I was called “Lame Bryant.” This painstaking label was branded upon me by my Grandmother, Ms. Muriel, because I couldn’t do anything right. I was constantly tormented by her admonishment, “Your chores are always half done.”
I purposely hadn’t done them well because of her negative reproaches.
Soon after, the name caught on with my mother and cousins, all of whom teased and harassed me. I was humiliated, and I had no one to intervene on my behalf. I felt like I was worthless, and I would amount to nothing.
“I want to go and live with my Daddy,” I began to whine, crying. But these comments would enrage Grandmother, and her thunderous words roared, “What you want him for? He‘s trifling and no good! He don’t care about you, so stop your crying and poke in that lip.”
This was my home environment as a six-year-old child growing up in Oakland, California. I was a boy who was shy, soft spoken, and couldn’t defend himself. I felt helplessly imprisoned without my father present.
Back then my parents thought they knew what was best for my life, and I had no say in the matter. This continued well into my adolescent years. I had no fatherly role model.
In October 1989, I married a beautiful lady, Camille Novy, and we had our first child, Dolores Lee Harrison. I was employed as assistant manager for Wendy’s and was proud of supporting my family. We had a lively loving family unit that I had missed out on as a child. I was determined that Dolores would have all the support and love from her Daddy, and she would be allowed to voice her opinions throughout her life.
On December 27, 1994, I was arrested and sentenced 15-years-to-life in prison for taking an innocent life. My crime shattered my world into pieces. I felt a nightmarish deja vu that drove into my heart and soul. I was leaving behind my precious baby without her father. Mook — my pet name for Dolores — was just four years old when her Daddy left her.
Heartbroken, for my victim, the community at large, and Dolores, I began to question over and over and over, why must she also suffer the exact abandonment as I did as a child? This riveting pain consumed me. It was unbearable. I had relished being a Father and having a family. Entering prison wasn’t on my things to do list in life.
I had to regain composure, so on November 22, 1995, I turned my life and will over to Jesus Christ, and he heard my prayers. The entire fourth chapter of the Book of Proverbs gave me spiritual guidance.
From the time Mook turned five years old til when she reached 18, I mailed her copies of chapter four from Proverbs every month. In addition, I wrote letters to her frequently to advise her to trust in God, respect her elders, always do your best, eat healthy, drink plenty of water, exercise, and never never ever give up. We spoke on the phone on a regular basis, so I could encourage her and celebrate every birthday and holiday. I also talked with her about the importance of an education.
From 2006 to 2016, I took seventeen college courses. I remember a pharmacology class I took where I mailed the entire course to my daughter. I also talked with her about the importance of an education.
Miraculously, Dolores first passed grammar school, then junior high and high school. She wanted to attend college. She applied at Ohio State, but their tuition was beyond her ability. I stayed prayerful and six months later, Mook received an invitation to John Hopkins University! (Yaaaaay)
New life and expectations flowed within us all, and she eagerly enrolled. Over the next five years, God’s grace and a father‘s love guided Mook. On May 23, 2013, Dolores Lee Harrison, at the age of 23, gracefully walked across the stage of the Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall at Johns Hopkins and received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts and viola performance.
Today, Mook is 31 years old, employed as a psychiatric clinician and doing very well for herself in Washington D.C. Dolores demonstrated courage, resilience, diligence, perseverance and sacrifice in getting there.
As father and daughter, we’ve remained closely knitted together until this day for 27 years.
I hope my story shows how a father‘s faith in God and his devotion for his daughter paved the way for Mook.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.