During the summer of 2020, we’re celebrating the fathers, grandfathers, and other parental figures in our community. We are proud to share their reflections on what it means to be a parent and how their lives have been enriched by the experience.
I became a father when I was fifteen so I can’t really say that I understood what it meant to be a father. I had an idea that it included providing and making sure Desiree didn’t topple over and hit her head. I knew that I loved her, but I was caught up in my own quiet insanity. When she was born, I told myself that I wouldn’t be like my own absent father; I heard that somewhere, but it had as much meaning to me as “where do you see yourself in ten years”. Before I realized how much she would mean to me, I was gone. I saw her walk, changed a few diapers, and watched her cry at her first birthday party.
The next 18 years, I watched her grow up in pictures and in the prison visiting room. I did my best to let her know that I loved her and missed her. I used to make her birthday and holiday cards with a special personal poem in each one. I’d say in my mid-twenties I became aware of the time I was losing with her. Every night after the evening security count, I’d listen for the guard passing out mail and hope there was a letter from her. I remember the occasional fifteen-page letter written over a few months covering every detail of her life. I devoured every single word.
Desiree was my hope. She was the lighthouse that was often too distant to see. I knew I couldn’t be there to take her school, or teach her to ride a bike, but I could do things that made her proud of me. I think I did a decent job. She was eighteen when I paroled and living in San Diego. One of the first adventures we had outside of prison was trekking through Berkeley and eating at a vegan restaurant. If I had to choose the greatest benefit to fatherhood, it would be that despite all my shortcomings at any given moment, I can be a hero, even if it’s just for checking shoes for spiders.