Saturday, April 21, 2007

Family Lies

I received a phone call today from a cousin I thought had been dead for the better part of 40 years. My cousin Larry was one of two sons of my aunt Betty. My father had told me that Larry and his brother Leonard had died in Viet Nam.

I have often found comfort in knowing that I was the last of my lineage, and since I will never have children, this branch of the family tree ends with me. That is still true.

But now I suddenly have a cousin I didn't know I had.

I'm at a loss as to why my father lied to me about my cousins. Larry admitted that he had lived with drug and alcohol addiction for years (before finding Jesus), which may explain why he was not talked of in my family. My father had no tolerance for things like that. It makes me wonder how we would have responded to my own drug and alcohol issues during my teen years had he lived to see it.

Strangely, it feels good to know I am not the last one living. I have cousins on my mother's side, but aside from one of them, I have never met them or even known their names.

When my mother and sister both died within a couple of months of each other in 2005, it was a strange feeling to be completely alone in the world. I was still seeing Kira at the time, and that helped some, but when she and I split up last year I WAS truly alone.

The point of all this is that my father had lied to me many times about his life and now, it seems, our family. I didn't know about the lies (or embellishments, to be generous) about his own life until several years ago when my mother gave me a journal he had kept for most of 30 or 40 years. I discovered that he had exaggerated many details of his life, which I took at the time to mean that he was ashamed of some of his history. At the time, I was sympathetic.

I'm a little unsure how to feel now. And I am forced to wonder how much of who I think I am, based on my family heritage, is true and how much was simply his own creation.

Families are a strange thing.

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