My name is Robert Anthony and last week something happened to me that I would have never thought was possible. First, let me give you a brief history about myself. I’ve been incarcerated for the past 18 years and have a 17-year-old daughter. Last year, she read me the riot act, telling me that I stole her ability to grow up with her father and she can’t love me because she doesn’t know me.
From that moment on I started following the jail rules, so I’d be able to call her several times a week and start to build a relationship with her. No more being a troublesome inmate for this guy. All was going well until the coronavirus pandemic reared its ugly head.
You see, I have a life sentence and in Pennsylvania that means you’ll be incarcerated until you die. I came into the building as a 21-year-old kid, and at that time, my idea of a man was misconstrued. I thought that I had to be one of the toughest guys in the penitentiary yard to be a man instead of being a father — silly, right? It took me some time to get it right, but I was blessed that my child’s mother always let me stay connected to my daughter.
But last week was heavy. I called my child’s mother and she told me that two of her children have the coronavirus. She had to quarantine herself in the house with them while my daughter, who works at McDonald’s, had to use her paycheck to pay for a hotel room.
My child’s mother cried to me over the phone with concerns about her catching this virus from her babies and dying.
Together we called my mother, who does not get along with my child’s mother, and I asked her for the impossible.
“Hey, Mom, if my daughter’s mom dies from the corona, would you watch your granddaughter for me as she finishes her senior year of high school? It’s only going to be for a year because she’s off to college next year.”
My mother sent my child’s mother a basket of edible arrangements to let her know that they’re in this battle together, and I am continuing to talk to my daughter. I’m still trying to build a solid bridge with her even though she has no idea of how hard and close this coronavirus is.
Even though I’m incarcerated, this coronavirus is affecting the whole country in some shape, way or form. Please protect yourself, and value what’s important: life.
Robert Anthony’s submission was postmarked May 22, 2020.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.