I quickly came to the conclusion that if I wanted more and accurate information that I was going to need to reach out to as many family members as possible. That weekend I had friend requested all three of my half-siblings. Melita and Serena had both accepted my request but remained silent. Then, on the thirteenth, I was with my son at a pool party when a Facebook message popped up on my phone. It was Serena.
"How are you?"
"Good. Just sitting here telling my friends our story."
"Oooo. You will have to tell me the story. Still unsure what's going on."
"Have you talked to Kym or Malcolm?"
"Just spoke to Dad.....But....he talks in riddles.. He said he has another daughter?"
"Ah ha. Yes. That's me!"
"Ooooooooooooooo. Wooooooooooooooooooow. Crraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy."
I remained silent, giving her the chance to take it in and process it. Then she wrote-
"Don't think I am disappointed Julie, not at all. Just overwhelmed. Woooooooooooow."
At that point, I knew that I was going to like my new sister.
"Sorry. I thought you would have heard by now."
I told her that Melita had accepted my request, but hadn't tried to speak to me.
"Melita and Dad haven't spoken in fifteen years. Neither have Dad and Adrian."
"The fact that you said he speaks in riddles explains a lot. Are you ok?"
"Shocked. Not disappointed."
We continued to chat. We told each other about our kids and partners. I asked her how old she was. She said 36. Malcolm had said that his kids were 38, 35 and 32. He was off by 4-7 years on all of them. They are 45, 41 and 36. (Maybe he has my aversion to numbers?) Finally, after a flurry of questions and answers with each other, I felt bold enough to lay it out on the table.
"So. What's Malcolm's deal?"
There was a longer pause than previously. Then.
"Can you call me?"
She gave me her phone number and we agreed to a Skype date in an hours time.
I hurried home in anticipation of hearing my sister's voice for the first time. I remember thinking what a surreal feeling it was to be in the midst of the culmination of what I had tirelessly worked on for the past quarter of a century. I gave myself mental commendations for never giving up on my goal and continuously persevering when it had seemed like an impossible objective.
An hour later I was back on my laptop dialing Serena's number. I opted to call her phone instead of computer because I wasn't quite ready to be face to face. I get distracted when Skyping on camera because I don't like watching myself- probably another by-product of living in a "camera ready" society. Also, I'm vain.
The conversation that followed will be less of a "transcription" as I don't have the text to look back on. One of the reasons I prefer texting is that there is always proof of what had been said. Proof is important in genealogy.
When she answered we exchanged giggly greetings and acknowledgment that neither of us could believe what was happening. Then she asked me what Malcolm had told me about himself. I'm not sure what the first example out of my mouth was- but she was laughing before I could finish the sentence. Then I said it.
"He's a pathological liar isn't he?"
"Oh, I'm so glad I didn't have to tell you."
"I came to that conclusion pretty quickly."
So, it is well known "lore" within the family that Malcolm has a tendency toward the "fantastical". This made complete sense to me. It's likely the reason that two of his three children have no contact with him any more- and he's virtually estranged from everyone. Serena's version of things regarding his marriage to Serena's mother and their ultimate divorce was markedly different than his retelling. I'm sure that is standard in most disillusionments, with each side having a different view on the events. However, the "tell" is when one party fails to own any semblance of the blame and essentially paints them-self as the faultless victim regarding every aspect of the situation. The fact that he had been so immediately forthcoming with such unsavory information was also a sign of someone trying to "pre-emptive" strike the situation. Malcolm had called Serena soon after I had spoken to him. She immediately knew that something was up, as contact usually signals some sort of action (as opposed to just shooting the breeze). She said that he had said that he had another daughter- and he wasn't referring to Melita. I think he mentioned my name- but offered poor Serena no more information.That was what she meant by "he talks in riddles." How frustrating that must be for her. He had also dropped by her house later in the day- another rare occurrence.
I soon began to realize that Serena and her siblings had had a less than idyllic childhood. Their mother, Vicki, had been severely injured in an auto accident. There were issues regarding an insurance settlement. Malcolm left when Serena was about 12. Their mother was (understandably) emotionally distraught and, being the youngest, Serena was sent to live with relatives while she sought treatment. There is obviously so much more to the story, but I don't think that it's appropriate for me to share or comment any further about it. I wasn't there, and it's really not my business.
I will say that my ultimate goal in all of this is to be able to map out my genealogical history. To possibly understand what aspects of my personality were inherited. To be able to tell the stories of my ancestors. To feel connected. The reoccurring theme in my search- as well as this blog- is truth. That's what's important to me. I just want the truth. I don't want fancy stories- I want facts. I don't want a "daddy". I don't want feigned affection. I want transparency so as to do accurate research. This may not seem important to the average person, but as I've mentioned before, when a constant theme in your life is mystery, secrets and disconnection, the most refreshing and freeing feeling is knowing the truth, without doubt. Sure, I've become caught up in it and have probably spent way too much time, effort and money on it. Yes, there are emotional connections. That's inevitable when you "click" with someone- regardless of whether or not you are related by blood. I know that a "family" is what we make of it. If I find my family and we connect emotionally- that's a bonus. However, that's not what I'm looking for- or expecting. If we find similarities- that's even better. Finding Malcolm explained certain things that I've always wondered about myself. The insecurity is one of them. The larger than life personality is another. Perhaps we both felt as though we needed to make more noise in order to not feel invisible. I was lucky enough to find a home in the performing arts to express myself. I don't think Malcolm was as lucky. I get the sense that he, also, had a less than idyllic childhood. Family members that I have spoken to in the last few months have given me little insights about what it may have been like for him growing up in his household. I tend to rely on their memories more than Malcolm's.
He was an only child. I think his parents also had a tumultuous relationship. One of his cousins strongest memories of him as a child (she's just a couple years older than him) was when her mother (Malcolm's paternal aunt) had to go and collect him from somewhere. She doesn't know the circumstances, but remembers that he was dirty and appeared to be malnourished. He stayed there a couple of days before he was returned- somewhere. That's her strongest memory and she doesn't remember seeing much of him after that.
Malcolm's father left for good when he was very young. He says that he was always having to travel for work and would also be gone for months- even years at a time. Top secret government work. Malcolm says he was also alcoholic. I tend to believe that. Malcolm claims to never have touched a drink, drugs or smoked in his entire life.
I think Malcolm broke a long time ago. I think that he started to live in a different existence, inside his own mind, starting at a very young age. I surmise that that's how he coped with his own reality. I am not a psychologist, but I know enough about it to recognize Sociopathy and Narcissism. I think that he got through life using his charming personality. He never maintained lasting relationships- because eventually the truth catches up with you. I suppose that he never sought help because he "presented" as a well adjusted, socially apt individual. When it all began to fall apart- he had no problem with walking away and starting over. He can somehow compartmentalize his emotions and would rather wipe the slate clean than hang on to important connections. His children are the most tragic victims in his wake. They still carry the trauma of the events of their childhood. They are all happy, successful, contributing members of society. But, I know that they have all suffered as a result of their experience.
One more thing about Malcolm that I find curious? Every woman that he has ever had a relationship with is a nurse. My mother, all three of his wives- and both of his daughters. I'll leave it up to you, my readers, to armchair analyze that one.
So, I had successfully connected with a sister, my long lost aunt, several cousins, and was well on my way to filling in the rest of the "gaps". The chance of getting accurate information from Malcolm was, I knew, minimal at best- but I was certainly going to try. I needed to locate the rest of the Campbell family. Serena and Kym had known nothing about them. As I prepared for my next conversation with Malcolm I had to figure out a way to endure the "spin"- and just get to the facts.