The 12th Wings Family Day at Santa Rosa was held on August 6, 2016. There were 104 children and adult family members, 30 inmates, 25 volunteers from 19 congregations and 3 Correctional staff who were registered to attend. The volunteers came from many congregations from Rio Rancho, Moriarty, Tijeras and Albuquerque, NM.
One family connection that was especially touching was about a 19-year-old young man who rode with us to see his father for the first time in six years. He met up with his 17-year-old brother there. Prior to the actual Family Day activities, the older son helped the Wings volunteers in making the sandwiches for the meal later. He helped set up the room, all the time keeping an eye on the door where his father (a lifer) would be coming through. Once all preparations were completed, he sat near Wings volunteer Margo, who spoke with him. He said that he was terribly nervous, having imagined this moment of meeting his father for many years. When the door opened and the inmates started filing in, he sat totally engrossed in the faces of the men, seeking the face he might recognize.
Margo said, “The moment he recognized his father coming through the door, his whole demeanor changed. Ironically, of all places in the room that he might have chosen to sit, the young man’s father sat almost directly behind him in the next row. He just stared at his father who periodically glanced at him. After several glances, the father suddenly realized that his son was right in front of him. I don’t remember how they managed to get the folding chairs out of the way, but they were instantly in each other’s arms in an enormous bear hug. Within seconds, the younger son had thrown himself into his father’s arms. I actually fought tears watching this amazing reunion.
At first their father didn’t show much emotion around others but he finally joined his sons in the songs, and the sowing of the seeds. Quite by chance, I ended up at the same table with them for dinner. I didn’t listen to their conversations, as I wanted them to have their time together, but I noticed that the older son would constantly touch his father’s arm when he would talk to him. There were moments during the day when it seemed he may have confronted his father about issues, but there was never hostility and the hugs were genuine. After dinner, when we did the Olympics game, he participated just as actively and with as much fun as the others. What really meant the most was that, as things were winding down, the father came over to me, shook my hand, and thanked me for helping to bring his boys to him.
As we were in the parking lot preparing to leave, the older brother stopped and talked to me. I mentioned to him that I had noticed him touching his father’s arm constantly when he talked to him. He said, ‘I think I just needed to know this was REAL!’ While I have only been to a few of the Wings prison Family Days, this one will always be very special to me.”