Skyfall (Family Matters Part 4)

If you’re in need of some back story, staaaaart here: Part 1     Part 2    Part 3

So far, I’ve kept things fairly serious and dramatic. But really, I’m just getting started. And since I don’t want to feel like shit for the rest of the day, I’m going to incorporate as many gifs as I possibly can. Prepare for a lot of facepalms and WTF? Thank God for Google.

Back in the day, I was quite the housesitter, and I loved every minute. As an illegal immigrant who couldn’t get a job or live on her own, it was the best way to have a place to live, food to eat, AND make some extra cash on the side. Throw in some free wifi to help me locate my awkwardly obtained family members, with erasable browser histories – I was in, I was out, I was clean.

So, in the spring of 2010 (OMG that’s 4 years ago already), I had a big beautiful house on the river all to myself. I have fond memories of this place; I started watching How I Met Your Mother on DVD there…played strip poker for the first time with some girlfriends and then couldn’t sleep that night because I felt so guilty there…started feeling numb down my side and smelling burnt toast at the same time, so I ran to the ER with a stroke, but really it was just the unfortunate combination of a pinched nerve and a sinus infection there…had my first conversation with my dad ever and thought I would die of happiness there…

Damn, if those walls could talk.

It all started with a night of searching.

Matthew Winters. The State of California. Insurance. (I guess the whole pastor thing didn’t pan out very well.)

I had located an insurance website that looked promising, but to be able to send any of the employees an email, I had to click on their name and then click on what kind of insurance claim I wanted to file. Otherwise, everything was locked up tight.

I thought about jokingly filing for some kind of “my daddy never paid for my upbringing” claim,

but I could be in trouble if he wasn’t actually my dad.

Taking a break, I went on Facebook chat to see if any of my friends were around. A guy I knew from a Bible camp a few towns over was online, and I suddenly remembered that he was, shall we say, really good with computers.

MeHey dude, what’s up? (keep it cool, dayum, girl)
Him: Not much, you?
Me: Eh, ya know. Same. So hey, was wondering if I could ask you something?
Him: Shoot.
Me: How do I…find…someone online, like an email address, if all I have is their name and where they work?
Him: What’s your info?
Me: Uh, Matthew Winters, State of California, insurance. I think he’s my dad.
Him: Cool! Hold on.
[Less than 10 minutes later]
Him: All I could fish out was this email address. Will that work?
Me: Really??!!?!? I’ll try it! Thank you so much! What do I owe you?
Him: Don’t worry about it. Next time you see me, you can buy me a Coke or something.

To this day, I have not seen him. Dude probably needs a case of Coke by now.

Okay, so. Holy shit. I have my dad’s email address. I hope.

At the time, I was sharing an email address with my mom under a fake name out of her paranoia of the government finding us and drafting me into the WWIII that is the Middle East, or something. So I created an entirely separate email account that had only my dad’s apparent contact information on it.

I emailed him, keeping the same unruffled, nonchalant stance I had taken when I messaged my sister. And then I tried to sleep. Didn’t happen. Checked my email in the morning, and received the greatest surprise.

Oh! My darling daughter! We’ve found each other at long last! I have been searching and searching for you and your mother ever since you left, but your trail went cold in 1998. I thought you had perished. But God has answered my prayers! How are you? How is your mother? Tell me everything.

He was so well spoken, and clearly adored me. I fell in love. We spent 6 days emailing back and forth, spilling ourselves and lapping each other up, all the birthdays and Fathers Days and Christmases we’d lost being recaptured. I was delirious. One friend said, “You got your Hollywood moment!” and I knew it was blissfully true.

And then our first phone conversation happened. His voice was like melted honey; I couldn’t get enough of it. Sometimes, I would check my phone and find a voicemail from him, just because he wanted to say hi and I love you.

After a week, we knew we should probably tell our significant others – that being my mom and his wife. Mom was over the moon, the happiest I’d seen her in a long time. And Rachel, dad’s wife, was fine with our contact under 2 conditions: 1.) that she be able to read any messages between myself and him, and 2.) that there be absolutely no contact between my dad and my mom.

This seemed fair and understandable. I told dad to let her know that I would abide by this fully. This was about me and my dad getting to know each other; I had no ulterior motives.

Another week of bliss went by. We had reached a nice rhythm of emails and phone calls, but never got around to Skype unfortunately. It would have been nice to see his face in real time, at least once.

All was becoming normal. And then…

Dad: How’s your mother doing? Feel free to pass along my email address to her, so we can say hi.
Me: Dad, you know the conditions. I need to respect them. I’m sorry.
Dad: Don’t be sorry, you’re right. I’m the one who’s sorry.

A couple of days later…

Mom: “So how are things going with your dad? You know, you can pass my email onto him, if you want. It would be nice to catch up.”

More lovely weeks went by, and they didn’t mention each other to me again. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Late May/early June came around, and my mom wanted to go for lunch with me, so we went to our favourite pizza place. I could tell something was different about her, but I couldn’t place my finger on it.
After we ordered our food, she said, “I have a surprise for you.” Tears filled her eyes and she smiled. “I’m in love.”

THAT’S what it was! She looked lighter and happier, with a bit of make-up on. I had never seen her in love before. She’d never dated or brought any men home when I was growing up, and now she had transformed into a giddy teenager right before my eyes. It was foreign and strange, but I was genuinely happy for her.

Wait.

Oh no. No no no no….

“What did you do?”

I’m in love.

What did you do?

Great start to the lunch conversation.

Mom: “Now I know you said you wouldn’t talk to him for me, but I went ahead and tried to find him myself. Miracle of miracles, I did! And it turns out that…*tears*…your dad still loves me and wants to be with me! I still can’t believe it, I’m just so thankful. So he’s going to come to Canada and marry me. We’re going to be a family again! And…I was hoping…you could help me shop for some nice clothes?”

For a moment, in that pizza restaurant, I drifted into an alternate universe where I was thrilled that my mom was finally happy and cared for, and WANTED me to take her SHOPPING.

Double-edged euphoria.

“When did this happen?” I asked.

“About 6 weeks ago. Oh gosh, Carly, you know how terrible I am at keeping good secrets, so I’m quite proud of myself for keeping it THAT long! Ooh, here’s our pizza!”

6 weeks…6 weeks…doing math in my head…Dad and I had reached each other 8 weeks ago…which means that right after I had told them I was going to respect Rachel’s boundaries, they went behind my back and broke them anyway.

“So?” she said. “I know it’ll take some getting used to, but what do you think?”
“Uhmmm…well, what’s happening with Rachel? Does she know what’s going on?”
“Your daddy’s still trying to figure that out. She’s a bit of a bitch, keeps threatening to commit suicide whenever he asks for a divorce. His current idea is to fake his death, and then disappear up here. Of course that would be drastic, but it might be his only way out.”

This is the End…hold your breath and count to 10…feel the earth move and then…hear my heart burst again…for this is the End…I’ve drowned and dreamt this moment…

To be continued…

Lost & Found (Family Matters Part 5)

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Liar, Liar. (Family Matters Part 3)

Part 1 and Part 2 are here for you.

“What have you been told about me?”

I had no idea how loaded of a question this was, coming from her side of the story. For a few more days, hours, I would be on Cloud 9, reveling in the joy that I had found my sister at last. I was a child at the county fair for the first time, wide-eyed and wondrous, having no idea that I was about to watch my balloon float aimlessly into the abyss while I retched on the pavement.

With sparkly eyes, I typed furiously : “I mean, not much, just that my dad and my mom were close friends, and mom really wanted a baby, so she asked dad to try to give her one. They knew it would be wrong, but they decided to try it one time, and luckily, it worked. And then we moved away when I was really little so I never actually got to meet any of you. I’m so happy I found you!”

There was silence on the other end for awhile. I waited anxiously where I was house-sitting…playing with the dog, coming back to the computer. Channeling nervous energy into Bugle consumption, back to the computer. Completely alone with 10,000 of my thoughts rushing through me at once.

Where is she? Did I say something wrong? She’s probably just eating lunch too. What if she hates me? She’s a mom of 3 girls, she’s busy, calm your shit. What if everything is about to change?

Finally! A message.

Cassie: I know a very different story, and I’m hesitant to tell you because I don’t want to hurt you or jeopardize our relationship so quickly.

Me: I want to know the truth. Please tell me whenever you can.

An hour later, the crushing pressure that had been building inside my chest all morning spilled out in sobs and muffled curses. I was glad to be alone, although the dog was concerned. As the pup licked my tears away, I felt like she was the only one I trusted in the world.

How could my mother have done this to me, to US? How could she have lied about this for nearly 20 years to my face?

An affair. Of course it was. Nobody just “has a married guy friend who decided to give the gift of a baby to a desperate single woman.”

You ignorant homeschooled hick.

It got worse. Oh, it got worse.

My dad had been a pastor, his wife the church office manager, his mistress the worship leader.

For three years. Before I was even thought of.

When mom got pregnant, she told everyone that she’d “finally” decided to go to the sperm bank cause, after all, she wasn’t gettin’ any younger! The church, friends and family rejoiced.

Cassie had been ecstatic. Mom was like an adopted aunt to her, and they would go on lunch-and-movie dates all the time. When I was born, Cassie babysat me multiple times. SHE F***ING BABYSAT ME, AND SHE HAD NO F***ING CLUE THAT I WAS HER BABY SISTER.

Oh, but our dad. He knew. He probably looked out into his congregation every Sunday and saw his dimply, brown-eyed bastard smiling right back at him.

A little over a year later, his wife finally figured it out.

Everything blew up, within his family, within his church – so my mom took off with me and little else. She’s been on the run ever since.

All those years I never knew why we couldn’t settle down, why we were always moving, why she never had time or desire to play with me as I grew bigger.

Now everything made sense. She had been in love with him, and every time she looked at me, she was reminded of the face she would probably never see again.

I will admit that, at first, most of my anger was self-righteous. I was already sick and tired of hearing about pastors’ infidelities, and now my parents were just another statistic, with seemingly no guilt – only owning up to their secret when they were caught. Yeah, they sound like real Christians to me. Hypocrites; nothing worse than a couple of those.

But then I realized something: nobody is perfect. Nobody is immune to loneliness or desperation or even rationalization when something feels so right it can’t be wrong. Sure, we hold Christians to a higher standard and can be eager to kick them when they fall off the pedestal. But maybe they were never meant to be put on a pedestal in the first place.

Once my high horse became more of a pony, I only felt sadness and hurt for everyone who experienced the ripple effect. My sister was 14 when she learned of the betrayal of those closest to her; it changed her, sent her down a path that would do more harm than good. I’m thankful that she was able to work through her (rightful) emotions and become the counselor for young people that she is today.
My dad’s wife endured the betrayal, the anger, the pain – and she stayed. She’s still with my dad to this day. I can’t speak specifically to the tenderness of their current relationship, but she keeps showing up. I know nothing of my brothers.

Little did I know, at that point, that this chapter of my life was not closed, even though I had made peace with everything – even to the point where I forgave my mom in the silence by never bringing up her past that was now known.

A year later, I would become driven by the need to find my dad and to speak to him for myself. And what do you do when all you have is his name, the field he works in, and a sister not willing to share more?

You hire a hacker, that’s what.

To be continued…

 Skyfall (Family Matters Part 4)