wondered if we can ever stop mental institute visitations? If we will ever catch a break from craziness?
“If some people have a clear conscience, I’m left to assume that they suffer short term memory loss as well. Honestly, their character says a lot about them, it’s just too bad that they don’t listen.”
Cindy has a lot of quotes regarding entitlement, mooching, trust, narcissistic behavior and more because she’s seen it all. Cindy now asks herself “what would Wendy do?” I’m far less tolerant than my sister. In fact, I always have been.
I’ve limited visits to Stephaney on her 13th mental institution stay intentionally. For my own well being. I am sick of Psych Wards. I have no idea how Cindy and I have kept from breaking down due to the stress. We are warriors. We are fighters. We are survivors but, going through the motions of three family members in three psych wards would try even the strongest and most resilient people I’ve met. We trudge on but, it’s not easy.
“You could give some folks a new car and they would still complain that they had to pay for gas and buy insurance. They expect you to make gravy outta water. Dirty deeds leave you with unclean hands that are clearly visible to the person who refuses to shake them.”
Cindy has a lot of material just from looking around. I don’t possess the same talents of “turning shit into silver.” Cindy has something to say about everything because it’s her outlet of dealing with stress.
Cindy is somewhat famous for blending whit, humor and truth into the same sentence. Cindy says it first. People may copy her but, Cindy has never copied anyone. She doesn’t need to. Her brain can configure a summation in seconds to fit any situation. I have no idea how she does this. In fact, Cindy is so quick whitted that often it takes anyone listening a few minutes to get the punchline.
Now and then, even I don’t always get her punchlines but, many times I have. We are Compensating Personality Twins. Cindy and I both endured a horrific childhood which may be why we are so committed to trying to give our children and grandchildren the love and support we never had but, at what point do you step back and realize that you are doing too much? Cindy and I often laugh to keep from crying when it comes to our family. We have jointly decided that worrying about Stephaney or even our dad is a thankless task that no one should be forced to endure.
Cutting loose is essential to finding peace. It may sound bad but, we are at a point in our lives with other family members AND clients who need and deserve our attention far more than my dad or Stephaney.
While juggling phone calls from Stephaney and thankfully, none from our father, Cindy and I already have full plates. It’s time to stop trying to have faith or trust that Stephaney will get it together and force her to do it alone without our help.
We can’t continue praying for Stephaney to do the right thing anymore. It’s time to let her fly alone and suffer the consequences of her actions. Stephaney’s phone call to Cindy yesterday was regarding “needing help when Stephaney gets out buying a car and paying for a place to live.” Cindy responded “you are going to need a man or woman to help you. I don’t care which because I’m already overwhelmed raising your kids without child support from you or their deadbeat dad much less any help at all from you. If you want the honey from the hive, don’t complain about the stings that come with it. Getting what you want is painful. I been getting stung my entire life and ain’t never even tasted that honey. My own needs are always last.”
Why my niece continues to expect her mother to support her I haven’t a clue. But, Stephaney does. Stephaney refers to Cindy’s house as hers. I don’t get it.
Cindy has to focus on the future and forget trying to save everyone else first. Cindy isn’t “crying about past failures because she’s too busy laughing about her successes. Making sure my grandtwins are successful is my highest priority.” Cindy’s right.
Raising teenage twins is a full time job with the only benefit being that one day the twins may realize just how much Cindy and Steve have given up to ensure they had every advantage in life. Maybe just maybe the twins will come visit when Cindy and I are old and grey? We can hope.
Since Cindy was busy driving Maryssa to school and working on transferring Makenna from home school to public school, my son joined me to drive to Ferguson Unit.
Ferguson Unit is a bit of a trek from Fort Worth and about twenty minutes from Huntsville. My last visit to Ferguson caught me off guard when the inmate was behind glass. I wasn’t prepared for the glass or separation and needed to confirm with the guard that the inmate could both hear AND understand me. He could. He was also smiling. I was nearly crying.
Before leaving my house, I read an email about my Allred Unit bride agreeing to do a news interview in Wichita Falls regarding her upcoming marriage.
This is my second “high profile client couple” in two months. I’m surprised but, then again, I don’t google anyone. High profile cases are never really a good sign. Media attention is what actually make for a high profile case.
The Allred groom had already agreed to an interview. The client told me they had met when she was a juror at his trial. I was somewhat surprised by this and concerned that a television audience wouldn’t warm up to this unique love story but, it’s not my call.
Since the Allred client and her fiancée were “set on the interview,” I advised my client to smile and, if she was uncomfortable answering a question to politely decline.
Reporters and journalists alike look for sensationalism. Often, the person being interviewed has no idea that not everyone will accept their choices. It’s a slippery slope.
Last week, a Dutch television producer contacted me regarding “finding European women who have married someone serving a life sentence.” Due to the legal ramifications of a “Marriage of Convenience” and Marriage Fraud, I advised her that I haven’t married anyone in a Texas Prison who didn’t speak English or happened to be a pen pal.
It’s very difficult to prove a marriage and I strongly advise against such unions. Marriage Fraud is a crime and it’s a crime that continues to flourish across the U.S. choosing to marry an inmate in order to obtain a Visa isn’t something that surprises me though. After 8 years in the events business, I’ve seen it all.
I recognize “pen pal” friendships, unions or marriages exist but, my clients all knew their fiancées personally prior to incarceration.
TDCJ Clients always voluntarily tell me their stories. I don’t ask questions. Neither does Walmart or any other business. People ask me all of the time “what were they in for?” I don’t know. I don’t investigate and it’s not my concern.
My Allred Unit couple shared one thing in common with my Hughes Unit couple. Both men had been inmates at Polunsky Unit aka Death Row and transfered out. This on its own is very rare.
In general, the only way out of Polunsky is in a box. Polunsky Unit houses “lifers.” For women, Mountain View Unit is equally permanent. The term “Death Row” is on its own, intimidating. It’s not often that anyone “transfers out.”
Will there be backlash for my client and her fiancée at Allred Unit from this interview in Wichita Falls? I have no idea but, I know this, after my interview with the Dallas Morning News making me somewhat infamous for being LBGT Friendly, I received numerous death threats. I’ve also endured several nasty emails regarding officiating Texas Prison Weddings.
Not everyone agrees with inmate or LBGT marriage and for those who find the time to share their views with me, I’m adding the fact that I’m marrying an LBGT Couple AGAIN next month in a Texas Prison and no, I’m not concerned about YOUR opinions regarding same sex or inmate marriage.
Everyone deserves to find love and have love. Please hold those hateful emails. I can do without them and although you might be trolling to find a new reason to contact me, I’m not interested in your beliefs, views or opinions.
Arriving at Ferguson Unit, my bride was nervous and anxious. Most clients are. No one planned to marry inside a Texas Prison.
My last visit to this unit had the inmate on the other side of the glass. The glass surprised me and I didn’t realize the inmate had not only been on the other side of the glass but he was also inside a cage. I couldn’t see the cage as I was beside the bride on the other side of the glass.
Yesterday, I was inside glassed area that my previous groom had been behind at Ferguson Unit and saw that there are also cages around the glass for inmates talking through the glass. The cage saddened me. On the inside looking out, I controlled my breathing. Closed spaces can and do cause me to hyperventilate. After two years inside Texas prisons jails though, I’ve learned to control my anxiety.
“I never planned on officiating Prison Weddings. A creative request was presented to me by someone who had seen me on CW33 stating Love Is Love. I believe everyone deserves happiness.” One month later, I was standing at TDCJ Estes Unit officiating my first Prison Wedding after undergoing the process to become a TDCJ Officiant. It’s not my place to judge anyone and, I don’t.”
Everyone asks how I became a Prison wedding Officiant but, the opportunity presented itself because I was LBGT Friendly and open minded. Had this fact not been publicized, my guess is that Misty might not have found me. But, she did and I wasn’t hiding in a box. For someone wanting to marry an inmate, finding an open minded Officiant willing to undergo the process to become TDCJ Approved had been such a struggle that Misty nearly gave up before finding me.
Texas Twins Events was openly LBGT Friendly off the bat. I welcomed anyone from any background and I was always blatantly clear about this. Inmates aren’t my clients. I don’t talk to inmates much less meet them prior to the wedding ceremony. My clients are all on the outside and believe it or not, well educated and well informed. Marrying an inmate is a lengthy process. No one is running off to the courthouse in a fit of passion or eloping. It can be a time consuming and frustrating process.
A few years ago, I was recognized on the CW33 interview since I was standing next to my twin sister and twin grandnieces by people who knew or had met me. Many of my former clients and/or friends called to tell me that Cindy and I were on the news that night but, two sets of twins always get attention. I thought nothing about it. The death threats didn’t start then. People who didn’t know us had no idea who we were. It would be a newspaper article that started that hate.
The Dallas Morning News interview and not the CW33 interview that “outed me.” People immediately began googling Texas Twins Events and/or Wendy Wortham.
Most assumed that I was LBGT although I’m not. Others decided that by officiating and welcoming LBGT couples that they should project their hate or opinions on me. I was shocked and hurt by all of the hate but, I wasn’t going to stop being who I was because of it.
One person even wrote a ten page letter to me describing ways my family and even my dog would die. I called the police and used his return address (yes, he used his real address) to get a restraining order. I also installed 16 video cameras in my home.
The death threats and hate mail lasted over a year after the Dallas Morming News story. Anyone “who didn’t believe in LBGT marriage,” decided to tell me about it.
For two years now, everyone who doesn’t believe inmates should have the right to marry, contact me via email, phone or snail mail to VOICE their opinions about prison weddings or LBGT prison weddings or even Biracial LBGT weddings. Come on ya all and keep “your opinions” to yourself. Ugh.
Did I know that answering a phone call for a simple interview would open the floodgates? No but, most people don’t realize or suspect others will take the time to contact them. I didn’t either.
Everybody who was against LBGT Marriage suddenly “knew my name.” I was easy to find on internet searches and from my business P.O. Box to my home address, began getting the most horrific letters you could ever imagine with graphic photos to boot.
My husband was both angry and frightened that my firm beliefs would get me killed. Thankfully, he never read the 10 page letter. It was the worst.
We tightened security at WorthamWorld and rather than be bullied, my business boomed. I am resilient. I am a warrior and I will not be intimidated. I’ve met bullies before and I’m still standing.
It’s going to take more than hateful prank phone calls and letters to sway my belief of treating everyone equally. In fact, I don’t believe anyone can. I’m opinionated myself. Opinionated regarding fairness. When I decided to undergo the process to perform Prison Weddings, I knew that others might not approve. I simply didn’t care.
My goal was to help others. If their situation was different or unique, that didn’t sway my belief that everyone should be treated with the same courtesy, compassion and respect.
Prison weddings are different. They are structured. Death row inmates cannot leave their cells. I’ve walked into a few Units and I’ve heard the steel doors slamming behind me. I’ve learned not to panic about being locked in. I’m never alone. There are guards as well as my client with me at all times.
Walking into a Psych Ward isn’t all that different than a Prison. Don’t be shocked. It’s true. I’ve been an Officiant at many Prisons and a visiting guest at several Psych Wards. You are screened in and cleared. You cannot have an electronic device or cell phone. You cannot bring outside food or drinks. Prisons are structured while mental institutions are a free for all. It’s true.
I am now accustomed to the glass after officiating numerous other Prison or Jail wedding ceremonies in similar circumstances where the couple can’t touch and much less, kiss.
Being inside the cage area was frightening to my Bride yesterday so, I attempted to calm her while surveying my surroundings awaiting the groom.
No one expects to be standing inside a secure room with guards to repeat their vows. It’s often awkward and occasionally, uncomfortable. Signing the marriage license and posing for photos with guards in the area with us, I knew my bride was nervous and uncomfortable but, it’s not easy to be comfortable on the other side of the glass area staring at the cages. Knowing that this is where her husband has been on weekend visits, my bride never assumed that she would be on the other side of it. I didn’t either.
Prison weddings are generally held in the visitation area and not the cage. This was a first for me too. I nervously looked at the numbered cages and imagined how the prisoners must feel looking through the glass locked in a cage and shuddered.
Walking into Ferguson, I noticed the rabbits playing in the courtyard and asked how they had gotten in? They looked to be having a great time as we waited for the photos of the ceremony to be printed by the guard. “The pond used to have turtles. Somehow the rabbits got in and we enjoy watching them play in the area.” I thought about the prison walls meant to keep prisoners in that had somehow not kept the rabbits out? I found it incredible that those rabbits were perfectly happy hopping around and wondered had they dug under the walls to get there?
My Bride was thankful for the ceremony to be over and get out of the locked area. I assured her that she would have fun at her impromptu photo shoot less than a mile from Ferguson and, she did. Shaking off the awkwardness of her Prison wedding, my bride was relieved it was over. My traveling photo booth of bouquets and clothing options gave her a moment to feel like a bride and she enjoyed changing out of whatever my son or I handed her for her next photo. The rain didn’t dampen our spirits.
Heading home three hours from the walls of Ferguson Unit, I told my son about the glass and the cage I didn’t know was there on my last visit with Nikia.
My son looked at me thoughtfully and said “mom, you want everything to be happy and perfect but, life isn’t for an inmate. In fact, finding someone to love you and go through all of this for you is rare to me. The person on the outside goes through hoops to find you and go through the Prison wedding planning of marrying an inmate. You make things celebratory by doing photo shoots with them and that’s more than anyone else would do. You are everyone’s mom walking them through a confusing and intimidating process. You want there to be a happily ever after when there isn’t always going to be wine and roses. Don’t be sad. All of your clients are happy that you came all the way out here to meet them and walk into a Prison although you are claustrophobic. You put your own fears aside to help people and although their situation may be unique, don’t focus on the cages, razor wire or the glass. Focus on the fact that hopefully, one day, like all of your other TDCJ clients, he’s released and we see them again at their Vow Renewal beyond the razor wire, glass and locked cages. Hopefully, once released, these inmates won’t make the same mistakes twice and will have a shot at life and/or happily ever after.”
My son was right. I want things perfect but, I cannot always control my family or the circumstances of Clients who come to me. Their journey is difficult. They also sometimes face discrimination regarding their union and their paths are difficult and expensive.
Loving a Prisoner is a lonely life for those who choose to do so. It’s not something that works for everyone.
Marrying a Death Row inmate is something that I may never understand but, it’s happened and, it will happen again.
Although I’ve never married someone from another country to a Texas Death Row inmate, after researching the matter, I’ve found that California prisons have plenty of women willing to marry someone on Death Row.
Ironically, there aren’t nearly as many men waiting to marry women on Death Row. Women want to “save someone.” High profile cases bring tons of mail to mass murderers or other types of well publicized crimes.
My ratio of men versus women TDCJ Clients would surprise you. 98% female 2% male. This statistic isn’t limited to Texas either. Females are the major number of clients marrying inmates.
The life of a spouse married to a Death Row inmate cannot be easy. However, for all of the journalists contacting me regarding my clients contact information, I must point out that I don’t share personal information of clients in order to protect their privacy. If you’d like to share your contact information with me though, I’m happy to forward it to my clients.
Their stories are unique and yet, they are stories of love, loss, resilience and faith. Prison marriage isn’t for everyone. But, for my clients who choose this path, rest assured that they entered into the process with their eyes wide open.
I’m hoping that jail rehabilitates my niece and praying that her choices never land her in prison. But, Stephaney’s choices like my fathers are beyond my control….