Saturday, February 9, 2008

Andre’s New Brother Pargeau

PHOTO CAPTIONS: 1. The long lost brothers meet, 2. Andre and Pargeau with their cousin Ebrite, 3. Pargeau and his daughter Flore, 4. Andre's father Mendoza with a cousin, 5. Of everyone in the family, Pargeau says Andre resembles their father the most, 6. Andre's handwriting is exactly like his father's, 7. Mendoza in his security guard uniform, 8. The only pictures that Pargeau has with his father were taken at the funeral. This is Andre's paternal grandmother who he never met, 9. Half-sister Shuby lives in Quebec, 10. Half-sister Carline lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Les Cayes, Haiti, Feb. 3, 2008

We weren’t able to meet Andre’s new brother Pargeau in Port-au-Prince because Lesly, Andre’s brother-in-law, accidentally wrote his phone number incorrectly. But when we arrived at his new cousin Ermite’s house in Les Cayes on Jan. 31, the first thing she did was call Pargeau. Andre could hardly believe his luck – meeting his cousin in person and talking to his new brother by phone, all at the same time.

Pargeau couldn’t wait to meet Andre. He surprised us by showing up on Sunday morning, even though we assured him we’d be coming back to Port-au-Prince in a few days. Later he confessed he was afraid we might not be able to visit him in P-au-P because Andre’s mother obviously didn’t want him to meet his father’s family. Why else would she refuse to tell him his father’s name even 12 years after his death?

Pargeau, a single father, could only stay for one day. He’d left his 13-year-old daughter Flore with her godmother, then boarded the bus at 6 a.m. to make the five-hour journey down to Les Cayes.

It was an emotional moment when the two brothers met for the first time. They hugged and then stepped back to have a look. I couldn’t believe how much they resembled each other -- the exact same height, slim build, lips, hands, high cheekbones, and Pepsodent smiles. Pargeau is 45 years old, but like Andre, he looks much younger.

Even more surprising to me was how similar they are in personality and temperament -- like twins separated at birth. They’re both soft-spoken, refined and well-mannered, intelligent and educated, dainty eaters, and well groomed. In many ways, they seem old-fashioned, maybe because their grandparents raised them – Andre by his maternal grandparents and Pargeau by their paternal grandparents, the ones Andre never knew. We learned that they died just a few years ago, within months of each other.

For Andre, meeting Pargeau and Ermite opened up a whole new side of his family. Although Andre has two brothers on his mother’s side, for Pargeau, Andre is the only brother he knows. Supposedly, their father claimed before dying that he had 10 children with 10 women. But Pageau only knows of Andre and two half sisters, one in Brooklyn and one in Quebec. He gave us their phone numbers and we left messages via computer phone. We’ll try again when we get to the D.R.

Pargeau said that his conception was an accident. His dad was only 19 and his mom even younger, so his grandparents stepped in. His grandfather named him and put his own name on the birth certificate. Pargeau knows his mother who still lives in their village outside Jeremie, Haiti, but never lived with her.

Pargeau claims that Andre was not an accident because his parents were together for a couple of years and truly in love. Andre’s mother was 23 when he was born, his father 10 years older. According to his mother, his father abandoned her once she got pregnant. According to Pargeau, Maude’s wealthy parents caused the breakup because they didn’t approve of poor Mendoza.

Andre may never know the truth. His mother won’t talk about it, although she seemed to enjoy the slideshow of Andre meeting his new family and seeing copies of the photos Pageau shared with us. His aunt Luz says that she knew Mendoza, but could never say anything to Andre for fear of Maude’s wrath. She claims that Maude never got over her first love, which is why the subject is so painful for her. I think Maude was curious herself, but doesn’t want her husband to find out about Andre’s discovery.

And Andre’s father will never be able to tell him anything. He won’t be able to give him a hug, tell him he’s sorry, nothing. I’m sure he would have been proud of how well Andre turned out, whether he supported the pregnancy at the time or not. Andre is really sad he couldn’t have met his father alive. But at least now he knows his complete name, Carlos Mendoza Delille, and has seen photos of him. Another weird coincidence: When I turned over one of the photos I saw Mendoza’s handwriting, and it is exactly the same as Andre’s.

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