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父爱从未缺席 I Grew Up with My Father in Jail

Every morning at approximately 8:48 a.m., I pass it—the brick building that I visited many times as a child and that once seemed so grand, now a miniature playhouse in my mind.

 

My father used to live there, along with 549 other inmates1). When I’d visit, as I often did, we’d chat and laugh—through a glass wall, telephones in hand.

For me, it was normal. It was all I knew. And I relished2) connecting with him. It was one of the most important relationships in my life, and still is today.

Experts say the years before you turn 5 are the most important. I must be lucky then. The day he was arrested on drug-related charges, the day I smiled at the policeman in our home, the day that everything changed was six months before my sixth birthday.

Over the years, the weekly commutes to visit my father became rituals. Eventually, after several years, we were allowed real visits when he was moved to a lower-security facility—the kind of visits where you can hug and tickle, where a conversation’s connection doesn’t depend on the distorted and crackly voice coming through the telephone, where words can be freely exchanged without the clock ticking, reminding you that time is slipping, moving faster than it should, faster than you’d like.

We’ve always shared a sense of understanding, my father and I. We can look at one another and know what the other is thinking. We get each other.

You’d think his absence would have prevented him from making rules, enforcing discipline and participating in the day-to-day of my childhood, but that wasn’t so. He wrote me every week, and I often go back and read what’s left of the folded, disintegrating letters. He’d tell me stories and I’d draw him fashion designs.

In person, we’d talk, not just speak. His life lessons, never cliché but always earnest, struck a chord with me and I soaked up3) every word. He told me that not having a father had been a detriment4) to his ego and that he’d overcompensated5) by feeling infallible6) well into his 30s. He spoke of the shame he’d caused his family and how there were times when he almost cracked, being isolated from his family, from love, from who he used to be.

Other children looked forward to Saturdays, long stretches of time when their fathers would take them to swimming or hockey lessons, to the park for a walk or for an ice-cream cone. I could barely sleep with anticipation, getting up as early as 5 a.m. to hop in the car for the two-hour drive ahead.

The ice cream I was missing paled in comparison with the sweet joy of simply “being” with my dad. To have our chats, to share outdoor barbecues with my father and other families who would gather. Most children have school friends and neighbourhood friends. I had those too, but I also had my jail friends, the girls and boys with whom I would run around and play tag, not truly comprehending why these individuals probably understood me and my life far better than anyone else.

My mother, who had long since7) separated from my father, would often ask me about my feelings, trying to uncover some inadequacy8) I felt, pressing for details and expressions that might make sense. How could I be okay?

But how could I not? As a child, the word jail means nothing, and this proved itself when my stepmother broke the news to me a few months after my father’s arrest. She took me for an ice cream, and as we sat in her car in the parking lot, she explained why the police had been at our home, what it all meant, how my father would not be returning any time soon.

Yes, I cried, but only because I thought I was supposed to. I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude. I just did what all kids learn to do around this age, intuitively gauge what an adult wants from you and serve it up9), all the while holding one’s breath while waiting for approval.

I was 11 when my father finally came home. I learned all about responsibility when he signed me up for a part-time job serving ice cream at the beach. I acted excited, though like most 11-year-olds, all I wanted to do was park myself in front of the television all summer long. But I wanted to please him, wanted to earn those extra smiles, all the ones I’d missed.

Years later, as I stare out the window while I pass that brick building on my daily commute to work, I often wonder if I lost something, if those special years that others had with their fathers, the ones I didn’t, harmed me in some way. Am I really that different? Do I have attachment issues?

I still live at home, but so does every other twentysomething I know. They still enjoy home-cooked meals, pristinely10) arranged households and all bills paid for by their parents.

When I think about moving out, I know it’s not time yet. It’s not the conveniences that come from living a life almost free of responsibility, although that’s a bonus.

I’m not ready to give up the small inner burst of joy I get every morning when my dad pops his head into my bedroom and says, “Morning, Mini,” a nickname I’ve kept far too many years. I growl and tell him to “get out!” since it’s hours before I need to get up. But I can’t help smiling.

 

 

 

每天早晨,大约8点48分的时候,我都会路过那栋砖砌的建筑。小时候,我曾经多次造访过那里。那时,这栋楼看起来是那么威严宏大,可如今它在我心里就像一个微型的玩具小屋。

我父亲就曾住在那里,和其他549名囚犯生活在一起。我常常去探望他,每次去时,我们都有说有笑——只不过我和他之间隔着一堵玻璃墙,每人手里拿着电话。

对我来说,这种交流方式很正常。因为我所知道的交流方式就是这样的。我喜欢这么和他聊天。那时候,和父亲的交流是我生命中最重要的情感寄托之一,直至今天也是如此。

专家说,每个人五岁之前的经历对其成长是最为重要的。要这么说的话,我肯定是幸运的。因为就在父亲因毒品案被捕的那一天、我冲着那个闯进我家的警察微笑的那一天、我的生活从此完全改变的那一天,我已经五岁半了。

那之后许多年,我每星期都会坐车去探望父亲,这已经成为一种习惯。终于,在几年后,父亲被转到一所防卫不那么严格的监狱,我们这才被允许“真正”地探望他:我们可以互相拥抱,互相胳肢;可以直接对话而不再依赖电话里那种有些失真又沙哑的声音;可以自由地交谈,没有时钟在一旁嘀嗒嘀嗒,提醒我们时间在一点点溜走,而且那时钟总是走得特别快,比你希望得快。

父亲和我之间一直有那么一种默契。我们看着对方,就知道彼此心里在想什么。我们心有灵犀。

也许你会觉得,既然父亲没在家,他肯定没办法给我立规矩或是管教我,在我的童年生活里,他肯定也没办法天天陪着我,但实际情况却并非如此。他每个星期都会给我写信,那些留着的信现在已经折痕累累、支离破碎,但我还时常回过头去读一读。他会在信里给我讲故事,而我会给他画服装设计的图样。

见面的时候,我们会倾心交谈,而不仅仅是闲聊瞎扯。他会和我分享他的人生经验,句句真挚中肯,从不老生常谈,他说的每一个字都让我深感共鸣,我把这些话牢记心间。他告诉我,他从小没有父亲,这让他的自尊深受伤害,而三十多岁时,他又走到另一个极端,过于自信,觉得自己永远是正确的。他还谈到自己的所作所为让家人蒙受的耻辱,他说自己好几次都几近崩溃——因为远离家人,远离关爱,无法做回曾经的自己。

别的孩子们都盼着过周六,期待在那长长的闲暇时间里,他们的父亲会带他们去学游泳或上曲棍球课,去公园里散步或买冰淇淋甜筒。而我每周五晚会因满心期待而难以入睡,周六早上我会五点起床,跳上汽车,然后坐两个小时的车去探望父亲。

不过,只要能和父亲“待”在一起,我就感到甜蜜而快乐,相比之下,没吃上冰淇淋就显得微不足道了。我可以和父亲聊天,和父亲以及其他周末在这个地方相聚的家庭一起在户外烧烤。大多数孩子的朋友是学校的同学或是附近的邻居。我也有这样的朋友,但我还有一帮在监狱里结识的伙伴。这些伙伴中有男孩也有女孩,我们一起东奔西跑,一起玩捉人游戏,那时我并没有真正理解,为什么这些孩子可能会比其他人更能理解我和我的生活。

很久以前,母亲就和父亲离婚了。她总是问我对父亲入狱这件事有什么感受,尽力寻找每一个可能有意义的细节和表情,试图证明我是感觉受伤害了的。她想不明白我怎么可能一点儿事儿都没有呢?

可我为什么就不能感觉良好呢?对于一个孩子来说,“监狱”这个词没有任何意义。这一点,从父亲被捕几个月后继母告诉我这个消息时我的反应上就能看出来。她带我去买了一个冰淇淋,然后,在停车场里,我们坐在她的车上时,她向我解释了警察为什么会来我家,这一切都意味着什么,以及父亲为何在短时间内不能回家了。

没错,我哭了,但那只是因为我觉得我应该哭。我那时无法理解这件事情的严重性。我只是做了所有大概这个年龄的孩子都会做的事:凭直觉估计一下大人希望你怎么做,然后把它做出来,同时屏住呼吸,等着大人的认可。

我11岁那年,父亲终于刑满回家了。他给我报名,让我去应聘了一份在沙滩上卖冰淇淋的兼职工作,这份工作让我彻底了解了什么是责任。我当时假装很激动,但其实像大多数11岁的孩子一样,我只想整个夏天都坐在电视机前度过。但是我想让他高兴,想多看到他笑,想把我错过的那些笑容都补回来。

多年以后,当我每天乘车上班途经那栋砖砌的建筑时,都会从车窗向外凝望,此时我经常问自己,我是否错失过什么?在那特别的几年里,别的孩子可以和他们的父亲一起度过,但我却没有父亲陪伴,这是否对我造成了这样或那样的伤害呢?我真的那么与众不同吗?我在情感方面有没有什么问题?

我现在还和父母住在一起,但我认识的其他二十多岁的年轻人也都和父母一起住。他们还是很喜欢吃家里做的饭菜,喜欢家里一切都收拾得整齐干净,更喜欢父母帮他们付清所有的账单。

我也考虑过搬出去住,但我知道还不是时候。不过,这并不是因为这种几乎不需要负任何责任的生活给我带来了很多便利,虽然这种便利是额外的奖励。

我不愿意搬出去住,是因为我还没有准备好放弃每天早上父亲突然探头到我的卧室,冲我喊“早安,米妮(一个我叫了好多年的小名)!”时,我心里迸发出来的那点小小的快乐。我会很生气地朝他大吼“出去!”,因为离我该起床的时间还有好几个小时呢。但每当此时,我都会忍不住地微笑起来。

 

来源:快乐英语网

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