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)

 

 

 

 

It’s true. I love gay people. God made me do it.

Okay. I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this.

*deep breath*

Okay. Yes. I’m gonna do it.

I’m gonna talk about the big G word.

Remember when it used to mean “happy”? Or was attached to the name of a flower, such as the nosegay?

My, the times have changed. It’s all been causing me to think. And honestly, it’s driving me crazy, so I need to talk about it. Just for a minute. If that’s cool with you.

I was raised to believe that homosexuals were a special kind of dirty evil. That they carried diseases. (More than heterosexuals that have crazy monkey sex [gasp!] do? Yes, of course.) To be avoided but prayed for with utmost reverence, and thank God you weren’t like “them.” You were “safe.”

I’m here to tell you that I have rarely ever felt truly safe in my life. And I’m a woman who married a man. AND we don’t steal or cheat or murder or lie or park in the spots specifically for people with babies when we have no babies.

Avoiding people who are not like me has never brought me safety. Only a sense of entitlement and confusion that I don’t deserve.

So now, I am Facebook friends with at least 6 not-straight folk. I even speak to them occasionally. And I’m okay with that. I am a strong Christian not afraid to live in the world, to take risks, to be like Jesus, look at me go! I am soooo proud of myself.

Isn’t there…more? Shouldn’t there be more?

For the United States, they recently got “more.” Equal rights have been given to every couple who wants to get married, no matter what gender.
Now, as a Christian, I should be the furthest thing from okay with that, right? Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve. (Cause Steve’s MINE, bitches!) Old Testament Law. New Testament passages. The Word of God, which I claim as my blue print for life, condemns homosexuality at least 4 times, if not more. ( Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Revelations 22:15 for example.)

That is valid and important to me; I can’t ignore it.

What I also can’t ignore is the fact that many people are taking these verses out of context. For example, this article. Buzzfeed, you know I love you, but don’t do me like this! Allow me just this once to reference a large passage of Scripture that explains what I’m trying to say.

“Well then, why was the law given? It was to show people how guilty they are. But this system of law was to last only until the coming of the child to whom God’s promise was made.…is there conflict between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could have given us new life, we could have been made right with God by obeying it. Until faith in Christ was shown to us as the way of becoming right with God, we were guarded by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until we could put our faith in the coming saviour...Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian…you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus…there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female…you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:19, 21, 23,24,25,26 & 28.)

And.

“Well then, what shall we say about these things? Just this: the Gentiles have been made right with God by faith, even though they were not seeking him. But the Jews who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law and being good instead of depending on faith. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. God warned them of this in the scriptures when he said, ‘I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that causes people to stumble, and a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.’ …For Christ has accomplished the whole purpose of the law. All who believe in him are made right with God.” (Romans 9:30-33, 10:4)

AND.

“One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbour as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:35-39)  **emphases are all mine**

Now….I am by no means a scholar in the Hebrew and Greek translations of ancient texts, but what I THINK I just read is that the Old Testament law was put in place to show us that it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to not eat bacon and not get tattoos and not cut our hair and not wear jeans with holes in them. Those things are not evil. They were just used as an example to say that even if they WERE evil, we couldn’t stay away from them. And if we can’t even follow laws of just mere outward actions, how can we control what goes on in our hearts? We can’t. Any attempts to be “good” or at least a half-decent human being can only be accomplished through giving ourselves over to THE MOST important commandment: Love. Of God, of others and yes, ourselves. (Not in a selfish way, mind you. Just in a “I don’t hate myself” kind of way.) All of the other commandments can be summed up into LOVE. If you love your neighbour, you’re not going to steal from them. You’re not going to sleep with his wife or her husband. You’re not going to lie to them or murder them. If you love God with all your heart, soul and mind, you will want to live your life in a way that brings him honour and respect and a good reputation. If you claim his name over your actions, you better make sure that they are done in a way that doesn’t conflict with the second commandment of loving others.

In other words, the Crusades were an #epicfail.

Westboro Baptist Church = #epicfail.

Pat Robertson, pastor and founder of The 700 Club = #epicfail.

These parents = #epicfail

And the conclusion of my life so far? Epic fail.

You see, I have this problem where I like people to be happy with me and I would like not to get struck with lightning by God. My love for my Father and my people has been entirely fear-based. Now, being almost 26…I’m tired of this shit. And being tired has led me on the journey to where I am now. The political and social events of the United States and Russia and more have really challenged me to shift my paradigm. And now, after months of struggle and research and guilt and confusion, I am finally ready to confess.

I want to love people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, religions, skin colours, orientations and lifestyles. I think the abuse that the homosexual community has had to live with is heartbreaking and I want to hug all of them and whisper, “We’re not all like this.” I think that God sees all of the hatred and weeps. He still loves us a ridiculous amount regardless, but man, if I had to choose between facing him and discovering I was wrong to love homosexuals or facing him and discovering I was wrong to hate homosexuals, I would choose the former, hands down. Whether or not homosexuality is truly a sin is NOT our call to make, and I’m so glad that those decisions are not left up to me.

As for marriage equality, I support it. Just like I would support the African slaves being emancipated from their owners in the 1800s, or all women being emancipated from abusive husbands and arranged marriages and head coverings…well…someday. From a purely political standpoint, if your constitution says that all men are created equal, then that should mean EVERYONE. At the very least, all couples in a committed relationship should be allowed the same benefits as a married heterosexual does. If someone I was in a committed relationship with was in the hospital and I wasn’t allowed to see them just because there wasn’t a legal document saying that I was married and/or family to them, I would lose my shit. Plain and simple.  It’s not fair. It’s not equal. And I’m so glad steps have been taken to remedy that.

Taking this stand is tough and terrifying. But with each word that I’m writing out, each thought that I have, I have this feeling swelling up in my chest, like…excitement. Conviction. Apology. Love.  Anticipation. What also thrills me? I have said most of this to the one person I never thought I could: my mom. After all, she helped contribute to my “us versus them” thoughts about gay people. But she surprised me by agreeing with mostly everything I said. Why? Because for the last two years, she has essentially lived in a wilderness with no one around her except for draft dodgers, ex-cons, hippies, lesbians and confirmed been-out-in-the-woods-too-long weirdos. Because she’s been made to look at them like they are people. Because she’s an adulterous single-mom who made a lot of mistakes and got deported, but they treat her like a person as well. It’s brutal and beautiful…brutiful.

Before I post this and let the chips fall where they may, I have two people I want to talk about – C & B. I don’t know them too well, but I have had the privilege of seeing a glimpse of what they are about.

I met C at a kid’s camp quite a few summers ago. He was a youth pastor/worship leader. All of the kids flocked to him because he was so fun and caring, and for me, whenever he played his piano and sang, the world stopped. I have rarely heard anything so beautiful in my life, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this man loved God with all his heart and was genuinely worshiping him, and using his gift to lead others into worship as well. He also shared with me personally that he felt I needed to put God first in my life, and everything else would fall into place – at a time when all of my struggles were seriously overtaking me. He had no idea that this was what I needed to hear.

I met B on a college campus in 2009. Our youth group went there for a weekend to see what it would be like to go there when we graduated. On Sunday morning, I was sitting at a breakfast table by myself, and B, a total stranger, came up to me and sat down. We started talking, and I felt totally at ease with her. We shared life stories; I was going through my immigration struggles and trying to maintain a relationship with my mom, and B’s mom had passed away from cancer recently. How did our conversation end? With B offering to pray. For ME. Another time when what I needed was given to me at the most unexpected moment.

Are they believers in Jesus? Yes.

Are they straight? Not in the least.

Does that change the way I feel towards them or mar my experience with them? See my last answer.

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