When I was in my mid-20’s, my father made a revelation to me.
In the instant he told me, it was if suddenly, an off-feeling I’d had my whole life until that moment suddenly made sense. Something aligned within me. My relationship to the world felt different. It felt like the earth turned just a bit on its axis and snapped into place after having been off for so long.
I felt like I could breathe just a bit easier after a lifetime of holding it in just a little.
My Dad and my mother sat me down and the story unfolded. My father had been at a work conference in Galveston, TX at which he was to speak. As she always did, my mother went along.
She stayed in the hotel when he actually went to the event that morning. Before the event, there was a meet and greet in the front area of the arena. My Dad had on a name tag, as did the other guests and participants.
At a certain point he noticed an older woman looking at him form across the room. Later, she approached him, and he recalled thinking she seemed hesitant about talking to him. As they began to small talk, he looked down at her name tag, and commented, “Hey, that’s funny. We share the same last name.”
He said the woman sort of paused a moment as if considering what to say next, and then suddenly blurted out, “I’m Rose Curry. I was your father’s first wife.”
She went on to explain that she’d been married to my grandfather and that they’d had a son together, my Dad’s half-brother. They were long-since divorced, and agreed not to have contact or tell anyone about the child, but her son had always known of him had always wanted to contact my grandfather, his father.
She and her son both lived in Galveston, and she had seen in the paper that my Dad was speaking. She had not been sure of whether or not to come.
My Dad says he went into a kind of shock. He doesn’t recall anything else about the conversation or the event. He gave the speech somehow and then afterwards went back to his hotel room.
My mom said when he walked in the door, he was white as a ghost.
He recounted the story to her, and they posited that perhaps it was someone looking to grift some money out of him. He was sure that his father could never have been married before, much less have a child and not tell anyone about it. Surely they were just looking to demand some inheritance or something, claiming to be relatives.
But curiosity got the better of him. He looked through the phonebook and found the name of the man that Rose Curry had claimed was his half-brother, and he called the number. He spoke to the man, and they arranged to meet that afternoon in the parking lot at a McDonald’s.
And my Dad said that the moment he saw the man get out of his car and approach him, he knew that the story was true. He could see the resemblance clear as day.
He spoke with the man for several hours. It turned out that this man, my half-uncle, had tried several times over the years to re-connect with my grandfather. He’d gone to Midland, TX (halfway across the state) to his house and rang the doorbell, only to be turned away in the snow.
He’d even called my Dad’s house once, at holiday time, in the hopes of speaking to him.
He’d had a tough life, struggled with depression and alcoholism.
My parents told me that after they left Galveston that day, my father had talked to my grandfather about the man. But my grandfather wanted nothing to do with him. As he had turned him away so many times over the years, so he turned him away again.
I. Was. Floored.
Suddenly, my whole childhood made sense.
I’d always sensed an indefinable energy around my grandparents’ house in Midland. They were loving people. I loved to be at their house and around them. But they didn’t leave home much. And there was a tension that I could feel as a child, something I could not make sense of. I guess I always felt that something was about to happen. Something bad. It felt like we were always on hold.
Hearing the revelation of this first family of my grandfather’s, it all made sense. That energy was the energy of holding a secret together.
My grandfather had been married and met my grandmother and fell in love. He had left the other woman, and their son, and they’d divorced. My grandfather’s side of the family knew, but were sworn to secrecy. My grandmother’s family and the family she and my grandfather would make together were not to ever know.
My God, that takes a ton of energy, to hold that big a secret.
So every time there was a knock at the door…every time the phone rang…they must on some level had been thinking would it be someone who knew the dirty dark little secret?
I remembered a man coming to my grandparents’ house at Christmas. My grandfather going out and talking to him on the front yard, coming back in angry.
(Now I know it was him.)
I was at the Thanksgiving dinner table when a man called interrupting dinner, asking for my Dad. My Dad came back to the table saying “some guy had just called and as said he was his brother, must be a wrong number, the guy sounded drunk.”
(That poor man trying yet again.)
Secrets are powerful things. They create an energy, they take up space. As you work to hold them in, it takes away from the living of your life. Every relationship feels that weight in some way or another.
As a sensitive child, I sensed it all. But no one would say a word.
I was close to my grandmother, but the one time she ever got mad at me or denied me anything was when I asked her in college for some family history. She refused to help me. I was so confused by her behavior at the time. It was so unlike her.
But once the big secret was outed, it all made sense.
My idea of my grandfather was forever altered on that day. My grandfather and my grandmother, but she had been dead for some time.
I never spoke to my grandfather about it. I had wanted to, but my Dad said not to, and I complied. I guess I have been conditioned to accept the weight of lies.
Sadly, he never agreed to have contact with the man who was his son, my half-uncle. I never met him either. All involved parties are dead now.
I remain. And I seek to be sure that I live life lie-free. Lies cost too much, and they can never be held forever.
I had a half-uncle. I wonder what he was like. I hope his children and their children have also broken the chain of lies. You can only hold the Truth at bay for so long.