Where We Going, Daddy?: Life with Two Sons Unlike Any Other
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Jean-Louis Fournier did not expect to have a disabled child. He certainly did not expect to have two. But that is precisely what happened to this wry French humorist, and his attempts to live and cope with his Mathieu and Thomas, both facing extremely debilitating physical and mental challenges, is the subject of this brave and heartbreaking book. Fournier recalls the life he imagined having with his sons—but his boys will never really grow up, and he mourns the loss of every memory he thought he’d have.
Though a devoted father, he does not shy away from exploring the limits of his love, the countless times he is filled with frustration and disappointment with no relief in sight. Mathieu and Thomas can barely communicate, and each in turn repeats learned phrases, such as “Where we going, Daddy?” (a favorite in the car) in what feels to
Fournier to be an eternal loop.
In WhereWe Going, Daddy? Fournier reveals everything, and that is perhaps his most remarkable quality. He does not hide behind a mask of cliché, but gives voice to the darkness that comes with disability, and the rare moments of light. Through short, powerful vignettes Jean-Louis manages his grief with cynicism and humor. For parents of disabled children, this book will offer some relief from the courage they must garner every day, a chance to let down their guard, laugh at themselves, and embrace even the ugly emotions they feel. For the rest of us, it’s an unsettling and heartfelt glimpse into an otherwise unimaginable life.
brother, who does study at Polytechnique, has an impressive uniform with a cocked hat; I wanted to borrow it and take a photo of Mathieu wearing it. I’d put some thought into the caption too: “This year our top student is a boy!”2 Sorry, Mathieu. I can’t help it if I have twisted ideas. It wasn’t to make fun of you, perhaps it was me I wanted to make fun of. To prove I could laugh at my own hardships. 2. The previous year, for the first time, the top student at Polytechnique was a girl, Anne
expressions … What are they thinking about? I still use them now. I sometimes put them on my windshield when I’ve parked illegally. Thanks to them I can avoid a fine. My children will never have a résumé. What have they done? Nothing. Kind of convenient, no one will ever ask anything of them. What could you put on their résumés? Abnormal childhood, admitted long-term to special school, first La Source, then Le Cèdre—The Source and The Cedar Tree, they get all the best names! My children
hear, Thomas? It’s Daddy.” “Hello, Thomas, do you know it’s me? It’s Daddy. How are you, Thomas?” Silence. Just the labored breathing … Eventually Thomas starts talking. Since his voice broke it’s powerful and loud. “Where we going, Daddy?” He’s recognized me. We can get on with the conversation. “How are you, Thomas?” “Where we going, Daddy?” “Have you done some nice pictures for Daddy and Mommy and your sister Marie?” Silence. Just the labored breathing. “Are we going home?” “Have you
nanny to look after the children. Her name was Josée, she was from the north, a blonde with a ruddy complexion, a sturdy girl who looked like a farmer’s wife. She had worked for a number of distinguished families on the outskirts of Lille. She asked us to buy a bell to call for her. I remember her wanting to know where we kept the silver. In her previous job she used to clean the silver once a week. My wife told her we kept it in our house in the country, but one day Josée came there and, of
toward parents of the “normals”—parents who are ignorant of and oblivious to their own mundane good fortune; parents who share immodestly their children’s accomplishments; or even well-meaning friends who, feeling sympathy, ask misty-eyed, “How are your boys?” Fournier, who is also a comedic writer, channels his primal pain through humor. He uses his humor as a weapon, a defense against the pity of strangers or his own frustration. How is a father of not one, but two handicapped children