By K. Hecht, A. Hosack & P. Berman
Davy has friends. He looks happy. Claire is doing a good job….without me.
Larry has read his letter three times now. Claire tells him how much Davy is learning at pre-school. Davy has learned to count to 20 and can write his own name. He has a friend that he always plays checkers with at recess named Lucy. She is the little girl in the striped dress. Claire says how cute it is that Davy calls her his girlfriend because “she is his friend” and “she is a girl.” Larry laughed as he read this. He didn’t understand it but he had begun to get interested in how Davy was doing.
He hadn’t read his letter to the group yet, but he did show the photo to Martin. It made Martin smile to think that Davy was at school with so many different kids. He said Davy was going to learn to get along with everyone and that was great; maybe he could stay out of prison. Martin’s kids were already getting into fights at school. His family lived in a city area where two different gangs were always at war. One was his- and all African-American except for Larry of course. The other was Latino. Martin’s eldest- just 10 years old, had already been suspended from school for getting into a fight in gym with a Latino kid.
Martin’s dad and uncle had been in and out of prison all Martin’s life. Martin didn’t want his kids ending up in prison, but he didn’t think there was anything he could do to prevent it. Larry suggested Martin move his family to a different neighborhood. Martin looked at him with surprise. How could he move his family, his mom and granny lived in that neighborhood? His aunts and uncles and all his cousins, who would he be without them? Larry nodded as if he understood, but he didn’t.
Martin went off to clear his head in the laundry room. Larry thought about all of Martin’s family, living close together and helping each other. He felt a little jealous that Martin seemed to have a family that loved him. On the other hand, that neighborhood of his sounded as dangerous as prison.
Larry looked at the letter again. Larry didn’t want Davy to end up in prison. He wondered if the best thing he could do for Davy was stay away. He hung his head and felt lost. He didn’t want to give up Claire- he loved her. But, he had always gotten into a lot of fights at school. Maybe if he had grown up in Martin’s neighborhood, he would have ended up in prison earlier.
Why do I feel lost? I don’t have to give up Claire, it’s not going to be my fault if Davy ends up in jail.
Larry read his letter again. Claire had finished school and was looking for a job, while he was sitting on the floor of a prison. He should be angry that she was moving on without him. Sometimes he did feel angry and had thoughts of making her pay for not visiting him. But, Davy was his son. He didn’t want his son coming to this hell hole.
Larry finally went to the yard and brought his letter around the group. A new letter always raised a lot of excitement. Larry read the letter slowly, not with the pride he usually showed, but with a sad voice they recognized; regret for what could never be. No one cracked any jokes. Larry’s mood seemed to pervade the whole space they were in. After sitting in silence for a while. Someone said they thought Larry was lucky. His kid and girl were doing alright. Another guy agreed saying he was still waking up in a sweat at night worrying that his girl and kids would be homeless. Another said his girl had been arrested for stealing and now their kids were in foster care.
I am lucky because they are doing okay. But…they don’t need me.
Larry decided he wasn’t ready to just give up on seeing Claire and Davy again. He would earn the privilege of going to the library to see if there were any books that could help him be a good dad.
Consider being an advocate for people in prison to help them learn to lead a better life outside prison through donating to a prison library. To see how you could do this go to: