Friendship

Whitham, George

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Friendship by George Whitham This is a story about prison, friendship and love. You certainly never see prison as being places where one would expect to find friendship and love. Prisons are designed to punish and tearing apart the human soul. From my point of view, prison for the most part are not fit places for dogs let alon human beings. This is true story about two men myself and my friend Billy who I affectionately called Mr. Bill. Actually I really enjoyed calling him Mister because I truely respected him that much. I was a person who never respected anyone. Both Billy and myself have much the same childhoods, we both were abused in the home. I was born into a family of alcoholics. There's no pretty words to describe my parents, they were drunks. My dad would come home from work, see me and decide it was time for his workout. His workout consisted of beating on me. From the age of 5 to 16 I was beaten almost on a daily basis. Twice I was beaten so badly that I almost died. As a child I always tried to figure out what I had done wrong so that I could change it so the beatings would stop. When I talk about being beaten I'm talking about a 2OOLb man hitting a 40-50 pound boy with a closed fist. It got to the point where most times I no longer felt the punches. My mother was no saint, she would often get in a few kicks When my dad was finished. The most vivid memory that I have is of my father telling me "Stop your crying real I I , men don't cry “it was a lesson I learned well, I carried it inside me till late in my life. Billy's abuse was far different and more painful as well as destructive. Billy was sexually abused and raped by his stepfather who made Billy feel like it was all his fault. Billy was 10-12 when this took place. By the age of 13-14 Billy was shooting up herion and was a full blown junkie by the age of 16. I would often tell Billy I wish we could have changed places. Not that I would have liked being raped. But because I wanted to spare him the pain. Being raped especially when your a child brings with it a kind of pain that most people don't know and they should be thankful for that. Billy and I met in 1975, Billy had about 18 months in on his natural life sentence. While I had about 9 months in on my life sentance. At first I didn't like him it took about a year for us to start building a friendship. Like I've said prisons are not about making friends and building up trusts. Especially when its two murderers. At that time the prison system saw us as mad dog killers. we were no longer human beings. In fact the prison system's point of view was that "The moment we picked up our con numbers we no longer existed as human, we were now the sum of our con numbers".. I deserved being in prison because I beat a man to death and I had no right taking that man's life. But Billy on the other hand was involved in an armed robbery that went bad. Billy's partner stabbed a man todeath and because in Massachusetts like most states has the Felony Murder Rule. If a person dies during a felony then all who are involved get charged with the murder. I always felt bad that Billy got caught up in that kind of crime and although I was convicted of second degree murder, I was eligable for parole after serving 15 years. Not once was Billy ever jealous or envious of my possible release. Billy and I spent nearly 11 years together before I was classified to another institution. Because we are not allowed to write to other prisoneers we could not stay in contact with one another. It would be 11 years before we'd end up in the same institution again. But during those 11 years we thought about one another. There were times during those years when someone I'd know would come up to ma and say do you know Billy so and so and my heart would actually skip a beat and I'd always say sure and I'd get a full report on what BIlly had been up too. That was one time the prison grapevine worked. The prison system has men so scared that they won't deliver messages like that. Then I was classified to come to this place and I did not want to come here because at that time it was aprison just for lifers and we had heard that if you came here you died here. So I came here kicking and screaming but once I arrived here to my complete surprise Billy greeted me in the yard. As a prisoner I had believed that I was to never feel or experiance real joy. But seeing Billy was a real bucketful of joy for me. The first few minutes I was horrified because he had aged beyond what I felt he should have, but then again I too had aged badly. The prison system takes its toll on you one way or another. But Billy had changed in other ways. He was more relaxed, he seemed to have a kind of peace that all men search for but never attained I liked what I saw and to be honest I was finally in a place where I wanted a change. I was too old to continue fighting the battles I had going on inside me. So I started going to the different programs that Billy was attending and slowly I too began to change. In the years I hadn't heard from Billy he had gotten married to a wonderful woman who didn't even live in this state. I myself had met a woman and we shared a wonderful friendship for 25 years. Pam had always wanted more than a friendly relationship but I was always telling her she could do better than me. I did care for her but I was truely afraid I'd hurt her and I didn't want that. In 2005 Pam passed away. For the first time in my life I had to deal with someones death. For the first time in my life I felt a kind of pain that no pill could relieve. It was my good friends here who propped me up and carried me through the toughest period of my life. Billy was right there every inch of the way without their help I don't know where I would have been. I did contimplate suicide but was smothered with love from Billy and my friends. Not once did the system give a rats ass about my inner pain and torment. It was a group of men who society deemed unworthy to be on the streets who nursed me back to a functioning human being. Billy got me and himself enrolled in college and I'm talking about one of this state's most prestigious colleges, where students pay up to $40,000 a year. At first it was tough going. I wanted to quit that very first semester because I didn't think I was smart enough to be in those classes. I have done well where as Billy began to faulter. Right from the start I tried my best to encourage him But he hung in and he was beginning to do well. Then the unthinkable happened, Billy got sick. At first we thought it was just a stomach thing. The food here isn't always the best. He couldn't keep anything down. He put in sick slip after sick slip. Their answer was antacid tablets. But he kept getting worse. I try not to be criticle of the medical staff here but they really dropped the ball on this one. They finally did some blood work and they saw many things wrong with the samples. This all took months before they realized something was wrong. They finally started taking Billy to the outside hospital where after months of tests, needles, and MRI's thye determined he had cancer tumors in his liver and their was no cure. The only thing that might have helped him would have been a liver transplant. Inmates are barred from such things. Our lives are les valueable than others. From time to diagnosis until he passed away was less than two months. Some people will read this and say that I'm pretty lucky because I had time I could spend with him before he died but I say bullshit because my life was turned into a living hell. I want to hear one person say its easy to watch someone die. I watched my friend die on a daily basis piece by piece, cell by cell. I kept myself in a constant state of denial. Billy was not going to die, he was going to beat this dreaded disease. I saw him lose most of his body weight. I witnessed his voice become a tiny whisper. He lost his ability to speak because he constantly threw up and his own stomach acids ate away the lining in his throat. The times when he could barely walk, they would take him to the outside hospital where they put him on meds & IV's and he would rebound. We would go through this process half a dozen times. Each time the pain got worse for me. Just before they took him out for the last time. I got to walk in the yard with him, I got to tell the things I needed to say, I even got to tell him that I loved him, which he just kinda waved off with a weak smile. When I found out they would be taking Billy out for the last time I ran down to our H.S.U. so that I could see him one last time, I had one last thing to tell him. I got there just minutes before they took him away. I gave him a hug. I didn't care what others thought. Love and compassion are not common sights in this place. While I was hugging him I whispered that I was sorry that I hadn't been able to comfort him and ease his pain. In a soft whisper he said you've been a good friend. That was the last time I saw him and its the last words that keeps echoing in my head. On December 5,2008 my friend Billy Simpson passed away. When I was told of his passing it brought me to me knees. I have always been a strong man. I have always been able to take a punch or to take a beating without a whimper. But the death of my friend hurt me in ways I couldn't prepare for. Then I had to do the hardest thing I have ever had to do, I wrote to Patty Billy's wife to tell her what had happened. I must have written ten letters before I got it right. Now I have a true sense of what a commander goes through when he has to write a letter to the family of a sildier letting them know of their passing. Luckily when I heard back from Patty she told me she had come to Massachusetts to spend the last days with her love. She took his body back to New York for burial. I am still in mourning over the loss of my friend. There are still times when I run to my cell so that I can cry, that's the only place where I have enough privacy to let it all out. In writing this I have had to stop a few times to cry. My voice still cracks when I try to speak of Billy. When I started writing this it was just 14 days shy of the first anniversary of Billy's passing. When I look back over this past year, its like looking a train wreck. I'm the train wreck. But the one good thing is that I have friends who have helped me get through the tough times. I even have friends from the various programs I have attended who also knew Billy who are there for me when I need them. I also get to see their grief and sorrow which is important to me. In this year I have spoken to Billy often. Some will think I'm nuts but I keep a conscious link with my friend. I know that wherever he may be he is at peace, his torment is over with. And I have asked that when its my time that he come to get me and help me with the process. I have been in prison for almost 35 years and not once in that whole time have I ever ridden a rollercoaster ride of feelings and emotions. I never thought that I'd ever care so much for another human being. In the year since Billy's passing much has happened, I still deal with the emotional loss daily. I have continued on with college. I'm a little over half way to getting my degree. I'm going to get that degree for Billy. Patty and I write regularily and are becoming friends. Billy would have liked that. I have thanked some of the people who have propped me up and supported me through this whole process. I have put on 30 pounds because I have been using food to give me comfort and that's not good fore me. After New Year's its diet, diet, diet. Too shed this extra weight. I finally recognize myself as a caring human being who's not just a con number or a statistic. I now try to help others the way Billy had helped me. The prison system still grinds its slowly turning wheels. It treated Billy's death as just another change in the prison count, someone will take his place, his bed will be filled. All's back in balance once again. There is one thing the system never figured on, and that was that one of its occupants, one of its numbers would fully become a human being who feels and cares . 2700 words

Author: Whitham, George

Author Location: Massachusetts

Date: October 23, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 9 pages

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