- Posted June 9, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
To Have An Incarcerated Parent
When my first daughter was born in 2003, I made every effort not to let him meet her or even see a picture of her. Maybe it’s a mother’s intuition, but I didn’t trust him. I knew how he treated my mother. My mother has cognitive impairment due to a genetic disease. Her mental age is that of a teenager.
Of course, I was criticized for refusing him to meet his granddaughter. He said it was his right as a grandfather. I explained that my priority is caring for my child. In 2006, my second daughter was born. Again, I refused to have him meet my daughters. At this point I knew he was addicted to porn and preferred “younger” women. During this time, my parents divorced. He blames me for how that went down. He claims I trapped him. I explained that he just got caught and didn’t like being caught by his own daughter. I just wanted to protect my mother and younger sister (who also has the same genetic disease as my mother and also has a cognitive impairment). My mother was unhappy and felt no one would believe her. I assured her that she would be ok.
When my father was arrested, it was like receiving validation for the decision I made of not allowing my father any access to my girls. I was no longer being criticized for this, but rather I was told that I did the right thing, “you were right.”
I was not involved in his criminal trial, but it didn’t take long to convict him of several felonies. However, the Attorney General’s Office asked me to provide testimony against him during his sentencing hearing. While I was at the sentencing hearing, it seemed his family assumed I had something to do with this sting or arrest. I was not involved in any of that. I provided my testimony and it was impactful. My testimony emphasized to the Judge that despite any kind of attempt in rehabilitation, he will not change his ways. He doesn’t think he did anything wrong. He made it clear during his trial that he is attracted to young girls, yet didn’t seem that it was inappropriate in having a relationship with them. I emphasized that I did not trust him and will not allow my daughters to meet him. I know my father well enough; he doesn’t think he’s ever wrong and everyone is out to “get him.”
He was sentenced to a minimum to 7 ¼ years in state prison. During the course of his prison term, I have had to answer difficult questions to my daughters about my father. It’s already difficult to explain how my mother is different due to her cognitive impairment, but they know I have a father and they wonder why I refuse to have them meet him. My daughters are old enough now to know that the reason they don’t know him is because he’s in prison. I have not told them why he’s in prison. They are not old enough to learn that yet. I’m afraid that once they are old enough and they find out, they will be heartbroken. I’m sure they would have a lot more questions to ask. Right now, they know that my father did something bad and he has to be in prison to learn his lesson.
For me, I have my own challenges in having an incarcerated parent. Let me preface this by saying that I am amazingly fortunate to have the most incredible, nurturing in-laws. They have filled the void that I have desperately wanted.
Simply, I want a dad that is interested in my life. I want a dad that gives me advice. I want a dad who is a fun and involved grandfather to my daughters. However, those wishes will never happen.
It’s difficult to talk to people when they ask about my family. I always highlight on my in-laws. I talk about my mother. However, to people I don’t know, I just say that my father and I have been estranged for quite some time. I’ve heard, “You should connect with him again, he needs to get to know his granddaughters.” These people have no idea that our estrangement is to protect my daughters and me.
Besides the casual conversation among my peers, I also have the awkward dialogue with my doctors as it relates to medical history. We should be aware of health issues within our own family. However, I am unable to really be aware of concerns that may affect my health. My father is aging and I know he has diabetes, but it’s been 7 years, I have no idea if there are any other health issues. As my doctors have said, “Well, you really need to find out.” My response, “Well, he’s been incarcerated and I’m probably the last person he wants to talk to and see.”
He’s eligible for parole later this year and it concerns me. He has attempted to reach my mother and younger sister via mail. He has even tried to manipulate them—he claims to have converted to Catholicism (my mother and sister are Catholic but my father was not). He emphasized to my younger sister that she is to “honor thy father.” Fortunately, they’ve been able to cease those communications. However, it reinforces my message from my testimony, he will not change because he doesn’t think he’s done any wrong. He’s a pedophile and will continue to prey on those who are vulnerable, including my mother and my younger sister.
As the rest of this year continues, his potential release is on my radar. I’m mentally preparing myself for any retaliation. I don’t know what will happen—where he will live, if he will work. I hope that he is closely monitored. I hope there will be no harm to anyone else.