I pride myself on being highly organized, but I lost the letter Vince had sent me that outlined the schedule for the day of his release. I called the facility and asked what time I needed to be there. The guy I talked to was very nice, and said Vince was a “great kid” and a “known agate collector.” It was my first positive interaction with the corrections system.
I found out later that Vince received a demerit because I made this call.
I left the house at 7:30 am to drive up to the little town of Willow River, population 403 plus 142 inmates at the correctional facility. Here are some photos of Willow River:
I had dug out a long-sleeved, high-necked shirt from my winter clothes so there would be no chance I could get either of us in trouble. After all, this would be their last chance to fuck with me in person. But when I arrived at the facility half the women there for the release of their loved ones were wearing plunging cleavage and skin-tight tights.
We were shown into a gymnasium with a long row of empty chairs in the front facing us. The warden or whoever she was made a short speech, then the two graduating squads marched in. The first one was led by a guy who could be a real competitor on American Idol. There were no cameras or cell phones allowed, which is too bad because he was really impressive. He lead Hotel Squad—17 guys—into the room, belting out the boot camp slogans in an old timey, spiritual sort of call and response.
Then it was Vince’s squad’s turn—India Squad. He had told me that someone else had been chosen to lead them out, but there was Vince doing it! I’m still not clear on what happened to the other guy. And while Vince wouldn’t make it to the finals on American Idol, I was very moved that he was the leader of his squad.
There were various speeches by the head of the chemical dependency and education programs, which no one could hear because of the crying and otherwise-noisy kids in the room. Then each prisoner stood up and stated the length of his original term (between 48 and 100 months), what he had learned (patience was the one I recall hearing most often), and who he had to thank for helping him make it through.
All the guys thanked their families and the boot camp staff. One guy thanked The Lord. Vince mentioned the boot camp counselors by name but didn’t mention me or anyone else outside of the program.
I knew in that moment I needed to:
- get myself back to Alanon; and
- schedule some weekends away, by myself.
An hour later, we were on the road back to St. Paul. It’s no exaggeration that Vince was released with only the clothes on his back, a folder full of papers, and one month worth of medication for his Restless Legs Syndrome.
He asked to stop at a gas station. “The first thing every one of us guys wants to do is play scratch off tickets,” he said.
“I guess it’s better than buying meth,” I said. “And I saw a billboard for gambling addictions on the way up so you know that help is available.” He laughed.
Twice during the graduation ceremony, they had said that this second phase of boot camp–house arrest–would be harder than incarceration. That’ll be true for me, too. My first challenge is, now that I’ve made clear my low opinion of gambling, to let it go. I have a right to state my opinion—once. Saying it over and over would be an attempt to control and manipulate.
More on the day later, but here are some photos of Vince shopping at Walmart.