Prison Letter – Book Preface
Take a moment to close your eyes, and visualize someone special. It can be anyone. When you open them, who did you see? For me, I see my father. He was there for me growing up, supporting me when I made wrong decisions, and I have made many. My dad was at every basketball game, whether I played or coached them. He was at every track meet, too. The next day, at school, students would come up to me and ask about my dad. When I bump into old friends or acquaintances from high school, they ask how my dad is doing, and I reply, “He’s the same.” The school administration would call my Uncle Chunky’s house to see if my dad was going to the high school games in order to beef up security. He was the loudest, to say it lightly. He said it was because I made him proud.
I do not know if Nando ever had that feeling of someone being proud of him. My guess is no. I do not think anyone ever said those words to him, “I’m proud of you.” Through his letters, the reader will see an insight, an insight that I did not fabricate or use my words to portray as his. Nando was a very talented writer, among other things in which the reader will soon experience. He loved animals, had a pet lizard he got for Christmas that kept him company. He also had a turtle, cats, and a few dogs throughout his life.
Nando had a lot of nicknames that were given to him by many family members, mainly my dad. When he was little, Nando use to watch the Ninja Turtles. Actually, we all did. For his birthday, he was given a large Ninja Turtle stuffed animal. It was “Donatello.” My dad nicknamed him, “Donatello, Donatello, everybody’s favorite fellow.” Then, there was “Lil’ Child.” My dad gave him this name too, because he was the youngest, and he wrote him a poem: “Little Child, Little Child, smile for a while, little child.” Before my grandma had passed away, she had named Nando “El Terror” because he was always up to something mischievous. Tio Rick named him “Waldo” because he was always missing. It was in reference to the “Where’s Waldo?” books.
Nando’s troubles began in junior high when he started to disappear for days at a time. Nobody took the time to searc for him. When I was at my Uncle Chunky’s house, Nando was walking down the street. He had been gone for a few days. Monchi, his oldest brother, was upset. He grabbed Nando by the back of his shirt and dragged him in the house. I don’t know what happened or the talk they had. The door was shut, and I was standing outside. I do not know where he went or who he had been with. I am not sure if anyone knew because when he was questioned, he did not answer. Nando was in and out of jail, and then jail eventually became prison. Many family members expected this from him, expected him to go back in once he came out. And he did. He was not stupid. He knew the consequences of his actions. I often wondered if he purposely chose to go back to prison.
His last time out, as a free man, the cops surrounded Uncle Chunky’s truck, pointed their guns and had everyone come out and lie on the street. Nando was on parole at the time, and that is when he was sentenced to five years in prison for possession of drugs. The last time we were together, we went bar hopping at local dive bars in downtown with his sisters, brothers, and Uncle Chunky. We had a lot of fun, laughing, sharing stories, clinging our beer mugs, and tequila shots, salud. At the end of the night, I took Nando’s hand and danced with him in the streets, showing him some ballet folklorico steps my dad taught me when I was a little girl.
To the reader, I share not only the stories of Nando and me growing up, but the relationship Nando had with the rest of our family. His letters were written over a four-year period, letters I still have and hold dear. Our book is a combination of two voices, two different points of view on life, hardships, redemption, mistakes, forgiveness, and change. Nando paints himself as a person, not a felon, as society placed that label on him. Nando will always be missed, always be loved. With our book, Nando makes me proud. I hope you feel the same way.