Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Anonymous but Known and Loved - Austin

An excitement grows in me as A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider moves through the final stages before typesetting. I've just had a taste of the articles in it, but that taste leaves me thirsting for more. I'm honoured to be named among the authors of such a collection.

The piece that will open the book turned my mind back some 20 years. Passionately involved in the pro-life movement at the time, and in and out of jail, I wrote constantly with passion and intensity. Re-reading those pieces now, I see a heavy overdose of religious and ideological jargon. Still, many of them gained publication. Yet one message eluded me.

Even 20 years ago, a disturbing statistic about abortion numbers was the lack of difference between professing Christians and non-believers. I believed I understood one key reason for that lack of difference, but every effort to articulate that reason came up short. I finally asked my oldest daughter, 17 at the time, if she could write from the perspective of a daughter coming home pregnant to a proud father who has been outspoken in his opposition to abortion, but whose religious pride could not accept his daughter in this situation. Can I confess that I cried when I read her story? Alanna did exactly what I asked. Too much of the father was recognizable, and I did not like him.

This piece (below) appeared anonymously in The Interim in 1997. It was my daughter's first published work. A testimony to the sense of authenticity is that the editor called me, feeling his way very carefully, asking if this was something we were going through as a family. It is shared with permission of Alanna Rusnak, now married and the mother of three of our grandchildren -- and still writing as well or better than her father. It is shared because it still articulates a far-too-common double standard within the Christian community. For more up-to-date samples of Alanna's writing, visit Her post titled, "What You Do Unto the Least of These" reflects on a nine-year-olds response to her Daddy going to jail.

Daddy's Pride

by Alanna (Austin) Rusnak

My Daddy's a proud man. Strong in his convictions, devoted fully to everything he believes in. He's a kind of 'John the Baptist'. . . not screaming salvation, but, "SAVE THE CHILDREN!"

I've always thought he was for real, always believed he meant what he said. . . now I'm not so sure. The devil has been pulling his strings -- hard!

He believes in himself and people respect him a lot. They look up to him as the perfect father and husband. I hear people say all the time, "Why can't we have a perfect family like them?"


We may have been close to it then -- but now. . ?

Daddy used to sing a cute little song for me. It was his way of telling me he loved me.

We used to do silly things together, father-daughter bonding times.

We used to put on old records and bring back the disco era.

We used to have such fun.

Not anymore.

Nothing has been fun since it happened.

Daddy broke our favorite record in half last week. He hasn't sung or whistled in days.

Daddy doesn't love me anymore.

He always said that both he and Mom would support me if it ever happened. But now he's going against everything he's ever said.

"Just get rid of it!"

You say it so calm, like it's just a bug or something. You went through so much pain trying to save those lives, and now you want me to kill it. You're not my father.

I could have run away. I could have gone and hid until it was all over. Is that what you'd want me to do? Would that protect your precious reputation?

Daddy. . . who are you? I don't know you anymore. I thought you loved me. I thought you'd always be there for me.

It was a mistake -- I know. We didn't want it to happen. John's parents weren't home and we had a bit to drink. It just happened and now I'm pregnant. I told you and you just sat there all stony faced and hard. Mom started to cry and you told me to leave. I had nowhere to go. I couldn't go to John. He said he never wanted to see me again. To be rejected by John for a mistake that was his too -- hurt more than anything I've felt before. But my own father. . ?

"You're not my daughter!"

How can you say that? Daddy. . . look at me. Can't you recognize your own little girl? I haven't changed. I'm still young, vulnerable and naive, maybe more than before. You can't just pack it in, call it quite and not think about me. I can't get through this on my own.

Look at me. . . I'm crying. This is so stupid!! The very person who should be here helping and supporting me wants nothing to do with me right now. Have you any idea how that makes me feel? I'm already going through enough. I don't need all this on top of it. Where are your getting your ideas from anyway? I don't think you understand anything! You've never been pregnant! You can't know how terrifying it is! You've never told all your friends you were going to save yourself until marriage, then blew it! You don't know what it's like. Think about what I'm going through. What's everyone going to think when they find out? I'm the good Christian girl -- never done anything worng. Now look at me. . . Laura Ingils Wilder turned Madonna.

My reputation will be totally shot. All the guys will think I'm easy and I'll probably have to drop out of school. My life is totally destroyed! I have nowhere to go, no one to turn to and no way to support the baby when it does come.

But I'm going to do everything I can to make its life good. I will feed it, nurture it, and I will love it unconditionally -- even when it makes stupid mistakes.

My baby is more important than my reputation. But you! YOU!! You're terrified aren't you? Completely freaked out!

What if the Church finds out?

What will the elders think?

Who cares? Is that really more important than a human life? You're disgusting! Who cares what people think? This is your grandchild! It's not your mistake anyway -- it's mine and I'll take full blame for it. Just don't force me into an abortion.

And what if I did anyway? What if I did have an abortion? How would that change things? You'd still hate me, wouldn't you? You still couldn't watch me walk from the house without thinking I'm going out for sex. You wouldn't trust me. You'd have no sympathy.

You're not a father to me. . . I don't know what you are.

Why can't you just hug me? -- pat me on the back and say, "I love you. We'll get through this together."

Why can't you just forgive me? Why can't I be Daddy's little girl again?

How can I live without a father, knowing there was a time when I did have one -- one who loved me, but now hates me because I made a mistake?

I am a daughter to nothing.

I am nothing!

Flesh -- holding the baby of a guy I didn't even love.

Garbage -- rejected and disowned.

Ugly and dirty.

Empty -- alone.

DADDY!! I need you to love me!

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Your daughter is surely a chip off the old block.
She evidently worked through the issues and emotions and reflected them as though she'd walked in those very moccasins.
You've every reason to be a proud dad -- in a grateful sort of way!

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