This I Believe

Jessica - Lynchburg, Virginia
Entered on December 12, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

He died two years ago, but the date is rather arbitrary under the given circumstances. My childhood was spent living in constant fear and my teen years trying to convince myself that he didn’t matter–that I didn’t need him. My father was a man unworthy of the title “Father”, and yet nothing can be done to take it away, even after his death.

I recall countless memories of my father holding a gun to my mothers head, threatening to kill her if she even attempted to leave the abusive environment. I remember entire days where I would stay in my room and try to remain completely silent so as not to even have a chance to upset him. I remember the sheer helplessness that would overcome me when he would hit my siblings or my mother…and I was powerless to stop it.

When I was 10 years old, it would appear that the justice system had finally done its job, and my father was taken to jail. Nearly two days later, he got out on bail and moved to California with his family. This would be the last time I ever saw my father. He would call every now and again, and occasionally my siblings and I would get birthday cards hand-drawn from his friends in prison, as he was in and out of jail the majority of his adult life.

I remember these things of my father, but never more clearly than when I have to shudder every time I hear a man raise his voice. Never more than when I feel so inadequate that my own father didn’t care enough to be a part of my life. Never more than when I stand back and question who I am because of all of the lies that he told me and made me believe. I believe in the power of a parent.

I also cling to that handful of self-affirming statements that came from my father; The day he told me that I was smart or that I should keep playing the flute because I, at eight years old, showed true talent! I believe in the power of a parent.

I believe in the power of a parent. I believe in the undeniable responsibility that parenthood creates, and the influence that a parent has even beyond death. I believe that a parent can be both a child’s biggest obstacle and role-model in life. I believe there is nothing more comforting than words remembered from your parent. I believe that the only reason I decided to come to college were those few beautiful words among the millions of completely hurtful and crushing statements, “You are smart.” I believe that never a day will go by when I pick up my flute to play, whether in my own home or on a stage before millions of people, that I won’t think of my father and the words he said so many years ago. I believe in the power of a parent.