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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.

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