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A Broken Heart for Father’s Day: My husband’s Journey

Posted in 2017, Voices Friday, 16 June 2017

A Broken Heart for Father’s Day: My husband’s Journey

By Heidi Nuttall

As a woman and mother, I certainly don’t know from first-hand experience all the feelings and emotions going on within the heart of the man I love and the father of my son, but I can tell you what I’ve observed in our 38 years of marriage, and as we’ve traveled since 2010 on this heartbreaking road with our son who was charged as an adult at the age of 13.

To the world, a kid, sentenced to 40 years of incarceration, probation and registration will constantly be in the limelight as a criminal. To his father, this same kid is a son who will never be free and who he will have lost. My son’s father, on the day my son will finally be free, will be 91 years old.

Children sentenced as adults loose their lives to the system. And in the end, so do their families. Like many dads, this father is soft on the inside. His heart breaks, but he has a thick outer shell and did not crack under pressure until 2010. Before then, he had never seen a child in handcuffs or shackles, and had never imagined it could happen to his own son! Over the last seven years, I’ve seen the layers of hardness seem to stay intact as he continues to get up every morning, go to work, and mingle with people who would never know our world had fallen apart unless he speaks about it.

But in private moments, the seams of his heart come unglued as he remembers his son sits in a cold prison cell, and his nightmare begins again. He kneels, begging for the strength to move forward and the tears gush through his fingers. As he stands from his soul searching, he wipes his eyes and though the hurt still taints his countenance, he squares his shoulders and moves forward.

Month after month, year after year, time marches on. Time has no respect for the fact that today this kid in handcuffs, has been taken away from his family and will never be a child again. Though his body is that of a young person, the American justice system decided that he “acted” as an adult and should be treated as such.  What this broken system fails to take into consideration is that impulse, peer pressure influence or the inability to think long-term are realities of the child mind!

So, day after day, my child’s father does his best to bless our son. He, along with other fathers of children thrown into the cruel adult justice system, continues to support and encourage our son the best he can, and tries to ignore the painful reality that we have no control over the fate of our own boy. His focus and strongest desire are still to give his son the world.

Faithful: The father of my son is honest, hardworking and full of faith that somehow, some way, all these wrongs will be righted and that in the future, our grandchildren will only know what we know through stories from the primitive past.

Amazing: In spite of it all, he moves forward, day in and day out.

Trustworthy: There has never been a thought that he would leave or give this daunting package to someone else. Through thick and thin, he has been a strong and unmovable force.

Humble and submissive: Not to the justice system that harmed his child but to himself and his family. Confessing his imperfections as a father and showing forth his desire to become stronger and better.

Emotional: In visiting rooms in institutions all around our state, I have witnessed this father and son as they talk, tell stories and jokes. I smile as they laugh together and then, when we leave, this dad mourns! His shoulders slump and his eyes fill with tears… and then, with a sigh, he begins again. Never giving up and the sparkle in his eyes gives the rest of us the strength to move forward.

Responsible: To his community and his family,  but most importantly to his son, his little boy expected to be a man, who is strengthened and comforted because he associates with his Dad; A shining light for a boy who I know will look up to his father as he stands behind bars.

Heidi Nuttall is a spokesperson for the Campaign For Youth Justice. She is a mother and juvenile justice advocate currently residing in Pinesdale, Montana.