Silhouette of a father holding up his baby son in front of a curtained window.
Photo by Alfonso Scarpa on Unsplash

Fathers’ Day has always been tough for me. Last year was the first I had experienced sober since I was 12 years old. 

As I peered out of the narrow window of my prison cell door, I saw an endlessly shifting line of men going to get breakfast. 

On this day, however, I did not see inmates in line for feeding time nor did I see a series of numbers and letters. On this special Father’s Day, I saw the men behind the state-issued IDs, with all the broken promises and all the shattered dreams that shaped them. Looking past the long faces all covered in ink, I saw men with potential, I saw men just like me. 

I imagined their families rallying behind them in the hopes they will one day be redeemed. But I also saw the struggles that keep them in chains far more elusive than the eyes can see. 

I saw purpose in the fathers-to-be as well as the fathers. I wondered about my own father, and the relationship he and I might have grown to enjoy. But as soon as I caught myself drifting into the sadness of my story, I snapped back to reality and the truth of this blessed day. 

To all the fathers who have come before, and the ones who have yet to be: If the example you had of fatherhood was not one that you would choose, decide your fatherly legacy for yourself. The example we had is not a valid excuse for the man we grow up to be. 

For 23 years, I have celebrated this day in silent praise with my Heavenly Father in mind. Each year has been more special than the last as I have learned to thank my birth father for the life-changing example his addiction set for me. 

As I looked out through my prison cell, I saw how my father’s perspective on life almost took my life as well. 

Only now I can see the freedom ahead for me, as I allow his example to finally rest in peace. I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

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.

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C.R. Addleman

C.R. Addleman is a writer incarcerated at Centinela State Prison in California.