Tien, 31

Meet Tien…

Silence fills the air as my mother struggles to respond. Yet, in this moment she didn’t need to say a word, her warm embrace was enough. This is the first time I said these words to my mother, and it’s the first time I felt a genuine connection to her.

Incarcerated: 6 years

Housed: California State Prison Solano

I arrive at the visiting room and am waiting to be processed in. It takes about thirty minutes. As I sit there, my mind goes into overdrive, imagining all kinds of horrid things, which robs me of the joy of the moment.

With such great discomfort eating away at me, I decide to do a seated meditation to calm the storm that is brewing inside of me. After fifteen minutes I feel the joy that was taken from me returning.

The rampaging thoughts of how the visit will be and how my mother would react to the questions drifted away. With empathy, I was ready to accept my mother’s responses as they presented themselves.

My family arrives shortly afterwards, we exchange hugs. But when I approach my mother for an embrace, I sense a hesitancy from her. After six years of incarceration it is still awkward to show affection between us.

In that moment I  recall my life before prison. My parents had shown little to no affection to their children. Words such as, “I love you,” were never spoken. Standing before my mother, I am willing to be vulnerable, even if it means rejection.

Just as those fears begin to shroud my mind, they disperse in an instant as my mothers warm embrace envelops me. A stream begins to flow freely from each side of my face. My greatest fear has just vanished, with that one embrace my need for love and affection is met in this brief moment.

Filled with joy, I blurt out, “I love you mom.” Silence fills the air as my mother struggles to respond. Yet, in this moment she didn’t need to say a word, her warm embrace was enough. This is the first time I said these words to my mother, and it’s the first time I felt a genuine connection to her.