This is the third post in a three-part series for hurting parents whose children are incarcerated. Part one and two were written by Ellen Gee, mother of Daniel, who was sentenced to six years for armed robbery and grand theft auto. In the first two posts, Ellen outlined some of the things she and her husband did to show tough love and stay connected to their son during the difficult years he was an inmate. Today, twenty years later, we will hear from her son, Daniel. I believe he has a powerful message of hope for every hurting parent, whether your child has ever been in trouble with the law or not.
As a father, I want to run and embrace my skinned kneed child. I want to wash her pain away with my kisses and hugs. The hardest lesson parents need to learn is boundaries. Our own willingness to travel only so far down the rabbit hole.
Like a body builder gains muscle by tearing and straining them over and over, so do our children, by experience and pain. They instinctively learn the what and the how of relationships and family dynamics, and just how far they can go before it’s too late. They push and push until we’re about to break.
At least that’s what I did, until I knew I had gone too far.
Arrested! Alone! Out of place! Most of all, I was confined and scared to death. Then the scariest thing happened. My whole family told me I screwed up royal. Each person reiterated my level of Tom Foolery. Everyone barraged me with my failure and yet, they let me know they still loved me. However, love did not mean they had to be there forever. Love did not mean I could trample on them and not pay the consequences.
Love is not a doormat.
Many people have confronted me over the years on how I turned around, “How did you do it?” “What made you different?”
The truth is, I knew I wasn’t getting a second chance. Plain and simple. The gig was up and I knew it, because everyone said so.
My parents stood outside the heavy glass with the visitor’s phone to their ears. They were practically kissing as they listened together on one earpiece. They were spouting the agenda for the next few weeks like a secretary spits the meeting schedules to their boss. All of a sudden my mom stopped. My father stepped to the side as my mother, kneeling on the chair, leaned in.
“Our address and names were listed on the front page of the paper, Daniel.” There was a pause that felt like an eternity.
“We have never been so humiliated in all our life.”
She turned as her tears welled, handed the phone to my Dad, and walked away for a second.
My dad looked away, then turned back to me and said,
“We’re serious Daniel, this is a onetime offer. You either get your life together or go at it alone. We will not do this again.”
I sat there defeated, ashamed, but most of all, determined. I knew at that moment I would never get another chance to make this right. My loved ones made it apparent; they were only able to go so far. Then God showed me how I could change, and how He would rebuild the broken me.
Honesty saved me.
Faith restored me.
Ellen Gee’s ability to find beauty amongst brokenness is inspiring. Her talent is never more evident than in her award-winning memoir, My Mother’s Song, where she details the tragic events of her childhood. After living in Northern Virginia for over fifty years, she and her husband Tim moved to Orlando Florida, where tragedy struck again. After a courageous two-year battle, Tim lost his fight with lung cancer. Now she spends her time writing her next book about her thirty-eight years with Tim.
Ellen’s blog: Slipstream
Ellen’s book: My Mother’s Song