Incarcerated: 16 years
Housed: California Men’s Facility, Stockton
“The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly one you no longer have.” Kierkegaard
From the moment I knew I was going to be a dad, I couldn’t stop thinking about the future we’d have together. I was 49, much older than most expectant dads, but I had a wealth of knowledge and experience I could share with my child.
After discovering via ultrasound that “it” was a girl, I decided to name her Kauai, after the most beautiful place I know. I vowed to be the best dad possible, committing myself to expose her to as much of the world as possible and allow her to decide for herself what her likes and dislikes were. I’d encourage independence, but would always have a shoulder to lean on as she experienced the hurts that come with growing up. I’d be her biggest fan, encouraging her to be the best version of herself in any endeavor. But most importantly, I wanted her to know true happiness.
I envisioned our sharing all of her milestone moments all the way through grad school. I foresaw being together at birthday parties, holiday celebrations, and on vacation. Being an artist, I wanted to share with her the works of the masters as we visited the great museums of the world, and teach her to appreciate virtuosity in any medium or genre. I wanted to show her the beauty in nature from the mountains to the sea as we hiked, climbed, skied and sailed across the globe. But most of all, I looked forward to doing everyday things that give people the sense of family, of belonging together. As James Thurber wrote: “Love is what you’ve been through together.”
We were on our way to doing all that until I was arrested when she was two and a half. After being separated for two weeks, my ex in Southern California told me that Kauai had noted my absence and had been asking about me constantly. She related the following conversation after telling her that she wouldn’t see me for a while:
“I live in Burlingame with my Daddy.”
“You live here too, Honey.”
“Is Daddy in Burlingame?”
“No, he’s far away.”
She replied through her tears, “Then I want to go Faraway to get him.”
My tears started immediately, and didn’t stop for quite a while after hanging up. Even though my being arrested was the most traumatic experience of my life, I agonized even more about the pain my daughter was going through from my suddenly being wrenched from her life. Up to that time I had spent 75% of my waking hours with her, even taking her to work appointments with me since my clients absolutely loved her. She was extremely well traveled for a toddler, having been on over forty flights by the time she was two. The formative years are integral to who one becomes. An example is my playing classical music at home or in the car – she’d often clap when a piece moved her in some way. She’s now an accomplished cellist and singer without any prompting from me or her mother (who hates classical). She has evolved into a brilliant, caring, socially conscious young woman with a bright future; but I wasn’t there to watch that unfold. Since I couldn’t be there for her in person, over the years I’ve created and sent her over 650 letters, stories and drawings to teach, inspire and entertain her. Kierkegaard so succinctly described what I felt as all the hopes and dreams I had for us went unfulfilled. On countless nights in silent reverie I have imagined what it would have been like to watch my little girl grow into a woman.
For the first time in my life I gave myself over to the purest of loves, one without cause, condition or expectation. While I expect to be exonerated from my conviction within the coming year, I will never recapture the lost moments with my girl I should have had. My heart breaks when I think about the times we were never able to share together; but I will cherish whatever time we have in the future.