Monday, 13 February 2012

Everything for a reason, for everything, a time

For most of my life I've been living my father's lies.

He lied to us from the day we were born about his history, his experiences, his past. He kept everything truthful from us, except his generous spirit and sense of humour. He couldn't fake those, for those were the qualities that beyond everything else is what he's remembered for. Not his military service, not his jobs, or his fetish for building models, but for nailing my mother's shoes to the floor. That's the dad I remember.

All our lives he forbade us from researching his family. When my mother was bit by the genealogy bug years ago, he shook his head and said "why bother - they're no use to us dead". My mom just shook her head and told him to go back to his doll houses. (another hobby - he built doll houses and gave them away to needy kids). Before she died in 2002 my mother had managed to trace portions of our heritage back to the Huguenots in France, and proven United Empire Loyalist Status. She uncovered many mysteries and interesting stories about our ancestors, and for that she left us a legacy of knowledge. We know, at least on her side, where we came from.

Dad just shook his head and reaffirmed to us that he did not want that route taken with his side. We willingly obliged him, and short of his stories, never pursued his family.

Dad began getting sick around 2006. Eventually dementia wore its way in to his wonderful head and heart. He began getting his stories mixed up. His facade was falling. He began to mistake his children for his siblings, all of whom he said died in the Coventry blitz in 1942. He always said he was the only one who survived because he was off at war at that time in India and Burma. One day he said something to Kim and I that unravelled everything - he said "I wonder if any of them are still alive?"

Kim and I both looked at each other, and knew then that the stories were fabricated. We knew he had led us all down the garden path he created for us. Now we needed to know.

Knowing that his time was short we began having leading conversations with him. Kim is especially good with this, she had a bond with dad that none of us could, and she began asking more questions, which he freely answered, without straying too far from the wartime storyline. Bits and pieces of a former life were coming through.

We knew then that somewhere in Scotland, we had cousins, and possibly aunts and uncles.

We never broke our vow to dad. We did not pursue anything at that time. It wasn't until he passed away in 2009 that we decided we needed the right answers. My sister did all the dirty work, sending away for documentation from the Scottish government. These docs proved our theory - we had family there.

For the past two years we've been following leads with no luck. This weekend, we struck gold. Several weeks ago out of frustration I posted a Facebook message to dozens of Wilsons in the area in Scotland we knew the family originated. The message was full of names and dates that would surely convince someone also related to these people that we too were family. I also wrote on that message that if this doesn't apply to you, please forgive our intrusion and move on with your lives. One person replied on Saturday confirming that he is indeed our cousin.

We found a living relative in Scotland.

After 43 years of lies, we are closer to truth than ever before. The elation of that moment will stay with me. I stared at his message for the longest time, and could not reply. I could not even read it to Kim - I called her over for her to look at. Then I called my sister and read it to her - she started crying.

This person was skeptical, and wanted proof we weren't scamming him. I understand that in this age of electronic deception, and we had to find him proof of who we really were. I can only imagine his reaction as well - he are these people from the other side of the world claiming to be cousins. We gave him proof and answered his questions. But we have so many.

Yesterday we arranged a group chat that lasted about 2 hours, and just got to know one another. We asked a few questions, but tried not to overload him. He's younger than me, so he's not of a generation that knows the answers readily. But he is willing to dig for us. That's a great start. That's the beginning of a relationship that we hope will first off bear fruit and answer the lies, and secondly, open relations between one family on 2 continents.

We found the answers we were looking for. The feeling of overwhelming jubilation set in. Last night I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking about the weekend and what we've found.

I wonder if winning the lottery feels like this. Somehow, money can't compare to the feeling of having your heart lifted so high.