No wait, Meatloaf said, “Two outta Three…” My bad. Yeesh 2/6…that’s 33.3 %. Guess it depends what the fuck I’m talking about doesn’t it?! If I’m quoting Meatloaf, it doesn’t look good for me does it?
(Song Dedication: The Answer by Kodaline)
Here is your vocab lesson for today, ex-tant: still in existence; surviving
What do you label someone who feels called to create something that makes others think and feel? An artist.
What do you define someone as who feels called to engage others in learning, exploring and expanding knowledge? An educator.
Both job descriptions I know very well and their titles and roles resonate within me often; sometimes at the same time, other moments they are mutually exclusive, and even other times they both are completely absent from my identification as if they went on a holiday and didn’t invite me to join them like a couple of assholes who got sick of me. Wait…maybe I should go on vacation too then…eff you guys!
I found myself googling the other day, this phrase “what do you call someone who is called to repopulate the planet.” The results were inconclusive. Maybe my search terms where too convoluted? What did come up was the antonym for my description: extinctionist. An extinctionist can be defined (amongst other things) as someone who believes that due to human impact we will not only continue to wipe out other species in the food chain but eventually ourselves too. So I was left with no other choice then to invent my own word based on this knowledge. Extantionist. Extant being the opposite of extinct.
So when people have eagerly and/or politely asked about how our recent trip to the UK was, I say what is expected mostly: really good, necessary, so much fun, amazing, best family trip yet….And that is all the honest truth. However, a few people have gotten maybe more than they were expecting in my response…and well, maybe that’s because SO DID I. Because the following is what I really wanted to say more than anything else:
It was amazing, eye-opening and…I have half-siblings that I didn’t know about?!
Fak. (That’s how I spell and pronounce my next level of Fucks)
I know, just sit with it for a moment. I find it helps…I’ve been sitting with it for 2 weeks now and it’s still well…processing? Percolating? Stewing? Those all sound like food terms…I do feel like I’m emerging from a thorough pressure cooking in my Instant Pot when it comes to this new information, so I suppose those descriptions work then. Someone activate the quick release for Pete’s sake?! (That was not foreshadowing…I do not have a brother named Pete…that I know of…yet…)
As I have written before, my Biological Father suffered from alcohol and drug addiction through his 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and this precariously dangerous illness came to a grinding halt after he suffered a traumatic brain injury falling from the box of a drunk driver’s pickup into the path of another vehicle, while he himself was on one (and the last) of his 2 week benders. Life changed dramatically for him, having to move back to England under the constant care of his aging parents, he slowly recovered to a new normal breaking the hold of addiction but with one less eye and permanent brain damage to his short term memory.
I was privy to this knowledge as a 12 year old, when it all went down. As a child I didn’t know what to do or how to integrate this so I didn’t really. I compartmentalized the shit out of that box, kind of taping it shut and shelving it in a high dusty place in the back of my mind for later.
And so here we are…and it’s later now.
I knew as a teenager that addiction brings along all sorts of other vices to the party. I contemplated, if very briefly, that the likelihood of unprotected sex was probably a very realistic probability. I always worried about him contracting AIDS or something else scary and uncertain. So when the talk of fathering a child came up initially in our recent visit, I was somewhat prepared psychologically. Perhaps my therapy, yoga, meditation, research, writing and biofeedback also bolstered my armour?! Ya definitely.
Keeping in mind that my Father’s memory is in a steady dementia decline, my uncle was the one facing my brave questions. Poor fucking guy. He is 2 years older than his brother and his memory is on point, however due to the toxic dynamics of this side of the family, he had chosen to put distance between them for years at a time…just like I did. Now there we were, me with my brave heart and steady stare asking questions about photographs of kids I didn’t recognize. He gently eased into it all, beginning chronologically.
He took me back to the late 1950’s before John had met my Mom. As a young teenager, who had recently moved with his other two siblings and mother from England across the Atlantic Ocean to begin a new life in a northern BC town called Terrace. Their Father had already found work, a “home” and sent money for them to come join him. Turns out the new house was more like a chicken coop and back then the sidewalks were wooden and roads were yet to be paved…a little rustic by comparison to their English sensibilities. They got some attention though. My Aunt, the eldest teen, hated it in her mini skirts and bobbie socks. My Uncle endured it, the classic middle child. My Father liked the attention and in the early 60’s got a local girl pregnant. Back in those days the only reasonable thing to do was to give the baby up for adoption. They did and they moved on. Supposedly.
They had a baby girl who was adopted to a good family in Vancouver. Just gonna put the pin back in that one for a bit. So Half-sister number one.
In the mid-sixties on a trip to New Jersey to visit my Grandmother’s sisters, my uncle recalls some frantic conversation, money exchanging hands and another adoption was under way for another American teen who had fallen for my not-yet-father’s charm. Half-sibling number two.
My Father met my mother in 1969, were married and had my brother in 1970…this one I knew about! Whew. During this time, the alcohol use was coming off the hinges and cementing as a very real problem for everyone involved. Lots of fighting and violence. Not ideal for a little boy. Yet they stayed together and I was born in the summer of 1979…also another birth I was aware of…win!
Things unraveled fairly quick after that birth and by the winter of 1983 he had moved to England to join his family who had also moved back on their own volition. My brother and I visited in the summer of 1984, spending the summer there and getting to know his then-girlfriend Mandy. I remember her as pretty and young. Because she was and would have passed easily as my brother’s girlfriend. This relationship lasted a few years and during that time, she too became pregnant and had a son. Half-sibling number three.
John and his girlfriend split and he moved back to BC. In 1989, his father passed suddenly of a heart attack in the dining room of the home he lives in now. My father and uncle flew from Vancouver to attend their Father’s funeral in Presteigne. When it was time to fly back to Canada, John was MIA on one of his tangents. His brother flew back and my Father eventually turned up on his mother’s back step penniless and a mess two weeks later. During that time he had shacked up with a Hereford woman. Nine months later she had a baby girl. Half-sibling…whatever…who’s counting anymore?! Kidding, number four.
So this is my new knowledge, and I love how the knowing is mine. Mine to do with how I choose.
As you’re probably wondering, and yes I did ask, have any of these children had contact with John. The very first one who was adopted actually tracked him down in 2000, with the help of her own daughter who used her sleuthing skills to seek him out. There was a grand reunion, that his Mother had the local Presteigne paper write a proud article about. That same year, my Grandmother and Father flew to Canada to meet this daughter. As the story goes, from more than one source, the visit failed when she asked him for financial assistance. I did not know they had been in Terrace and Calgary in 2000, both cities that I have close family in. They did not tell me because well, I guess this wasn’t about me. That stings a bit though, considering I hadn’t seen either of them in over a decade.
He has had no contact with any other child…including myself and brother except one.
The daughter born in Hereford in 1990 had been to visit he and his mother a number of times, since Hereford is only about 40 minutes drive. I can confirm this as this is where we picked up our rental car to visit him in Wales. The visits abruptly stopped when she was about 8 or 9…sounds familiar…apparently she looks like me but a blonde and obviously younger. I think my husband would like her. Sorry…inappropriateness is a force that is strong in me.
I had the honour of re-connecting with my Grandmother’s life long bestie a few days ago. We hadn’t spoke since I was 10. She was a breath of fresh air, we spoke freely and she was so honest and open to my questions. I felt she was genuinely happy to connect with me. The feeling was mutual.
She confirmed knowledge of some of the children. She shared more about my youngest half-sibling. Her name is Shannon and until she was about 8, visited our Grandmother and Father from time to time, staying in their home. One day she said a little kid thing to my Grandmother (I’ve made the mistake of doing this and it landed me in therapy as an adult so…ya…). She said, “My Mommy says I have to be nice to my Dad because he is rich.” With that and her cat-quick judgement, Grandma put that to an end. She never visited them again! This hurts my heart for this little girl, my sister. I’ve been where she stood more than once and it’s terribly confusing and tragic to not just be reprimanded for saying something honest but to be completely exiled because of it. All I can say is that based on her possible life circumstances, “rich” by definition might have just meant a roof over your head and 3 meals a day.
When I visited in 2002, there was no hint of any of this. However, I did not ask. I was not ready to know this, that I am sure of now. They were not ready to tell me. My Grandmother took this to her grave in 2012. The awareness is locked up and misfiled somewhere in my Father’s brain. Yet, the knowledge still revealed itself to me this time around and I am better for it.
So here is how I am feeling 2 weeks post-multiple sibling reveal: brave, peaceful and at times agitated. My husband can attest to this last one as my erratic thoughts keep resurfacing and bouncing around him…the agitation has presented itself as a restlessness in my soul. How do we travel more? When do we go back? How do I find them? What do I say? When do I tell others? Should I return to teaching? Should I use my camera more? What should I paint? What should I write? And my favourite ask last night….What if we got a puppy?? I shit you not. If you see Andrew, give him a sympathetic hug will ya? He may have some whiplash. I think this is my ego running interference to block my soul from moving forward. I see you ego. Now sit down and shut up so I can think, Fak!
Here is what I know 2 week’s out. My armour is falling off, like a snake shedding it’s too small skin. This girl is growing up! I know that if I am meant to know any of these siblings then it will happen. So Buh-bye anxiety! I know that just knowing about them and sending positive thoughts of them into the universe does make an impact. I know that my compassion is fully intact after this trip, strongly rooted in my authentic words and actions. I know that because of the lightness I feel in my body, several layers of scar tissue have settled in my body, allowing more unimpeded movement. And the best knowing of all, I have been able to connect with others in my life with greater ease. Maybe I’m just not afraid of the hurt and unpredictability of people anymore? Trust? Is that you? Heyyyyyy, I’ve been looking for you!! (Warm 🤗 )
Being more accessible has made me feel closer to my parents here in Quesnel, the people who did choose to raise me up to be the woman I am today. Not to brag, but I think they did a damn good job too. I have talked more to my brother in the past week than in the past 5 years! And that was a personal wound that just wouldn’t heal, and how could it heal if I wasn’t nurturing it? We’ve shared some enlightening words (and some hearty laughs) about this whole situation and I welcome whatever else he is open to in our sibling relationship. Because in the end, I have no business seeking out these “others” if I’m not putting my money where my mouth is with the one fantastic brother I was meant to know. And for the record, when things got bad, he was always there..always. He raised me when my Mom couldn’t and my Father wouldn’t.
I am not who I am today despite these challenges and people…I AM because of them. All. Of. It.
Whew! That’s enough for today, because I don’t want to cry in Starbucks.
PS. If you were adopted or know someone who is looking for mystery family members, send them my way. They may either enjoy my writing sentiments or be someone I am also looking for? Just email me at Extantionistsdaughter.com…that’s a bad joke to help me bring this write full circle.