Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Phone calls

Any Prison Wife will tell you that a phone call from their husband is a big deal. Some wives are fortunate enough to speak with their husband everyday, and some even get multiple calls per day. This phone call can make or break your day. It all depends on what comes through from the other side.

In my current situation, I get three, maybe four calls per week. I look forward to those calls but they are not enough. We get to talk for about 10-20 minutes and the time flies! I keep a mental list of the things I want to talk about, sometimes I even write it down! When the phone rings and I see that it's him, I get excited and start to think about what to say so that no time is wasted. As I answer the call I hear a familiar voice (no, not my husband) announcing that I have a "pre-paid call from ____, an inmate at ______, a New York State Correctional Facility..."The "lady" who precedes the call is also the one who gives you a 60, then a 30 second warning that the call is ending. It's as though she's saying, "OK, people say your goodbyes, it's time to go!!" Much like the correctional officers that kick loved ones out of the visiting floor promptly at 3:00 pm (or whatever time visits end).

And so we begin our rushed conversation. At times he has so much to say that I don't even get a chance to update him on anything. "So, how are the kids?" he'll ask. As I begin to speak, "well, last night was the talent show and..." You have 60 seconds left... "sigh, never mind, I'll tell you next time." Except that next time may be several days away and by then I have a whole new list. So I tell myself to remember to write it down in the next letter.

My husband usually has a task for me. It may be to reach out to someone on his behalf or to look into something he needs; like a book or information. But then there are times when he calls with a list- groceries for his "package" (he gets two 20 lbs packages per year). He reads off his list; coffee, candy bars (Zero and Almond Snickers), muffins, drink mixes... etc. Then he adds other items that I know he just thought about. "Ooh, what about those cookies with the fruit in the middle? Ooh, and what about .... ?" he'll say. I laugh because he's so excited to think about food he never gets to eat. Those conversations are easy. They are straightforward.

Some conversations are full of pain. At times we have to address topics that require way more than 20 minutes. We may be talking about feelings or how to handle a child-rearing situation. Not everything is as black and white as a grocery list. Those are the moments when I hate that "lady" telling me we are out of time. She doesn't understand, we need more time!

Then there are the "missed calls!" Missed calls spell trouble for different reasons. My husband may not (is usually not) be able to call back later. He might think that, after calling several times in a row, there is something wrong (like a sick kid or another emergency). He might also let his imagination run wild and assume that I'm having too much fun to answer the phone. I do enjoy going to Zumba and, on occasion may be dancing too hard to notice that my phone is ringing (also, the music tends to be a little loud). But the reality is that most missed calls are caused by technical difficulties. A dead battery or no reception are the usual culprits. When my phone finally displays the numerous missed calls, I know what's coming next. "All this technology and nobody can answer a phone?" that's what he usually says. I try to explain, "you don't understand, my phone didn't charge... I was in a dead zone, etc." He assures me that when he comes home he'll have two batteries (better yet, two phones) and he'll NEVER miss a call. I guess we'll see about that!

(Not so) fun fact:
In 1994, I would pay about $10 per every 30 minute call. I would spend hundreds of dollars each month in order to stay in touch with my husband. Then, around 2005, there was a class action suit which gave way to fairer pricing of such calls. Now that the phone calls are more affordable, there seems to be a shortage in opportunity for inmates to call home. Of course, this is true in our case as well as some I've heard about. Others may have a different experience.