As I dialed the numbers, my hands trembled. Not that I was afraid to talk to him like it was the first time we spoke, but I wasn’t sure what to expect now that he was a free man, with free will, and with the ability to make his own choices that weren’t necessarily dictated by the solitude that incarceration brings. Would this phone call be the beginning of the end now that he didn’t need to stay connected to someone in order to have cash flow into his commissary, or would it simply be a new beginning now that he had the ability to communicate with my brother and I as much as he wanted? I hear a weird beep on the other end. Phones ring differently when you call different countries. I didn’t know that.
“Si, soy yo, Samantha” – It’s me, Samantha..
“Quien? No se hoye bien…” – Who? I can’t hear you well…
“It’s your daughter, Sammie!!!“
“HOLA HIJA!!!! How are you! How is everything! I’m finally free! Free to do so many things! Tell me, how is everything?!”
Our conversation began. He asked about the kids and how they were doing because the last time we had spoken they weren’t born yet. I told him that they were getting big and that they were beautiful and smart and funny, and one had red hair and blue eyes like my wife and one had brown hair and brown eyes just like me. I was so excited to brag and share about them. I also told him about Mary and how we would possibly be adopting her and how she is such a special part of our lives and our family. He seemed happy to hear that we were doing something so important, taking on someone else’s kid and the responsibility it took to keep her safe. The irony in that statement. He asked me about my partner, and I had to correct him several times and say that she was my wife, but he still doesn’t seem to get it. He asked when my brother and I, and our families would be coming to the Dominican Republic to see him. I told him that it would be difficult to go this year because 1) I am pregnant to which he literally cried! 2) Mary can’t leave the country without a passport, and although her mother is OK with signing all of the required paperwork, her father’s parental rights are still completely intact, and finding him to sign said paperwork has been impossible (we had a trip to Canada planned with my parents and siblings that ended up canceled at the last minute thanks to having no passport!) and 3) Passports are not cheap. With Callie’s name change, the boys BOTH needing passports and at about $100 each, not including airfare, hotel and car rental, it would cost us well over $4,000 for a week, and that’s just not the type of money we have lying around. That’s not even including spending money, because with our father not having a job…well, you see where this is going. I told him it would be a while before we visited, but that worst-case, my brother and I would decide if just the two of us would go, and at some later point in time, we would take our families out there to meet him. I don’t think I’m ready for that anyway. For my kids to meet him.
We talked about how difficult it is for him to readjust to life outside of prison. After almost 10 years of being locked, he wasn’t sure what to make of the world around him. It’s one of the first things I noticed talking to him. I noticed that all that time locked up created a pretty foreign world for him. I asked him if he had a smart phone so that we could Facetime or Skype or Tango. He had no clue what I was talking about. Luckily, the cousin that told me that he was being released would be arriving in DR the next day and would be able to use her iPad (provided they had wifi) to Facetime with him. Unfortunately, that whole week she was there was no good for me. The timing was off basically every day, and the one day that I was actually able to FT, I fell asleep on the couch after a stressful day at work. I wanted to help him reintegrate to this “new foreign” world around him. I asked her to take him to a phone store, find out how much an iPhone would cost, and what a service plan would look like, being that he was gifted a Blackberry with a prepaid sim card. The grand total for a refurbished iPhone4S with a monthly plan? $150.00 for the phone and $35 for unlimited talk and text. Data would be an additional $25/month for 4GB of data. The phone is easy enough to afford, especially if my brother would be on board for splitting the cost, but there is NO WAY with us both struggling to make ends meet, that we would be willing to pay the monthly charges for the phone and add another bill to our already bill-ridden lives. I sadly had to tell my father that it wasn’t something that I could afford right now. We spoke for a bit longer, and although as awkward and piecemeal as the conversation was, it was nice to be able to talk to him in “person” and hear his voice.
His brother downloaded WhatsApp for him onto his Blackberry, and since then, he has been texting me almost daily, seeing how I’m doing, asking for pictures of the kids, and of myself. Wanting to know how my pregnancy is going, and always asking about Callie and making sure that I am taking care of her, because he’s old school and happy wife means a happy life. He told me that he found a job thanks to a friend of his, installing solar panels at hotels and schools and government buildings. He told me how difficult it has been getting to and from work without a car. He asked if we would help him buy one, and that he found one for $3000. At this point I’m feeling frustrated. If i already told you that I can’t afford an extra $60 a month, what in the world would make you think that I could afford $3000?!?! I sent a screen shot of the conversation to my brother. He laughed and said to deduct it from the $100k that he owes for our child support and now only owes us $97,000 instead. I had to chuckle at that. My father has made several comments like this in the past few weeks. How he has to buy clothes and how he has to buy shoes both for work and play, and that he needs a new car, and a haircut, and do I have freaking Bank of America written on my damn forehead!? I try not to let it taint the relationship that I have with him, or to blemish this idea I have of potentially one day having this “daddy’s little girl” relationship with him that I never had with my
step-dad. I want things to be the way they were supposed to be, but there is just too much built up. Too many emotions tied to this one person. Too much bitterness, and despite how hard I try to work passed some of it, it’s really tough some days.
So far, I gather that he is a really nice man, that made some drastically terrible mistakes, paid for them, and is now really doing his best to acquire everything that he lost. I’m not gonna make it harder for him to do that, but I’m also not going to put myself out there and have my heart broken, or my kids hearts broken over shattered promises. My number one job now is to protect them like I should have been protected. In some of the letters that we wrote, he talked about the day that my brother and I visit him at his home, where he’ll cook dinner for us “so you know that your father knows how to throw down in the kitchen!”, and then we’ll drive to the beach, where we’ll walk across the sand, hand in hand like it should have happened decades ago, watching the sun set over a Caribbean horizon, and laugh and spend our first full day together ending in God’s light and pray for more days. Just. Like. That. On days where I struggle with the relationship (or lack there of) with my father, I hold that image in my mind. I treasure it, I long for it, I cry over it, and hope that those words that he wrote will one day come true. I truly, more than anything, hope they do.