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Daddy's Girl -- How my father's incarceration affected my life

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia , Commentary//Video, Words//Video: Vanessa Vega Posted: Sep 20, 2008

Editor's Note: Some 63 percent of federal prisoners have children under the age of 18. When this young woman's father was sentenced to 25 years in prison, it sent her life spinning out of control, but it is her continued relationship with him that has helped her get it all back together. Vanessa Vega, 17, is a participant in the Changing The Odds/YO! Youth Outlook summer program.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ever since I can remember, my dad was always there for me. He raised me on his own because my mom wasnt the best role-model and was more interested in finishing high school than raising me. I mean, my dad wasnt a saint, but he did what he did to give me everything he never had.

For the first 13 years of my life I lived with my dad in San Francisco's Oakdale projects, 1100 block to be exact. My dad was more then a dad to me, he was more like my hero. Rain or shine, my dad was there. I know it was hard for him to raise me because I was a girl but he never gave up, never asked anyone for help. None of my family was there to support him because he was out on the streets getting money the only way he knew how in order to support us.

A few years after I was born, my father had a son and daughter with his girlfriend, but he was too focused on getting money and taking care of business, so my brother and sister stayed with their mom. We would see them on weekends or when my dad had time.

I would only see my dad in the mornings before school or after dinner. I knew he was doing illegal activities since I was 9 years old, but I never complained. I loved the life he accustomed me to: new shoes and clothes at my door almost everyday. Hed have his female friends watching me while he was out getting it.

During fifth grade, my mom and dad got back together and bought a 6-bedroom house in Fairfield. My mom was pregnant and my dad felt it was his job as a man to support her, too. I was seeing even less of my dad. He left me with the woman I was supposed to call Mommy, but I didnt know my mother like that. I hated her for never wanting to even see me when I was little.

I was now the oldest of five kids. It wasnt just me and Daddy anymore, and I was forced to grow up and take on new responsibilities. Suddenly, I started to feel paranoid that something was going to happen to my dad. Every time I would get into a fight at school, it was like some kind of sign that my dad was going to jail. Then it happened.

It was February of 2002. My dad had left to Hawaii for his second time this month. Right after school, I got into a fight with some girl over nothing. After my fight, I felt sick. I knew something was wrong. I called both of my dads phones and got no answer. I went home telling myself everything was going to be okay, crying myself to sleep. At two in the morning, I was woke up by my mom yelling and crying. I ran out and asked her what was wrong and all she said was Pack all your s--t NOW!! I was scared. It felt like a bad dream that I couldnt wake up from. My mom and little brothers got in the car and I was told to wait at home with my auntie. The computers, paper work, paintings, jewelry and anything valuable that could be put in the car was packed.

I was lost and still half asleep. I drifted off and as soon as my eyes closed, I heard banging on the front door. I looked out the window and saw over ten undercover cop cars in front of my house. My auntie opened the door and that was the beginning of the end. I hit the floor.

It all became clear to me it was my dad. I realized that I knew it was coming sooner or later.

The police tore my house upside down. They ripped open every piece of furniture possible. I had to come back to reality when they asked me if I knew of any guns being in the house and I said no. They asked me over and over again, as if I was lying. They said they found the ruger but no dope, and thats all they needed to push a hard line. I was shocked. I never even knew my dad kept a loaded gun in the house. I thought he never brought work home, better yet a gun.

I found out that my dad was in a hotel lobby when it all went down. He and my uncle went out to Hawaii to make a fat deal that would put them on the map. The guy they met with the day they got to Hawaii was wired the whole time. He had called my dad and moved up the date to make the dope exchange. They met him in the Marriott lobby with six duffle bags total. As soon as they made the exchange, my dad and uncle were laid out on the floor with over five police officers holding their pistols at them.

My dad didnt fight it. He let them do their job and wouldnt talk. My uncle started dropping dimes on the spot. It was his first time messing with the law and he was scared sh--less, but on the block theres no excuses. My mom soon found out that when the police searched the hotel, my dads new girlfriend was upstairs in the hotel room half naked and pregnant with my dads son.

How could he do this to our family? I hated him for putting me through this kind of s--t. By the time school started again, our house was sold, our cars taken away and my dad was looking at life. I was in the 8th grade.

Things went all bad then. My mom couldnt really function without my dad. We moved down the street to a smaller house. I was fighting everyday, yelling at my mom, doing what I wanted. No one could tell me anything.

Im going to keep it solid: I was high everyday after my dad left. I smoked my pain away. My whole freshman year was a waste of time. I didnt do anything in any of my classes. I attended five different high schools my freshman year and ended up living with my auntie in Vallejo. In my eyes, it was F--k the world, if you not putting money in my pockets. I had to start providing for myself, so I did what I had to do and sold weed as a quick get money scheme. That only lasted so long before people started hating on me. I started popping pills at least three a day and fell in love with the feeling. It gave me a rush of energy and made me feel like I was on top of the world.

After ninth grade, I moved back to Oakdale with my mom and two little brothers. It was really hard being back home without my daddy. My mom and I got into really big fights that have escalated to the point of Child Protective Services showing up.

But then I realized that my dad might be locked up, but he is still a major part of my life. Even though hes looking at 22 years federal time, we still talk and thats what keeps me going. Our talks are the inspiration for me to do better.

Today, Im drug free, working and ready to graduate high school. Being through so much has forced me to be mature and Im grateful for everything I have and wouldnt change anything in my life because it made me who I am today. If my Daddy has taught me anything, it is to live life, get money and do what I have to do to get to the top.

Related Media:

Escaping the Pain: Moving past the violence and abuse of my childhood

A Pen is Mightier than the Drug Game

The Difference Between a Father and a Baby Daddy

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