I wrote this post to no one’s child in particular, but in response to what I’ve observed in general. I wrote it for my own catharsis, not theirs.
My students are like the jagged quartz rocks I used to collect as a kid in California. They were rough and gray, not much to look at, but if you held them up to the sun and turned them just so, the raw quartz would catch a ray and sparkle. These are the moments I wish my students’ families could see, but never will because my students won’t show them, and they wouldn’t look anyway.
I wish you could see your father through my eyes and see a remarkable man.
You would see a huge heart and a tremendous capacity to love and protect. You would see the hardened lines around his mouth soften and intense eyes melt with warmth at the thought of you.
Past the smoke and mirrors, beneath the tough disguise, you would feel the horrors he grew up with and wants to protect you from. You would feel his anguish over the chaos in your life and his desire to fill the emptiness the lies in the wake of his incarceration. You would feel his bear hug he sends your way 100 times a day.
His eyes are as deep and as dark as the desert’s night sky with grief over all of his loss; you are the one light that flickers like a star occasionally. I wish you could hear his dreams of spending time with you–birthdays, Christmas, donut shops, tickle wars. He longs to hear you laugh with him from deep down in your gut, all the barriers between you gone. (That might be hard to imagine when you see him. Be patient. He doesn’t know how to be that dad–yet.)
You would hear, again and again, that you are his greatest source of inspiration and motivation. I do not for a moment condone criminal behavior, but I have witnessed forces at work that no amount of counsel can undo, no muscle can pull asunder nor construct, no degree of love can mend. Even if your father continues upon his destructive path–because of you alone–he will wish desperately he had the tools and courage to attempt another way. You will never hear a greater battle waged over a greater love–no, not even over Helen of Troy–than the battle within his own soul, over you.
Before your heart turns cold and bitter, before you answer all of your “why’s” and “what if’s” with the falsehood “I don’t care,” before you close the door on him, I wish you could see your father through my eyes. Then it would be easier to forgive him. Then you might see through your tears of disapproval and confusion one truth: your daddy truly loves you.