Your Daughter

Dear Frank,

The other day I did something I doubt you have ever done: I met your daughter. She’s really something: smart, amusing, sincere, beautiful. Though she’s only thirteen, she’s got a maturity about her that is striking. Sure, she’s an at-risk kid, but the difference is, she knows it. She’s aware of it. And she wants to change it.

You could do a lot to help her, but she doesn’t know where you are. Indeed, she doesn’t know who you are — she told me herself. I didn’t ask. She volunteered the information. (Don’t worry: your daughter is not the only one to share family secrets like that. In fact, she’s not the only one to share that family secret. But that’s a post for politicians and pundits.) You could help her, but instead, you left.

I think of my own daughter, and I try to imagine leaving her before she even knew me. What kind of a father would I be if I did that? The answer is simple. You know the answer. And statistically speaking, you know the answer on a firsthand basis: I’d venture your dad skipped out on you and gave you the example of how to be a “man” that led you to skipping out on your daughter.

Perhaps it’s for the best. After all, what could someone who doesn’t have the courage to accept the consequences of his actions teach a girl who’s trying to learn how to do just that? You’d probably drag her down, and maybe you knew that, and that’s why you left. But you see, here’s the catch — it’s a real paradox. If you had stuck around and had tried, you’d have been everything she needs. Perfect? No way, but no one is. Still, being a father is just like anything else: the more you do it, the better you get. And it’s not too late to start. Or is it? Would she want you waltzing back into her life? Certainly not: waltzing is not humble. How about contritely contacting her? That might work. Maybe a letter.

Let me start if for you:

Dear Daughter,

I don’t even know your name, and for that I’m ashamed. I have done so wrong by you that it’s hard for me to look myself in the face every morning when I shave. I hate what I’ve done to you, but I want to make it up to you. I don’t know if you want this, though, so I’ll leave it for you to decide. I’ll let you decide all the boundaries, and I’ll keep to those boundaries like they came from the mouth of God. And if you don’t want to meet me, I understand. In your shoes, I might not want to meet me either. Still, I want to apologize for what I did to you, and I want to try, somehow, to make it up to you.

There. Simple. To the point.

Of course, if you don’t even know her name, how could you send it?

Your Daughter’s Teacher


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