Yesterday I drove up to Dayton to meet with Tiny, who's been out for just over two weeks now. He was the one who took Whit under his wing when Whit first arrived at Terre Haute.They were inseparable until Whit was first sent to the hole.
Tiny is from Centerville, OH, next to Dayton. He lives with his mom now, and spends his days taking the bus into downtown Dayton to make the rounds of federal and state offices for the process of getting medical coverage (he needs a number of prescriptions), applying for disability (for his weight and related medical issues) and checking in with both state and federal parole officers. Because he doesn't (and for now can't) drive, I met him at the Federal Building just after 1 pm. Turned out he had to be back home at 3:00 so he could go to church with his mom (strong Irish-Catholic family, and this was Ash Wednesday), so we didn't have much time together. Found a Ruby Tuesday's and had steak, talked about Whit, the prison system, and Tiny's bureaucratic nightmare. He really needs a stomach stapling or intestine shortening (don't know what the medical terms are) procedure, which will, after he's been on disability, allow him to get back off it and find real work.
His mom was in the driveway when we got back, so I got to meet her as well. Good person, good family. I did make the mistake of referring to him once as Tiny, but caught myself right away and apologized. I'm guessing she's not crazy about the nickname, as 1) it was given to him in prison, and 2) it's a play on his size. His given name is Gerald, and he was always called Gerry. The next time I talk to him I'll have to ask which he prefers now. My vote would be for Gerry; I know that all the inmates whom I communicate with refer to Whit as "Smitty," and I'm OK with that, but somehow it's a bit of a disconnect for me. And if I were Gerry, I'd want to put the "Tiny" tag behind me along with everything else. I suppose I should continue using the name Tiny here on the blog, though, since that's how everyone here knows him.
I wish he were a little closer - it's just under an hour drive to Dayton - but I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of each other. Not only is he a good guy who deserves all the support and friendship he can get, but any real friend of Whit's is a friend of mine. It tends to provide a sense of continuity, if not comfort, to spend time with him. And I have no doubt that they would have been good friends even if they had met on the outside.