Shelly and I had been talking via Yahoo chat, Facebook, and the telephone since February, so the meeting wasn't as emotional as it would have once been. I can't even say it was "weird", believe it or not.
Part of this stemmed from Shelly notifying me toward the end of our stay in Mass. that Lynn's kids, Ben & Brad, were flying in that week and there was going to be a BBQ at my fathers the following Sunday. They're 14 and 16 now, and hadn't seen their aunts, uncles, and cousins in years. Shelly thought that, since I was already in touch with most of the players in this drama, it would be a good opportunity to get it, for lack of a better term, over with! I agreed, even though I was sure I'd feel out of place beyond comprehension! Shortly after we left Hillsdale, NY however, she called to let me know my father didn't think it was a good idea because it would "make people uncomfortable", even though everyone there would know who I was...including Ben & Brad...by then. In other words, he'd have to look me and the rest of his family in the face at the same time, and didn't want to deal with it.
While I wasn't surprised, I was both hurt and pissed off at the same time. Who was he kidding? Does he think everyone's a fool? Coward. I stewed for a good portion of the night, before getting to Oneonta. I had held out hope that there may be a chance that I'd be able to get somewhere with him, but this wasn't a good omen. Shelly suggested that perhaps we could set up a smaller gathering with her, Pam, and he and his wife while I was here. At the very least I'd be able to see my nephews while they were here from Idaho and staying with Shelly's mother. That would indeed be pretty cool.
As I got out of the car and walked to her door, of course I was a bit nervous, but once we hugged there was more of a sense of "finally" than anything. We seemed to simply continue this newly developed relationship seamlessly, with none of the dreaded "tension" that I had been afraid may be present. It was nice to finally put my own mental picture with the photographs I had been shown over three decades and begin the process of bringing these other "phantom" siblings from the abstract to the real.
Shelly has always been intriguing to me. My mother has been very upfront about what she knew about my father's side of my family, and had spoken very well of her. She was the one who it seemed would be the most open to hearing from this "new" brother all of the sudden, and upon our meeting online, it became obvious that I was correct. She took the reins, letting Lynn know that she was talking to me and that I'd love to get to know her. Shelly is still the only person with enough courage to confront my father face-to-face, letting him know that she was going to have a relationship with me, whether he was part of it or not. That was the first display of courage based on a sense of right and wrong I had seen from anyone in this family in 15-years, and it was something I will always respect and appreciate, whatever happens from here on.
In addition to this, genealogy is a passion of Shelly's. My heritage has also been a blank slate to me. I knew that the name had originated in France, but also that it had probably had its spelling changed at some point. Without the most basic of information, it was impossible to know anything about where they had come from. Fortunately, Shelly had already done all of this. Within an afternoon, I had gone from next to nothing all the way back to 1633, with the name of the town in France that the Dube' family had emigrated from. Coupled with the dozens of pictures she's provided, now not only do I have names, dates, and places... I also had some faces to go with them. Including those of my father as a young man. Scarily similar to mine!
I'm not sure Shelly realizes what she did for me. Regardless of how parental relationships end, the knowledge of who you are and where you have come from is important, and in my opinion an entitlement not to be withheld out of petty cowardice. It's not as though doing the right thing, in this case, would cost anything other than a dose of pride. I had written a letter to my father in 2005 in an effort to make sure he knew I held no grudges, and to both try to establish contact with him AND get some sort of history; both genealogical and medical. Maybe he was out of stamps. Maybe the phone was broken. Maybe the Innerwebs went down. Maybe he's just a jackass. This visit should answer that once and for all. More on that in another post. First, a little history.
I have a total of six- sisters and two- brothers:
- Two sisters are from my mother's first marriage, where I got this horrendous name.
- Three others are also older, from my father's first marriage. They are Shelly, Lynn and Skip. Their mother, Charlotte, was friends with my mother, so these three were around me after I was born having no idea I was their brother. Shelly didn't find out until my mother sent a picture of me to her in her graduation card.
- Then came me: a bounding bundle of annoyance & inconvenience!
- Shortly after I was born, my father got his current wife pregnant and married her. They've remained married, and have three younger children. Pam, Kim, and Mike.
At some point shortly after I was born, my mother and one of her more obnoxious friends ran into my father and his current wife at a store. This friend apparently took it upon herself to confront he and his wife, asking him "Don't you want to see your son?", while pushing the stroller in front of him. I've always resented her for that because, while I'm sure it made her feel all-powerful to blindside him, it ended any likelihood that there would be any casual contact between he and I. From my understanding, this caused some discussion between he and his wife, and somewhere along the way she ended up telling Pam (born shortly after me) that I was out here.
When I finally tried to contact people in 1994, it was Pam whom I reached and, despite my attempts to be clever and coy, she knew exactly who I was. Shortly after this, I met Pam and her younger sister Kim. These relationships were a bit strained, and after a couple years of feeling like the puppy dog hidden in the shed, we lost contact shortly after I began my radio career.
At a particularly intense point in 2000, I decided to drunk call again, and this time Kim just put my father on the phone, probably not wanting to deal with me! From that came the only meeting I've had with him, which was at a mall food court in Battle Creek. It lasted all of 20-minutes, but went pretty well all the same. I left thinking that we had actually begun to connect in some weird way and thought that we'd be able to continue keeping in touch. That was the last contact I've had with him, and the last contact with Pam or Kim until January of this year after a chance encounter with Kim on Facebook. That led to re-establishing contact with Pam, which led me to Shelly.
It was always figured that there was clear, universal knowledge of the situation based on the fact that when I contacted Pam 15-years ago, she had known who I was. Figuring this family was at least quasi normal, I assumed that the topic of "another sibling" would make its rounds and the results would play themselves out over time. Shelly, Lynn, and Pam have finally dispelled this dreadfully misguided assumption.
Through these conversations I've learned that not only was there no communication on the topic, but that it had become taboo for whatever reason. Michelle apparently had to push her way onto the computer the night we talked for the first time. I wasn't even told she was there. Then, Lynn shocked me when she told me that it was only VERY recently that she discovered who I was. Apparently my father and his wife have NEVER discussed this, at all-NEVER-after "the store." I keep saying it, but this is just inconceivable to me, even now after I've come to discover how whacked their family dynamics really are.
As I arrived at Shelly's house in Delta on May 31, I held no real expectations beyond meeting my nephews and a faint, fading glimmer hope that I'd be able to begin to develop a relationship with the rest of that part of my family, particularly Daddy Dearest. I also, however, knew that this was the last chance. It's time to draw conclusions, good or bad, and move on. I know that I have growing relationships with Shelly, Lynn, & perhaps Pam. That aint bad! From this point, the best that I could do was make myself available and do everything I could to offer every opportunity to get things right. I want to at least leave Michigan knowing I have done EVERYTHING that I could do, having no regrets or "what ifs" from here forward. I wanted to be able to say for certain when he's dead and gone, "Yes. I tried. But he was just simply a jackass" with no second thoughts about being right. I hoped for the best as I prepared for what was assured to be the most intense period of investigating both myself , and where I had come from to date: Vitam Impendere Vero: Truth before everything.
Travel stories and the occasional rantings of an evolving cynic who's simply in search of a little human authenticity. Tales include hitching across the Rockies with an eventual cop-killer, a weekend with a terminally-ill billionaire, meeting my siblings for the first time, trips to Mexico, and scores of random people from Mass.-Slab City-Chiapas who are often even more interesting...for better or worse!
"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan
Monday, June 1, 2009
5/31/09: Meet Shelly
Posted by Todd X at 2:14:00 AM