A Father’s Day Letter from an Incarcerated Daughter

Dear Dad,

Father’s Day brings a mix of emotions for many. Still, for me, it is a day of reflection and gratitude, especially through the lens of our transformed relationship since my incarceration.

Growing up, you were my hero, a military man who served with dedication. I idolized you for your strength and bravery. Despite your frequent absences due to military duty, our bond was strong. But a rift grew between us as time passed, especially during your long deployment to South Korea. I began to feel abandoned, even though the distance was for our family’s stability. When I moved away for college and then to Arizona, that distance grew into a chasm filled with silence and missed opportunities.

Then the accident happened, and my life—our lives—changed irrevocably. It thrust us into a reality where I faced a lengthy incarceration. This tragedy brought us back together in ways I never anticipated. Despite your initial devastation, you did not run from this challenge; you faced it head-on, standing by me through the darkest days of my life.

In prison, I’ve come to understand the true depth of your love and sacrifice. You and Mom bought a house near the prison, not because I wanted it, but because you wanted to be there for me. Our weekends together, filled with in-person, technology-free conversations, have become the highlights of my weeks, filled with laughter and deep discussions about life and the future.

You’ve supported me in every conceivable way—ensuring I never lacked anything, from funding for phone time to media money. But beyond material support, you’ve given me something more profound: unconditional love and understanding. You never judged or questioned my actions. Instead, you showed up consistently and lovingly.

Amid our journey, I’ve confronted hard truths—the stigma not just of being incarcerated but also the stigma faced by parents of the incarcerated. Society often casts a shadow of blame on parents like you, suggesting a fault in raising me. Perhaps before my own incarceration, I felt the same. But, living here and meeting the parents of other women incarcerated alongside me, I’ve seen the flaws in this narrative. These are not parents who failed. They are people who love fiercely, fighting against circumstances often beyond their control. It’s a societal misjudgment we’ve gotten profoundly wrong.

Witnessing your advocacy for prison reform and your acts of kindness toward other incarcerated women has profoundly impacted me. You’ve become a model of generosity and compassion, teaching me that giving selflessly enriches one’s life. I aspire to emulate these qualities and grow into the person you’ve shown you can be—even in the toughest times.

As my release approaches, I dream of the simple joys of family life—vacations, movie nights, and holidays. These dreams are not just about being physically together but about continuing to grow our relationship, building on the solid foundation we’ve established during these challenging years.

My advice to those in similar situations is simple: let go of past grievances and open your heart. Understand that our fathers, like us, are human. They make sacrifices and face challenges we might not fully appreciate until much later. Embrace the chance for reconciliation and cherish the moments you have, no matter where you are.

Dad, as we look to the future, I am filled with hope and excitement for what lies ahead. Thank you for being my rock, support, and hero, not just on Father’s Day but every day.

With all my love,

Erica

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