This isn’t a hate filled letter, but more of a reflection. A unique reflection.
When I was younger, I realized that the only photos I had with you were all of you in prison. I kind of felt like I was in prison too in a way. I didn’t know how to feel about that at the time, but it’s cool, I guess. You know, as a little girl I used to wonder what you did everyday in prison. I remember the time I told you I would save up all of my money so that I could bail you out. Silly me. When you called the house I knew to press “5” and knew the automated message by heart…”You have a prepaid call. You will not be charged for this call. This call is from..” and you said your name and I got happy. Sometimes you called at the wrong times, like when I wanted to go outside and play. I had things to do. As a kindergartener I knew how to write a letter, address it, and mail it out. I never forgot to raise the flag on the mailbox, either.
I do have a few fond memories of us when you weren’t in prison. I wanted a lime green coat with black letters on it and you wouldn’t buy it for me and I was mad at you. Remember when you used to have on your “ankle bracelet” or when me, my brother, and cousins would always play with the speakers in your van?
I’ll never forget the time I chose not to go visit you because I had a pee wee basketball game and at the time playing basketball was more important than coming to visit you in prison. Now, as my 22 year old self, I feel bad.
Visiting you in prison was normal for me. There were other kids there to visit their dads, too. My brother and I always tried to memorize the car’s license plate number when we came to visit because when you go in, you have to write it down. I knew your inmate i.d. number by heart and I’ll never forget the chicken wings we used to eat. Oh my gosh! The chicken wings in the visiting area were FIRE! You always wore khaki and you had on a yellow belt with black boots and it always reminded me of taekwondo.
I used to purposely cross the red boundary lines so you couldn’t catch me. I was smart. But dang, that’s kind of messed up now that I think about it. My favorite part of visiting you in prison was going through the metal detector and then putting my hand under the black light so the guards could see the stamp on my hand. Then, we got to go through the gate to the visiting area. I vividly remember the tall tan buildings with black gates and locks. Everything was always kind of loud though.
At one point in my life, around the age where it all started to make sense, I didn’t know if I was supposed to hate you. I mean… I didn’t think I was supposed to. I didn’t hate you. I had a conversation with myself and God and I told him that I wouldn’t hate you and that I would forgive you for not being free. I decided to love you and to build a relationship.
You always annoyed me when you asked about guys. Like, STOP! It’s all good now, though. You’re kind of funny, too. I think we’d get along if you were here. But, I also fear that we’ll bump heads. I always play out these scenarios of you being here and us creating artwork and me showing you how to use electronics and how to use Facebook because you’re behind the times. I think about what it would be like on the day you’re released from prison. I think I’ll cry. I kind of used to be jealous of my friends for having their dads.
I made this out of letters you sent me!
“When I CREATE, my hope is that I can connect with the viewer in some way. This is a very personal piece and I incorporated some letters that my dad wrote to me along with an envelope and various stamps that were on the letters I received. I’ll try explaining my reasoning behind it all. I’ll start by saying, the vivid memories I have of my dad are of him being behind bars. I placed images of myself behind bars from my experience with visiting him in Federal Correctional Institutions. As a child, it was the norm for me and was just what I knew, not understanding the world around me. The images of me, my dad, and brother together are purposely placed on the outside of the bars. This symbolizes freedom and my vision of having him on the outside. This piece as a whole expresses my feelings, thoughts, and emotions towards losing my dad to the system. Incarceration rates in the U.S. and over-sentencing for non-violent offenders are huge problems, don’t take anything or anyone for granted. Life is a beautiful thing. As a result of my own experiences I set the bar higher for myself and I hope to inspire others who may be going through something similar.”
Now that I’m older, those 15 minute calls just aren’t long enough. Especially when we’re having a good conversation, then the phone cuts off. I know you didn’t get to take part in the important parts of my life, but I won’t hold that against you. Remember, I don’t hate you. I’m not mad. I get it. I know you’re proud of me and I’ll continue to make you proud. I’ve never let you not being here affect me negatively. I try to make the best of everything. I was blessed with amazing male figures in my life who cared about my well being and served as great role models. I thank them.
You’re a good person. You make me laugh. You irritate me. You’re a typical dad. You’re just in prison. Happy Father’s Day. Thanks for the advice. The art. My life. I’m looking forward to the future!