I remember one day, when I was around 4 or 5, my parents fighting and my mother crying. I didn’t know exactly what was going on, that same day I had gotten my Nintendo 64. I was so happy playing it that I didn’t really pay attention to my dad saying, “bye mijo, take care.” Since that day, I haven’t seen him.
One day soon after that, I asked my mom, “when is dad taking me to the park?” she simply replied she didn’t know. I was a child, crying because my dad didn’t show up. I would cry all night. I remember falling asleep in front of the door, just waiting for him, but he never came. When my mom would be at work, I would find myself in bed all alone, crying because I thought my mom also left me forever, but she would always come up. She would ask me why was I crying when her job was so close to the house.
As time went on, I would still ask for my dad, asking where he was, every time she would reply the same thing; that he was working. I would just sit and cry, even while playing video games. Every time I would see the reflection of a cars headlight shining through our window, I would run to the window and check to see if it was him. I waited and waited, but he never came.
One day I saw a letter on our counter. I asked my mom what it was. She said it was a letter from my father and that he was in prison. I immediately started to cry. It turns out he was in jail for 8 years of my life, but after he was released, we still weren’t reunited.We moved with my aunt. Every now and then my aunt would tell my mom that my dad was looking for her and I, my mom would always tell her not to tell him anything about us.
The years went on and as I grew up I didn’t have many friends outside of my family. I remember my older cousin would ask me if I wanted to be respected and have friends. Finally I told him, yeah, that’s what I wanted. The way he provided that for me was by jumping me into a gang. I remember being very confused at first, not really understanding what was going on. I was doing bad things and getting into trouble. I would do what he would tell me to do. I didn’t really know too much about gangs until I found myself a part of one, but I guess as you grow up you learn things.
I was 13 or 14 when my grandma was dying. I remember a family gathering, my mom and her sisters and I were all there with my grandma when one of my aunt’s told my mom there was someone that wanted to talk to her. My mom initially thought it was my father but it wasn’t, it was my mom’s ex-boyfriend from her childhood when she lived in Mexico. He was my grandma’s compadre and he went to see her while she was sick. My grandma told him to take my mom and I with him. My mom began to talk to him and get reacquainted. He ended up becoming my step-dad and taking us to live in a place by the name of Merced.
I remember when we got here I didn’t know anybody. Backs then the colors I would wear were blue or black. When I started school at Tenaya Middle School, I didn’t know anybody but people would come to me and would want to fight me because of how I looked or what I wore. I got expelled pretty quickly from there. I went from school to school, but everywhere I went there were gangsters. I looked the part so I would try to blend in with them.
My life wasn’t easy, in fact to this day it’s not easy. One day, I decided I had enough and got myself out of the gang lifestyle and tried to begin flipping my life around. I don’t want to end up like my dad, in jail and not around my family.
For the youth reading this, I don’t want you guys living through what I lived through. There’s always an out, but when you’re locked up or six feed under, there are no outs. Think about what you do first before you do something and fathers, commit to your family, enjoy the time you have with them.