Anything goes


The DNA results that is! We never expected to get them back this fast. It had taken about 10 weeks to get my results and those of my sister and brother returned to us, so we were expecting it to be at least mid-October before we heard anything. So, when David messaged me to call him and sent his phone number, it never occurred to me that it was because he knew something I didn’t. I should have–he hadn’t shared that sort of private information with me before–but I just thought it was because we’d been getting a little closer and he was ready for that step.

But then he told me…we’re a match! 23andme had us as grandfather and granddaughter, but since it had had my other brother and me as uncle and niece, I’d been through this before and explained that it couldn’t tell how we were related when we only shared one parent, only that we were very closely related.

We spent the first 10 minutes of the phone call just giggling and saying breathless “Wow”s again and again, and then we settled in for some real conversation. We chatted for an hour, finding similarities in our personalities, learning about each other and simply sharing ourselves. He is a wonderful person…simply wonderful. Giving, kind, loving. I regret I haven’t known him all my life. I think he could have taught me a lot. Perhaps he still can!

I don’t know if my other siblings from that side of the family will ever reach out. I know it’s so difficult for them for a variety of reasons, and I can’t fault them their feelings. I’ve felt that anger and betrayal from a couple of different perspectives (both as the betrayed wife and the child bearing the betrayal of the parent who was cheated on), so I can guess a little something about what they must be feeling. I’ll be here if they ever reach out. (Some of their children already have.) But I won’t ever push them. That’s just not me. I hope I was thrust into their lives for a reason, though. I hope my existence serves some purpose for them…perhaps to teach an important lesson they desperately need to learn, perhaps to provide donor tissue when no one else possesses the right match, perhaps to be a friend when they need one.

Now, I just need to find a way to muster the courage to tell my extended family…my wonderful uncle and cousins I adore. I don’t want to hurt them, but I think they deserve to know, and I deserve not to have to keep this from them. I’m sad that we’re not related by blood, but I know they are my family never-the-less. I’m happy that I have a new family with members who are so willing to embrace me. I’m happy that I feel an explainable bond and kinship with them…a familiarity that I’ve always yearned to feel but couldn’t. I feel complete for the first time in my life, and I think that’s a good thing.

Whether we know it consciously or not, we all form an idea of who we are very early in life. Our identities are based on the people in our lives, our family histories, where we are from, and a million other things we identify with. These things and our relationships to them tell us who we are.

Because they are ingrained in us from our earliest memories, most of the time, we don’t even think about our identities; we are just…well…who we are. Every now and then, something can throw us off–for instance, a career change can be devastating. A person who has always identified himself as a teacher might go through an identity crisis if he was suddenly told by “the man” that he can’t teach anymore. But imagine a situation that goes beyond the outer husk of our lives and instead bores into the very core of who we are? As T.S. Eliot would say, “What do I do then? And how should I proceed?”

Who would have ever thought genetics could be so important to identity? I mean, here I am; 54 years old, Caucasian, gentile, from rural Oklahoma with roots on both sides of my family in the Deep South of what is now the United States going as far back as the 1600s. My family were farmers and ranchers for as far back as I can trace, and I’ve done plenty of tracing. In fact, I’ve traced branches on both sides of my ancestry to the 1200s. That’s a lot of ancestry!

But imagine finding out (through pure chance, at the ripe old age of 54) that you’ve got half of your history wrong. Imagine learning that, instead of Bible thumping farmers from Georgia, your father’s ancestors were living in Poland and Germany, studying the Torah. Imagine learning that, instead of a sharecropper’s son from Hollis, OK…a man who worked his way through college to become an educator, your father was a Holocaust survivor who barely made it out of Nazi Germany alive, and somehow became a doctor and an American, against almost insurmountable odds.

Genetics. I am still who I always was, but I am also fundamentally changed. My family is still my family, and yet they aren’t. And yet they are. I still love them as I always have, and I know they feel the same, but my beloved sister is now a half, and my favorite cousin isn’t even genetically related to me. It’s hard to take.

I’m not going to lie. This revelation has really messed with my head in a big way. I’m like NOMAD on the original Star Trek floating around saying, “Non sequitur; your facts are uncoordinated.” That’s exactly how I feel. Confused. Facts I’ve believed my entire life are now fiction. My identity doesn’t make sense anymore.

People who have never been through this have no idea what this kind of discovery does to a person. Almost universally, they spout platitudes like, “The people who raised/love you are your real family.” I’ll be honest; I want to punch these people in the stomach and see how they like it. Of course they’re my real family; nothing could change that! That’s never been at issue. People who say this don’t have any inkling as to what the real problem is. The real problem is that who I thought I was…my personal identity…has changed. Identity is fundamental, and to have to rewrite it at this late stage of life is devastating. I can’t see myself as the offspring of colonial Americans anymore. I can’t see myself as Scotch-Irish. Nor can I see myself as the child of a happily married couple. How sad.

What really ticks me off is that I could have known my father. Instead of losing him in 1962, my father died in 1994. I was robbed of that opportunity to meet him or even watch him furtively from across the street. For that, I will always feel betrayed.

It hasn’t been all bad. I have new relatives who seem really nice. I hope to get to know them. I’m sure they are in their own circle of hell right now, but I hope, with time, that they will want to know me too. I guess time will tell.

It’s probably been three years since I logged into my blog. I had high hopes that blogging would be something I’d do on a regular basis to get to know myself better and let others know who I am, and I did keep it up for quite a while. There’s some pretty good stuff here, though a lot of the pictures and videos have disappeared with time. I just reread some of the things I’ve written on this blog since 2007, and some of them were pretty entertaining and/or thought provoking. I have to admit, I laughed out loud at the Mystery Pooper post, though my guess is you had to be there to get the full effect.

I really got something out of writing all those posts, so it surprises me even now that I stopped writing so abruptly. It’s not like I didn’t have a lot to learn and share. The last three years of my life have been some of the most interesting. I guess the truth is that life just got me down for a while after Mom died three years ago this month. I didn’t feel like sharing anymore; all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and lick my wounds. I didn’t feel like exploring myself either; too much yuck there I just didn’t want to face. And so the blog lay dormant with no ego to drive it.

Funny thing about life…it goes on without you even realizing it. In spite of the fact that I thought my life was completely settled, over the past week, I’ve learned more about myself than I have in the rest of my life combined. I’ve learned that I’ve been lied to and cheated out of something I would have held very dear. My very identity came crashing down around me, like so many bricks from a wall that no longer serves a purpose. This has been, understandably, one of the worst and best weeks of my life. Now, I have to learn who I am all over again! I’m picking up those fallen bricks, and one by one, building something new and exciting. Hopefully, it will spur me on to think critically and do some personal writing again.

Forty-one years ago, when I was just 11 years old, I began a daily habit that shocked my pre-teen sensibilities and changed my life forever.

I had spentAMC Logo a lifetime — a whole 11 years — being disgusted with daytime soaps and the women who watched them. How could they waste their time on As the World Turns or Days of Our Lives when there was Bugs Bunny of Daffy Duck to watch on another channel?? Those times when I was left frustrated while my babysitter (not my mother…never my mother!) watched her serial had left a bad taste in my mouth. So imagine my horror when I realized I was hooked on a new soap opera called All My Children.

It had begun quite innocently. I’d tuned in by accident as the first episode began. Susan Lucci in the '70sI wSusan Lucci nowasn’t even supposed to be home, but I think I was sick or it was a holiday. In any case, I watched as I ate lunch that day and became enthralled when a girl I perceived as not much older than me began to talk about how she was going to be someone someday. She was going to be a star!

Little did we know…

I never missed an episode. During lunch hour, I either watched it at home or on a TV in a deli close to school. After we got a VCR in 1976, I began taping it every day. The ability to play back the juicy parts was wonderful, and I took full advantage of that opportunity. Even cutting out the commercials, a single viewing could last almost twice as long as the show itself.

When the Internet came along, I immediately recognized this medium as one where I could finally find like-minded people who were interested in really discussing the show. I was an AOL member when the service was new and in 1993 found a forum for AMC on their TV channel. Mine was the first post on that forum. I had no idea whether anyone would ever read what I wrote, but I wrote anyway. In a few weeks, there were a few more posts, and soon, we had our own thriving litPhoebe and Langleytle community in our corner of AOL where we discussed plot lines, ideas, characters, and made fun of some of the things they made the actors do. It was on this forum that I met two friends who are still dear to me today, Beth and Karen. Beth had an All My Children newsletter that eventually went to thousands every day. Karen was just feisty and very savvy when it came to AMC. I love them both to this day.

One day when I was rereading some of our posts about the show, I got the idea that ABC might be interested in knowing what was going on. This was a demographic that they were really unaware of at the time, and I was sure they’d be interested in being able to get immediate feedback, so I copied 12 pages of the best of our posts and sent them to the executive producer of AMC along with a letter telling them about us and about all they were missing. I didn’t get a reply, but imagine my surprise when they did a storyline that was almost exactly like the one I had suggested and written about in detail on the forum! (For you fans out there, it was the one about Trevor’s sister’s brake line getting cut.)

Little by little, people related to the show began to post on our little forum. A playwright who Michael E Knightsometimes wrote with Michael E. Knight became a regular, and it was through her that he and I got to know one another online. I was a Mac maven back then and had a popular newsletter called “The Newbie News and FAQs” to help out people new to AOL and the Internet. Michael was an actor with a new Mac and was clueless. I helped him learn how to use his machine, and he made me laugh. We shared several emails, and unless our mutual friend ever told him, he was never aware that I had been in love with him from afar for many years. I still have recordings from voicemails he left on my answering machine, and I still have his autographed picture hanging on the wall of my bedroom, and there it will stay.

ABC eventually killed our forum and started their own on AOL, and it became huge. A behemoth in fact, where millions of people tried to hold conversations about the show while old regulars Michael E Knight on my wallbegan discussing their children, diapers, in-laws, etc. with other older posters who’d by this time become friends. The actors, excited by the new medium, often popped into our chat room. It was wonderful to get to talk to Michael, Susan, and the others when they’d pop in. (Though I remember being a little annoyed when Kelly Ripa would join us. She was a teenager, and we were interested in talking with the adults. I find this hilarious now.) After a time, when things started to get really out of hand with the now huge forum, Beth, Karen, I and a few of our other AMC original posters quietly left the ABC forum and started our own again. You wouldn’t believe the catfight when we were found out, but that’s a story for another day.

I could go on and on with AMC stories and how the show impacted my life, but I’ve regaled Susan Lucci at signingyou enough for now. Suffice it to say, I have my Erica Cane “biographies.” I have my rarely used bottle of Enchantment perfume and my oft used bottle of Susan Lucci perfume. I havePerfumes my picture of MEK and my voicemail recordings of him leaving messages for me. (He had a cold at the time…and girls, he said JINKIES!) I have my memories.

In all these years, friends have come and gone, family members have passed, but All My Children has always stayed. Until today, at 1pm, I don’t think I really thought it would end. But it has, thanks to the shortsightedness of an ABC Daytime exec who doesn’t understand that you can’t use Neilson ratings anymore to judge a show’s viewership. Most of us TiVo or use another DVR now. Unfortunately, he’s too backward to know that and cancelled the show in favor of a food talk show that’s much cheaper to produce. His stupidity is our loss.

AMC is supposed to continue in 2012 on the Internet. I hope they can pull it off, but I don’t have my hopes up too high. I cried like a baby today as I watched the final episode. After 41 years, those people seem like family. I’ll miss them, and I’ll keep the light on hoping to see them again.

AMC Cast

Ha!

You thought I was using hip ’60s slang for drugs; right? Wrong-o! I’m talking about my rarely fed blog. It’s been a downer, man…a real downer.

So, let’s get right to it. It’s been a difficult couple of years. Bad job. (Really bad job.) Beloved pets dying. My mom dying. For a while there, it seemed like nothing good would ever happen again. At first, I started posting about my sadness thinking it would be cathartic, thinking I’d get back to the regular stuff later, but then I’d come back later, and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t post something frivolous after posting about the death of a loved one. It seemed disrespectful. It was depressing. It would have been a lie. So, I’ve stayed away.

But I’m giving you notice here and now. I’m done with that.

Well, almost.

I have one more tribute to post for now. Sadly, there may be some later at some far distant point in the future, but this tribute calls to me now. And I don’t consider it a downer, really. It just is what it is. A goodbye of sorts, a fare thee well, an I’m REALLY going to miss you kind of post. So here goes…man, I hate endings, especially when we’re talking about something that isn’t supposed to end. Boo!

The word “hack” has gotten a bum wrap.

In the old days, a hack was a horse or a taxi cab. Sometimes it was a writer (like me) who wrote boring prose full of trite phrases. It could even mean what a person does to a piece of wood with an axe. Today, when I think of hack, though, I think of the constant attempts to hack my website. Every day, at least once a day, I get an email notifying me that someone has signed up as a “user” on my website. When I look at the name and email address, it’s always someone named xsestkcxz or pzytrwq, surely people from Latvia or Uzbekistan, since many people from those countries have vowel-less or near vowel-less names. Surely, these aren’t (gasp!) made up names!

So here’s a message to you hackers. I know I haven’t been posting to my blog for a while…it’s just been a place where I’ve announced the deaths of my pets and my mother…but I’m still here, hackers. I’ll still thwart your every attempt at trying to gain access and control to post your ridiculous spam ads that aren’t even translated into English well enough to fool anyone. And soon — VERY SOON — if I have anything to say about it, I’ll be back posting funny thoughts or interesting recopies. But you will NEVER gain control.

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