Voices from See Us, Support Us: Amanda Acevedo
A Selection from “Papi in the Bronx” by Amanda Acevedo
excerpted from All I ever wanted… Stories of Children of the Incarcerated, an anthology created by Herstory Writers Workshop in partnership with Prison Families Anonymous.
Unfortunately, that daddy-daughter relationship I spent much of my adolescence dreaming of was just that-- a dream, an unrealistic fantasy.
Me being the hopeful, always forgiving daughter that I am, it took several years of broken promises, unmet expectations and tears before the heartbreaking realization that my father did not know how to be a father was made.
The process of realization was a difficult one, one that came in phases. The initial phase was one of excitement, joy and denial. I was happy because my father was home and because he did take my sister and me out.
Like the time we spent my 12th birthday at six flags. And right before that he had taken me shopping for my birthday outfit-- a blue T-shirt with a picture of Bob Marley in the center, jean shorts and matching blue Nike Dunks.
“You like these Amanda?”
“Yea, you’re right, these are fly!”
He’d been home for about a year now, but being locked up for eight years had left him out of touch with what was in. Often, he would ask for my approval on clothing more than once, to make sure it was fly.
Although things were good during this time because Papi was a present father and he had money to take us out, there were times that he disappointed me, but I did not fret. He was my Papi, he took us out when he could, I could cut him some slack when he didn’t.
I entered the second phase of my realization after my father had been home for about two-three years. Whatever money he had when he first came home had run out. He was no longer taking us out to fun places. Which was fine, one cannot expect to always go out; however, now he wasn’t seeing us at all. And that began to bother me. I mean really bother me. I was the only one initiating contact, if I didn’t call my father there was a good chance I would not hear from him for weeks, months even.
It was so upsetting! I could not understand how he could stand to stay away from us for so long after not being in our lives for EIGHT YEARS.
What I didn’t realize then was that my father did not know how to just be with us, without taking us out. He didn’t understand that we wanted to spend quality time with him. That I’d choose a day at home watching crime documentaries and hearing his own personal insider stories of being incarcerated with famous criminals rather than going out shopping.
What I do know is that the inconsistent communication made it impossible for me to hear more of my father’s stories. Contacting him had become an emotionally draining thing. One that I dreaded because it always ended the same way, me in tears, hanging up knowing that he did not fully comprehend how I was feeling, knowing that there was a good possibility he would not be the first to call me next time, but secretly hoping that he would.
The final phase of my realization came in the form of acceptance. I don’t know for sure what triggered this new outlook; I just know that one day it occurred to me that my father was incapable of changing.
And this wasn’t an excuse for him. I wasn’t saying that he was a victim because he didn’t have a father and led a troubled life and therefore I needed to accept him for the way he was-- something his family had done for a great portion of his life.
Instead this acceptance was for my OWN peace of mind. I had to tell myself that MY father was not a father. I had to free myself of all expectations and in turn be freed of all potential disappointments.
I like to think that this last phase was a one-time occurrence, like taking a band-aid off. The band-aids off and you no longer have to anticipate the pain associated with taking it off. But that wasn’t the case. I had accepted, but there were still times that I was hurt and upset by the lack of paternal instinct that my father possessed.
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