Archive for February 23rd, 2011

February 23, 2011

Unconditional Love—An essay by Melissa Parnell

My father, whose name I will leave anonymous, is what the courts would call a career criminal. Yes, he has committed many crimes in his life and has paid for them in many ways. The hardest payment has been regret. If he paid in regret, the amount would equal the national debt. Currently, my father is serving his five-year sentence in London Correctional Institution (LCI). He was recently moved there from Lebanon Correctional Institution (LeCI).

Prior to his time in Ohio, he served four years in North Pointe Training Center in Kentucky. Both of these sentences were served concurrently for his convictions of aggravated robbery. My father, the man I call Dad, robbed two pharmacies and threatened people to get the drugs he needed. It was in 2004 when his face was on every news channel and his name was released for television viewers to be on the alert in order to notify crime stoppers. I couldn’t believe this same monster on TV was my dad. I thought, if they only knew who he really was – not just the man who was feeding a horrible addiction. I was devastated.

Now, the story of a life-long struggle of many addictions led my father to his fate. In my opinion it ultimately saved his life. My father has made many bad choices, lots of them taking place in front of mine and my brother’s eyes. I can remember countless times seeing my father buy drugs and do drugs right in front of us. I could literally write a novel of the dysfunction I have witnessed. I am not interested in replaying the bad choices he has made, because I learned at a young age that they were his choices, not mine. Sure, I could blame him for a lot of things. One would be the influence his choices have made on my younger brother; or the sadness I feel for all the things he has missed. The list could go on, but to blame him would be foolish; he blames himself enough.

It wasn’t all bad, though. My dad taught me to be loving and non-judgmental and, most importantly, at his lowest of lows he taught me the most valuable lesson: how to love unconditionally. You see, through all the things he has missed – my graduation, the birth of his grandchildren, walking me (his only daughter) down the wedding aisle, the death of his only brother, the self-destruction of his youngest son,  and more – I feel no anger.  I only feel sadness over the fact that he has missed some of the happiest times of my life, and I feel relieved that he missed some of the hardest times, because his only coping mechanism is to get high. So, for that I am grateful, because he is alive.

Thus, my lesson is this: many people come from far worse situations. It is our own power and will that determines the person we will be. I am only myself. I am not my father’s choices although I am his daughter. I love him and no choice he could make would change that. I am sure he would feel the same. I feel sorrow for the victims of his robberies, and it saddens me that they will forever remember a monster. I will forever remember a troubled man, one who made me laugh when I was sad, gave me the answers to life’s trivial mysteries, loved me unconditionally, and is the first man I ever loved – my dad. We talk on a weekly basis and I remind him of this, yet time is a heartbreaker and I long for the day when he is free. I hope he has learned how precious time is and that death is not the only way to lose it.