My father and I have always been very close, but there were many choices he made that showed me his family was of little importance, at certain times in our lives. While I’m sure he always loved me, he will say himself he’s made many mistakes. It’s very easy to say now of course, in prison, in hindsight, when everyone you love is gone and you need them more than ever. Of course he will say the things necessary to bring us back in. My period of not speaking to him was a result of being treated like a secretary, after he was convicted. As if I was not already affected by it very negatively, I had to listen to stories about how much he loved my brother and by the way can I have some inmate mail something to you so you could drop it off at his mother’s and is it ok he has your address, and he’ll be out soon…. WHAT? Every week he had new assignments and new ways to try and manipulate me into manipulating my brother to go see him, meanwhile I was there as often as I could be with very little appreciation or acknowledgement of how difficult that was for a young woman to drive to a maximum security prison to see her father. He was very selfish anyway, and it only heightened as I was broken down in the aftermath of his conviction.
I say all of this because my father is very different now, and I am very grateful that I became strong enough to be able to say no. He started a few times recently, hey Jess can you buy this for this guy, mail this to this guy, let this guy call, he just got out…. What??? His friends in prison may ALL be innocent to him, but giving out my personal contact information or sending me on errands is not the way I choose to have this very limited relationship with my father. I feel strong, and I know my strength, in part, is from him. I’ve learned to set boundaries and I use them. I value the traits I have that I have from him. I value our conversations when he turns the focus to me and my life, which isn’t very often, even now. There are visits that exhaust me in a way that sends me back into the time when I did not visit, after long hours of hearing about his entire life and all his mistakes, rather than moving forward and focusing on what happens next for all of us. I want to do things for him because I want to, because he’s my dad, not because I was asked or expected by a man from my past who only made empty promises and disappointed me at every turn. Why would I help that guy? Well, because he’s my father, but there’s a constant battle inside of me, help him because you should, don’t help him because he expects it and more, help him because you love him, don’t help him because he’s let you down more times than you could ever count.
I admire his strong will. Even as he awaited trial, went through it and was subsequently convicted, he maintained his innocence and his bravado. I love that about him, in the face of any odds, he stays true to himself. The survivor. The victor. Even behind bars for the rest of his life, he is true and steadfast in his belief in his exoneration. After 20 years, and a denied appeal, he’s never wavered on his story, his innocence, his fight. I have this trait as well, and it also doesn’t allow us to give up on anything. I will see something through until it is ash in my mouth or a complete success. I’m cunning, I’m good with people, I know how to get them what they want and how that ultimately gets me what I want. I’m multi-faceted, multi-layered, soft on the outside, then hard, then soft again, then at my center, a devastating rock fall. My spirit cannot be broken. My will cannot be swayed. I get this all from that incredible, foolish man. I love him as I love myself and I judge him as I judge myself. I have not yet deciphered if he cares for us because of us, or because of his great survival spirit that whispers to him, he needs us to continue everyday. If he were free, would he even call us?
I am downloading this onto the world of things finally spoken, and I appreciate your reading it and tolerating it. I forgive my father, I accept who he is, but I will never forget who he was. He has been one of the people to hurt me most in my life and I visit each time with an anxiety, waiting for the next wound. Thankfully, I have been able to express myself directly to him, that I am not a child, nor his secretary, nor his vehicle to move his agenda around the world out here. And we seem to have an understanding.