June 16, 2013
Sunday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #282: My Dad’s Better than Your Dad
Happy Father’s Day! I’m thrilled this year for two of my brothers who are expectant fathers for the first time: David’s got a girl on the way to make him a dad already, and Mark’s got a guy coming, so he’s a dad this year too. Finally, my brothers are starting to put up some serious numbers in the grandkid department for my own dad who’s waited quite patiently and is an obsessed grandfather, as he should be. I speak to him several times a week on the phone, and I’m blessed to have him all to myself for a three-day visit next weekend!
Whatever you’ve heard about dads in prison is true, no matter how crazy the statistic sounds, or how unbelievable the story seems. I’ve not only read the shocking statistics about fathers who are incarcerated (being far more likely to have incarcerated children someday,) I’ve personally talked to countless numbers of them myself. Most men here have had several kids from multiple women, and one friend of mine I’ve known for over four years just found out he has a 16-year-old son. I told him to have a happy Father’s Day.
Some dads don’t have contact with their kids since going to prison, but most get to write or call them. One former cellie of mine hadn’t seen his daughter since she was 8 years old. We prayed for them to be able to see each other, and I got to see them re-united in the visiting room here just a few weeks ago. Now 16 years old, she cried and cried as she finally got to hug him again.
Another friend of mine just asked me to edit a bedtime story he’s been writing for his four-year-old daughter, telling her through a fantasy storyline how he wishes he’d been there for her. It brought tears to my eyes when I read the sadness and distance in his words, desperately trying to teach her to trust in God and never give up. Gratefully, he returns home next year.
Another friend of mine angrily struck his crying baby in the stomach, then, grief-stricken because of his own actions, turned himself in. The state threatened his wife with prison, so she complied and filed for both divorce and sole custody. He hasn’t seen his other kids since.
These stories are common enough, but it seems everyone here had a terrible father. One friend of mine told me that his dad found a way to systematically kill every pet he adopted, whether fish, snake, or even puppies.
Violent childhoods set patterns for many guys here, who were never trained to be a gentleman and found themselves mimicking the abuse they witnessed. A majority of my friends here were abandoned by their fathers at an early age, fueling their desire for acceptance in gangs, drugs, or other illicit activities. It is common for me to barely start a conversation with someone, and I hear about their messed-up childhood and inevitable turn to crime.
All of this makes me even more grateful—grateful I don’t have children of my own to feel abandoned while I’m here, and grateful I never experienced a troubled childhood or abandonment by my own father. In fact, I have an incredible dad who has always had a very active role in my life and who continues to add value and meaning to what I do. Love has always been tangible, both at my house growing up and to this day. And even though he’s not perfect, my dad is an example of selflessness and generosity that the Lord knew I needed to shape me for my calling.
This Father’s Day, I take time to thank God for all you who are great examples of dads and to thank God for His perfect example of a loving Father. He is with me even when my dad can’t be here, and He teaches me daily from the Letter He gave me. In it, He says, “A wise child brings joy to his father … ” (Proverbs 10:1), and it is my goal to put a smile on His face someday, when I finally get to hug Him.