Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Father, Meet Your Daughter

Note to Readers: Over the next couple of days you will see the way a writer "Flips the Script" on a painful life story. Earlier this year I wrote about the possibility that we might be able to use narrative, or story-telling, as a way of helping us find more peace in our relationships. I call the exercise "Flipping the Script."

Students in both my classes -- including the Happiness class -- are now trying the exercise. In the first part of the assignment, I asked the students to write a story -- with names and details changed -- that would present a situation with another person or persons that has caused some difficulty in life. Taina Wagnac, who grew up in Haiti until she came to the U.S. at age 12, wrote a very powerful story about meeting her father. In part two, Wagner, a freshman at UAlbany, writes her first revision of the story; that will run on Thursday, March 24th.

By Taina Wagnac

“Father, Meet Your Daughter”

I was ten years old when I first met my father. I found him sitting in the living room when I rushed home from school that day, my report card clutched tightly in my hands. My mother had promised me a brand-new bicycle as a reward for my good grades.

He was wearing a silk black shirt with blue jeans. He had an air of power and strength about him. I had no idea who he was until my mother, who sat on a chair across from him, said “well, aren’t you going to hug your father?” I was shocked. I didn’t know I had a father. The only thing I knew about him was his name, Jean-Mary Wagnac.

My mother didn’t keep any pictures of him so I didn’t know what he looked like. No word could have described the many emotions I felt that day. It was a mixture of anger, joy, and sadness. I wanted to run toward him and hug him like I have never hugged anyone before. I wanted him to take me out for a sundae or to the park. But I was rooted to my spot; I could not move.

My father slowly got up from the couch and walked toward me. His eyes glanced down at the white crumpled paper in my hands.

“What you got there kiddo?” he asked in a rusty voice. My father reached for the report card and I felt it slip from my grasp. He began to pace around the living room, looking over my grades and making comments here and there, “a 90 in French…not bad, could be better….need to improve in math…”

As he paced around the room, a wave of anger washed over me. Who was this guy? Who did he think he was, coming back after years of abandonment and immediately assuming the role of my father? I didn’t even know if he was really my father or if this was a joke. I looked over at my mother. She had her elbows on her knees and her hands covered her face. She looked so weak and fragile. My mother dropped her hands from her face and looked at me. She tried to smile but to no avail.

For years, I dreamed of meeting my father. I was the only one of my friends who never had a father waiting in front of the school gates. Every night, I would dream of my reunion with my father. He would bring me tons of gifts and beg me to forgive him. He then would weave these stories of how he was stranded in a forest and had no access to a phone and had no way to communicate with my mother. That, in fact, he did not abandon me and that my mother and I were the only ones that kept him alive.

My so-called father stopped pacing around the living room and looked up from my report card. He looked at me and noticed that my fists were tightly clenched.

“Taina, are you alright?” he asked me quietly, concern showing in his eyes.

Something inside me snapped when he said my name and I let out a bloodcurdling scream. My mother jumped up from the chair, her eyes wide open, and my father dropped the report card and backed away from me. I wanted to scream at him to leave and never come back. My mother and I were fine without him. She was working hard to provide a life for herself and me. Couldn’t he see that he was no longer needed? I wanted to know why he had left when I was merely a newborn and if he even thought of us and how we were doing. I wanted to know all these things.

But when I opened my mouth again, no words came out, only a small whimper. I was afraid of the answers. I didn’t want to know the reasons why he’d left for fear that I was one of them. I was afraid of the truth. In all of my life, I had never felt so small and defenseless.

My world was falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it. Without a word, I escaped to my small room. I lay down on my bed, placed my pillow over my face and let my salt tears flow down my face. Till this day, I barely speak to my father only on birthdays and Christmas. I have yet to forgive him for leaving my mother and me.

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