REPRESENT JUSTICE X JR: TEHACHAPI
My name is Frankie Vasquez. I'm 34 years old and today I wanted to speak about my experience with my father and my experience as a father. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be just like my dad. Unfortunately, he was in and out of prison, so I didn't really get to spend a lot of time with him, but the time that I did spend with him was probably the best time of my life. He got killed when I was 15 and I feel like he didn't really get a chance to experience fatherhood in its fullest. This time when I was arrested in 2014, I found out that I was having my first child after I had already been arrested. I found myself in the same exact situation that he was in. The situation that I was in I am now putting my son in and that was life-changing for me.
The day that I found out that I was having a son, I developed this sense of urgency and everything that I wanted to do or everything that I did from that point on was to salvage the time that I have with my son. To get home to him as soon as I can so that I could have a relationship with him because I really didn’t have that with my dad and I never wanted that for him. Unfortunately, we’re back in the same cycle. I have done everything that I possibly can to try to give my son a better father than the one that I had. Even though as great as I thought he was, I know that he could’ve been better. And I know that I can be better and that is my mission and that is my purpose.
My whole life I felt like I was alone, no matter how much family I had. No matter my brothers, my sisters, my mom, my grandparents. Like they’re all there for me, but I always felt alone. My son has taken that away and he’s given me purpose and now I feel like I have a reason to be on this earth and I am trying to do everything that I can to salvage the time that we have left together. And when I do finally get home to him, I want to give him the best me that I can possibly be.
I’m doing well here in this yard, even though they don’t have a lot of programs or stuff like that. I have a job. I’m a tutor and I’m going to college right now and I’m trying to get my degree in behavioral science. Participating in some groups, so I am making my attempts to better myself.
I don’t want him to grow up and resent me or even want to be just like me, just like I wanted to be like my father. And I mean, my dad, he was a gang member and he used drugs and he sold drugs and he victimized people, you know? I remember when I was a kid, I said all I wanted to do was to be just like him. And now I don’t, I don’t, because I know that example that he set wasn’t a good one. And it kind of steered the path that my life took in some sense and I don’t want that for my son. I don’t want him to be anything like me.
And if one day he does say that he wants to be like me, I want it to be for the right reasons. Not because I’m in prison or not because I have tattoos or not because some people may fear me or anything. I want my son to want to be like me because I’m a good man. I’m trustworthy. I’m honest. I’m always a person that wants to better himself. They say in order for you to get things you’ve never had, you have to do things you’ve never done. Everything that I’m doing now is new to me. Like I said I’m going to college and I never thought that I would end up going to college. I never thought that getting a degree is something that I wanted. I didn’t. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be a gang member and I wanted to have people scared of me and I wanted to run around the streets and never come home. That’s what I wanted.
I’m not at that point anymore. I’m married. I visit with my son every couple of months. They’ll drive down here to come see me. I talk to him almost every other day. He’s doing good. He’s doing good. He has a great mom and he plays sports and yeah, he’s like the light of my life. He is. I talked to him last night. He was at a diesel truck show because his Grandpa is a truck driver. He was at a diesel truck show and it was about five o’clock and before I hung up with him I told him good night and he was like, “Why are you telling me goodnight? It’s not night nighttime yet.” But you know, that was the last time that I was going to talk to him for the rest of the night, so I was just hoping that he would have a good night. He was like laughing at me because he thought I was crazy. It was not even nighttime yet and I just thought that was funny.
Yeah, he lifts me up every time I talk to him and I guess he just wrote me a letter and it’s on its way. Probably a bunch of scribbling, but I’m looking forward to getting it. Stuff like that, that keeps me encouraged.
Interviewer: What’s his name?
Frankie: Yeah, yeah. He’s, the fourth. He’s the fourth. I want that name to mean something. At first, we had second thoughts about actually naming him that because of the reputation that I’ve built. I didn’t want people to hear his name and say, “Hey, Oh that’s your dad?” Or “You’re his son?” Like I didn’t want that. But at the same time, that was my dad’s name and that was his dad’s name. So you know, that’s important to me and I want to get back around to where that name means something and that name touches people’s hearts instead of instills fear in them or something, you know?
I want people to say, “That’s Frankie,” and know him for the good things that he’s done. And I know that starts with me. So, trying to turn that around, yeah.
It’s wild here it is. When we do come out for yard, there’s stuff happening all the time. People fight. People get stabbed. They get shot with the block guns. They throw smoke grenades. Then they cancel our yard for the rest of the day, so we’ll try it again tomorrow, see what happens. So, that’s basically what it is. We get one phone call or some guys only get one phone call a month. You could imagine how devastating that is for the ones that actually rely on their family support to kind of keep them sane in here. And for the guys that only get to call their family once a month, like, man, imagine what they’re going through. I got a job, so I get a call every day. And sometimes I tell myself I shouldn’t even be complaining because I’m kind of privileged, I guess, to get a call every day, as opposed to some guys that don’t come out at all. They get one call a month. And it’s messed up. It’s messed up.