Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Your Daughter

I saw your daughter today, she was beautiful.

Have you seen her smile? I suppose not. At least not for years. Well, she has the most amazing smile. It's a gentle smile, a kindly smile her lips curve and then quiver. I've read that there is a genetic link in smiles. That families can be identified by their smiles. So if her smile is kind, yours must be too. And I wonder. Why couldn't yours have fallen on her a little more often.

I saw your daughter today, she was laughing.

Have you heard your daughter laugh? I suppose not. At least not for years. She laughs so quickly, so easily, with such a full heart. Her mind is quick and her laughter quicker. She sees humour in the world, she can bring light to a situation. She can laugh at herself, she can laugh at the absurd. And she has the dexterity of survivors. She can talk about family abandonment with one breath and be laughing in the next.

I saw your daughter today, she was thinking.

Have you seen your daughter puzzle through a difficult situation? I suppose not. At least not for years, perhaps never. Perhaps you never looked because you thought her disability made it unlikely that she would understand, that she would feel and that she would learn. But she understood what it meant when you said you didn't want her, that you didn't expect a kid with a disability, that she was a disappointment, an aberation, she understood that abandonment happens in stages and she knew one day you'd be gone. All of you gone. She feels, yes she does, and she felt that rejection painfully. She feels the closed door. She feels the silence. She feels the rejections. But she has learned to go on. She knows how to live without the love or approval of parents. She knows how to get on alone. She learns because she has to, she learns because she must, she learns because it's the secret to her survival.

I saw your daughter today, she was victorious.

Have you seen your daughter with her arms raised in victory? I suppose not. But you know what? She attributes her drive to you. She said that she was determined to do all the things that you said she couldn't and wouldn't do. She said that she was determined to rebel in the most powerful way she could rebel - by proving you wrong. You said she'd never go to school. She fought her way through college. You said she'd never live on her own. She fought her way to an apartment in town. You said she'd amount to nothing. She fought her way to a job of consequence. Her victories do not come at your expense, you never paid for them, but don't kid yourself. They cost. They truly cost.

I saw your daughter today, she was waiting.

I think for you. That smile she sees in the mirror, I think she'd like to see it on your face.


wendy said...

How sad for both parents and daughter to have missed so much. Sadder that a womans motivation to succeed should come from such a sad and lonely source.

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully put Dave. Left a tear in my eye=)

lina said...

no words today, just tears. Beautiful post!

Kristin said...

Oh beautiful and how tragic at the same time.

ivanova said...

I see this vignette as fiction (maybe I'm wrong.) Maybe I am also being naive, but I don't think anyone would institutionalize their child thoughtlessly, selfishly, and callously like the person this vignette. In the past, many people institutionalized their children because they were told by trusted experts that they should. These people were not amazing people, like the parents who defied the experts, they were just ordinary people. I'm sure they felt pain and regret that we can't even imagine. I feel like you're dumping on people who are already down, which is not what I expect from you. I know you show compassion to the parent at the end of the piece, but you depicted the parent as so loathsome all the way through that I can't believe in her. Maybe I'd just like to believe in a world where this is not real?

Anonymous said...

wow. just wow. well said.

Shelley said...

Ivanova, I would like to believe that all parents love and accept their children. But, sadly, I know better. I cried and cried when I read Dave's post today because he could have been writing about me. My parents, both of them, were so upset when they found out that I was a lesbian woman that they cursed me and then threw me away. I haven't spoken to them in years. I tried to call on holidays but they wouldn't speak to me, didn't want to see me. I don't think they'd recognize me if they met me now. The only thing in the post which I wondered about, I don't think she's waiting, from what I read, I think she knows.

Karyn said...

as a parent of a young man of a disability I know I am judged on a regular basis by all the different people who know him. did the job I do meet with their approval? I also know that many times I wish I could walk away when it gets too tough.
While I know of the parents who walked away due to a variety of circumstances. I also know the parents who were embarrassed by their child, who were disgraced, who demeaned their child, who were unable to see their child's strengths. For them it wasn't about the child but rather it was about them. Good and bad parents come to people of all abilities.

Kate said...

That was BEAUTIFUL! Wow! You truly have a gift for words.

~Macarena~ said...

This really touches me.

laah said...

I appreciate that you observe the desires for revolution.

Anonymous said...

parents even abandon children with no visible disabilities - really, no disabilities.
just children who are disappointing in other ways, perhaps. or even children who aren't disappointing.
whose fault is it that a child is abandoned? is it the child's fault? is it the parent's? i like to believe neither. i like to believe that it is a lack of compassion or even just a lack of hope and belief in the self, that leads to these terrible hurts.
it's true that it's no one's fault. but it still hurts, and that's what Dave is showing. pain can be beautiful too, or at least exist with beauty. it's not for nothing, but it's still awful.

Jen said...

That killed me, because I see it too often. My son lives in a group home with 9 other boys, many of whom have not seen their parents for years. It kills me when they occasionally come to our house for a short time, and they are so avidly curious to see an actual "family" is an excellent group home, but there is a big difference.

I do understand why some parents stop seeing their children (not that I agree with it, or could do it myself). Some days it is painful leaving your child there, and it's a constant reminder that you couldn't provide what he needs, and that others are doing everything for him now. The first night that I wasn't there for bathtime (he was 7 at the time), I didn't think that I'd make it through the night. In a ways continuing to see your child feels like pulling the bandaid off one mm at a time so that the pain never ends, rather than just ripping it off all at once and getting the pain over with.

But of course, the important thing is NEVER the parents' pain, and it always hurts the children much more than the parents. When I had my son I signed up to be his parent, and that means being as involved with him as I possibly can, for both of our sakes. I ache for children who don't have that- even when workers and caregivers are great, they will eventually move on as well.

CJ said...

I think her motivation came from within, from a positive source within.


I am a social worker. The people I serve are those with developmental disabilities. I work with them today. Let me assure you, it does happen. Today.

I am not talking about community placement. There are families who have worked so hard and for so long, they cannot do it anymore. However, let me assure you, there is a difference between community placement and abandonment.

Bev said...

Thank you, Dave. That meant a lot to someone's daughter.

Anonymous said...


When my father was about ten years old, my grandfather decided that it would've been better if he'd never had children. And he simply didn't go home that evening. It took another 30 years for my father to track the man down and persuade him to talk. All he got was one conversation; to this day my grandfather doesn't want anything to do with his descendants. I assure you, it does happen.