July 4, 2004 was one of the best days of my life. I was sitting in a cell in a prison in upstate New York, thinking about all the things I’d beenthrough in the past five years. It was a hot summer day and all of my friends were going on visits. I was thinking, “Man, I need a visit.” Truthfully, I was stressed out.
Around 9:15 the officer announced, “Inmate Fair, you have a visit.” I couldn’t believe it. At that time, I had been in prison for three years. I was far from my family in Queens and only received visits once in a while.
An Unexpected Visitor
As I got ready I thought, “Who is coming to see me? More than likely it is my mother. She always comes through for me when I least expect it.”
When I got to the visiting area, I saw my family sitting at a table. My mother had a funny look on her face. When I got to the table, I almost fell out. I was looking into the eyes of my beautiful daughter, Brittany.
I hadn’t seen my daughter for five years—since she was 2 years old.
I thought, “She looks just like her mother, with a little resemblance to me.” Brittany had her hair in cornrows and a beautiful smile on her face. She was small, and I was sure she was going to be short because her mother is only 4 feet 11 inches.
My mother often visited my daughter, who lived with an aunt. She always told me how Brittany was doing. My mother said that Brittany acts like me and was doing well in school. But Brittany’s family wouldn’t let her visit me.
I sat down with her and held her in my arms. I called her “Little Me.” Then I picked her up and held her tight, and she wrapped her arms around me, saying, “Hi, Daddy.”
Over the course of my bid (sentence), I tried to reach out to my daughter but to no avail. Her family was giving me a hard time. When I called the house they didn’t accept my call. I tried writing to my daughter and her aunt, but I did not get any response.
When my mother spent time with Brittany, she would ask to bring her up to see me but her aunt would never give up the birth certificate so she could come. (She needed to bring identification.)
I found out later that Brittany was adopted by her aunt in 1999. Something happened with Brittany’s mother (to this day I still don’t know what) and she lost custody of Brittany. So that the foster care system wouldn’t take her, her aunt adopted her. I was locked up on Riker’s Island at the time and wasn’t told what was going on. I wish the court system had done a thorough investigation to find me so I could’ve been a part of that decision.
Back in Touch
Although my mother was spending time with Brittany, she was unaware of the adoption, too. We both found out in 2000, after the adoption was done. (I think that’s why her aunt wouldn’t give the birth certificate – because it would’ve showed that she was adopted.)
Finally, in 2002, I got back in contact with my daughter’s mother. She was always in contact with Brittany and every time she came to New York she would visit her. Brittany’s mother started coming to see me a few times.
At last, my mother convinced Brittany’s family to let her see me. Her mother came, too.
‘I Made Some Mistakes’
I was so happy to see all of my family together. Brittany sat on my lap and we talked. I asked her, “Are you mad at me?” “A little bit,” she told me.
I guess that, at her age, she could not really understand my situation. Nevertheless, I told her the truth. I said, “I made some mistakes in life and I am paying the price for them. But I am doing everything I can to change my life and make things better for the future.”
As I explained this to her, I was hurting, because I knew that I messed up. I grew up without my father, and I knew Brittany was hurting by not having me home with her. It hurt me, too, that we were separated for five years. I missed a lot of her childhood.
Daddy’s Little Girl
After a while, we decided to go for a walk, but Brittany wanted me to carry her. As I walked with her in my arms, I asked her about school. She told me how well she was doing and said that she would send her report card. I told her, “I’m proud of you. Keep up the good work.” I explained that education is important and she should always study.
The whole visit, Brittany stayed on my lap or in my arms. It really felt good to hold my daughter. We also took pictures together, played cards and joked around. We had fun on that day. The pictures we took were the first I’d taken, and smiled for, in years.
My mother was shocked because she had never seen Brittany be so good and seem so happy. I told my mother, “She is Daddy’s little girl.” I was sure she felt the positive energy and love coming from me.
‘See You Next Time’
At 2 p.m. our visiting time was almost up. I asked Brittany, “Do you want to come see me again?” “Yes,” she said. I told her how much I loved her and that I was sorry for not being home with her. I also told her that I wanted to send her some things and asked her to let me know when she got them.
Before the visit was over, I looked at my mother and she started to cry. She had not seen me happy in so long.
As we were getting ready to part, Brittany told me that she loved me and would miss me. It felt really good to hear her say that. I told her, “I will think of your every day and night, and I love you.”
“Goodbye, Daddy, I will see you next time,” she said.
“I can’t wait,” I replied holding her tight one last time.
I went back to my cell feeling really good. I told all my friends that I saw my daughter. They were happy for me.
Seeing Brittany gave me extra strength to stay focused and fight harder for my freedom. I have eight years left on my sentence. If I don’t win my appeal I will have to do all of that time.
In the last three years, I’ve begun to educate myself by taking college courses in business and being involved in every program the prison has to offer me, including a fatherhood class.
In the parenting class, I learned that I really can be a father to Brittany from behind these walls. By communicating more through writing, phone calls and visits, I can do my duty. Even if I don’t always get responses, as long as I don’t give up and continue to write and call, it will help our relationship grow.
Since our first visit, we have grown closer and closer. I write to her every week and I try to call at least once a week. I like to send her books and business magazines and other gifts to let her know I’m thinking of her. Our phone calls have been getting better now that she is getting older. She tells me how she is doing in school and the game systems she wants (which is mostly all of them). She tells me that most of the time she is either on the computer or studying.
Her aunt seems more accepting now. In fact, she brought Brittany up to my graduation from the parenting class taught by the Osborne Association. I’m not sure what’s changed, because I have not talked to Brittany’s aunt about what happened yet. I want to take things slow and we have not had a chance to be alone to really talk.
I love my little girl dearly and I’m very proud of Brittany. She graduated elementary school at the top of her class and she is off to junior high school.
As I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve seen that some of her ways and actions are like my own. Little things she does reminded me of myself. When she gets mad, she screws up her face and looks just like me.
I hope and pray that Brittany stays on the right tracks and does not hang out with the wrong people. I will be there for her to help her stay on the straight path. When she gets older, I will also tell her more about my life and the mistakes I’ve made. I want to make sure that she understands why I’m here.
Once I’m released, I pray that we will have a beautiful relationship. I hope that when I get myself together, Brittany can come and live with me, or at least stay for the summer or during school vacations. I plan on spending a lot of time with my little girl.