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My Dad's Going to Prison. And I'm Okay With That.
That title kind of shocked you, didn’t it? Who would put that out there for the world to see? But it got you to read this article. Welcome.
It was a weeknight before my day at school as a second grader. Bedtime came early. But here I stood, looking into the wooden peephole that was at fault for allowing me to see into my mother and father’s bedroom. It wasn’t supposed to be a peephole, mind you. We lived in a barn and the wood naturally had imperfections. I was creviced on the staircase, bewildered with fear, with what my eyes were seeing, what my ears were hearing. What just moved in the dark? Why was my mom crying? My dad sounded angry. Check the fridge, check the fridge. Yep. Beer’s all gone. Frantic. Back to the staircase, heart pounding. My mom pled with him not to do this now. Between the shadows of the dark, I know I saw his finger pointing at her face, closely. I heard a thump. What was that? Where was Mom? A few weeks later, my mom consoled in my eight years of age, crying, informing me that I had lost what was supposed to be a little brother or sister. My dad: the creator, the murderer. Almost like a god over this woman’s life.
Fast forward to 2014. Years of abuse had occurred, and my eyes burned from the flashbacks that played within my line of vision. They burned even more so on this day in November, when my father finally told me the news, sobbing on the phone. “Dad’s going to jail, honey. This time, for a long time.” A heavy feeling sat on my chest, although I wasn’t completely shocked. I had already formulated what it was for. But I had to act clueless to maintain some sense of polite etiquette. “Wow, Dad. Wow. Can you tell me what for?” I remained calm. “I think this is a conversation we need to have in person,” was his response. The next week, I found myself driving two and one-half hours away to hear his recollections as we sat out in a deer stand among his woods. The chill of the winter wind dried our tears as soon as they’d fall. “Are you mad at Dad?” he had asked.
You see, I study mental health, and I know my dad a great deal, so I know the cross he bears. Life isn't easy for him. Never has been. Never will be. Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, a lifetime alcoholic, raised by an abusive family—I mean, could we even fairly expect normalcy to be produced by such circumstances? So I understand. But I do not pity, and I do not make excuses.
“But I do wish you’d learn, Dad. You’re getting too old to be making the same mistakes. I have seen this occur with every woman you've ever been with. You deserve jail time, and she deserves freedom. Let her go.”
“But I miss her.”
Ugh. Loneliness is such a weak feeling that returns us to the most desperate of situations.
And so the conversation continued.
It was a rough day for me. I returned home, eyes still red and puffy from the details I had to take in. “This is bogus,” I thought. My dad doesn't have a job, is waiting for approval from Disability, and now that his girlfriend is gone, he has zero income. Zilch. He wonders where his next meal will come from. At the abusive, drunk, unlearned age of 54.
My dad got off pretty lucky, really. He bargained down from a year and a half in prison to one year in jail; eight months if he gets out on good behavior, with two years probation. He swears his life will never be the same. He will never touch alcohol again.
This isn't my dear daddy’s first offense, and honestly, I’m surprised at how easy he’s getting off. Six years is the maximum sentence for his crimes, and I suspected he’d get just that. I feared my dad would miss me graduate with my Master’s degree, miss the day I got married, miss the day his grandchild was born. A lot can happen in six years.
But he got one year. And I’m okay with this—to a degree. To be honest, my dad deserves much longer. Part of me wishes he would be sentenced to the maximum. Maybe he will. Maybe he will get to jail and join a gang and get in trouble for crafting makeshift tattoo supplies. A man well-known for altercations, maybe he’ll start a fight over someone spitting in his instant mashed potatoes. Maybe he will enjoy not having to worry about bills or his next source of food, and maybe he will purposefully do things to stay longer. Maybe.
Honestly, I don’t care. The only thing that is unfair in my eyes is that I have to take on his plight. I’m his daughter. Could I abandon him? Yes. Easily so, and justifiably. But can I? No. He is a man of mistakes and I am naïve woman of compassion with a yearning to understand the truth.
So, I’m sure I will visit my dad in his orange jumpsuit soon. He goes to jail in February, the month I was born. The month he saw a bright, beautiful gift that he created come into the world, is the month he will tear himself away from it. My dad: the creator, the murderer. I will hold up the germ-clustered black telephone and say, “Hi, Dad. How are things going in here?” I’ll tell a bad, horribly redundant joke that he will laugh and cry at because he is in this situation. “Hope Bubba didn’t drop the soap.”
I can only imagine how upset some family will be if this article circulates the internet. A montage of phone calls saying, “Jordan, how could you?” and “Family business stays behind closed doors.” Fuck that. Closed doors? That’s what led us here in the first place. So, to my family I say, this is the healthiest way possible I can cope. Would you rather I place a bottle to my lips as my father? Would you rather I look for love in desolate places like my mother? Would you rather I be angry and frustrated at the world like my brother? If those are your wishes for me, I can see why I barely hear from you.
My Dad is going to prison. And I’m okay.