You're 15 years old and have
skipped school to appear on the witness stand. All eyes are on you when the
judge asks, "did you ever love your father?"
That moment was the abiding image
of my childhood as it marked the final stage of a legal battle that had ravaged
my family for 11 years. My voice trembled as I recounted the times my father
beat my mother at night; the eight hours I spent locked up in a bathroom as a
three year old with only my mother’s soothing voice from the other side of the
door reminding me that I will be just fine. I asked the judge whether it was
humanly possible to love a person from whom your mother had endured constant
violence and abuse in seven years of marriage, and who was only seeking custody
of their two sons to punish her for her resistance.
That day, I laid bare a box of
hatred that I vowed to never open again. Instead, I promised to use every
opportunity in life to honor my mother who had fought the scars of a violent
marriage to raise her children. Vacations, swimming lessons and friends’
birthday parties were luxuries we could not afford, but she spent every ounce
of her energy to put my brother and me through the best education her meager
resources could buy. She never married again, never even went on a date as that
would be a distraction from her sole purpose in life – to make her sons the
best human beings they could possibly be. That single-minded focus, unconditional
love and towering strength of character more than made up for the void of a
loving father in my life. With my one precious life, I hope to be the father to
my kids that my mother had been to me.