Father’s Day for some is running to the store to get dad his favorites. But for me, it’s waiting by the phone for a call.
See my father has been in prison for 18 years, and although not ideal, I’m grateful he’s still here. I used to be angry at the situation, but as I have aged I have realized how much I need a dad. A relationship with my dad. Even if it’s through the phone. He calls me daily, sometimes twice a day. He’s there when I need an ear. He’s there with the best advice. He’s there when I need to bounce an idea off someone. He’s there simply to just be “papa.” The phone rings and my heart skips a beat. The phone rings and I know he’s still okay.
Many people write off the men in prison as poor fathers. I learned that a mistake can change your life forever, but I also know that it doesn’t change the fact that people still care about these men. We want the best for them as well; yes, even if they are in prison. My dad has completely changed his life around since being in prison, earning every award, taking every class, and learning every skill. He’s currently trying to get his GED.
Although our calls are 20 minutes at a time, the conversations are life changing and so impactful. I used to be so ashamed of why he was in there that I forgot to celebrate his changes along the way. He would call, and I would be so angry with him that I would hang up on him. Or even worse, I wouldn’t even answer. A part of me wanted him to hurt like I was hurting. But I now know all I did was take away time that I could have been getting to know him. So many think they know a person simply because they are their parent. Once I removed the label of dad off him and learned to get to know him as a man, our relationship changed. It made it where I could talk to him about anything. Something about seeing your parent as human is enlightening. See, not seeing him as dad allowed me to not see his mistakes. It allowed me to leave space for him to just be him. Covid was such a blessing, because I was home daily and I was able to be present more than ever with him.
Having a parent in prison has taught me to cherish the little things. I print photos and send them to him. He writes me letters giving advice for parenting and life. He’s getting older so he’s preparing me more for his transition. He tells me he loves me every single day. He calls me his pumpkin. He talks and dreams about the day he will come home. He pumps me up with belief and empowers me so that I can do anything I put my mind to.
My dad is my dad and I have learned to not be ashamed of that. Prison dads matter too. And believe it or not, a prison dad that wants to be there is better an no dad at all.
If you would like to take a listen to a conversation between me and my dad, feel free to here on my podcast Testify Tuesday.