Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chapter 18: 3,2,1- CONTACT

I dialed the home phone number.  It rang.  Nobody answered.

I dialed the mobile number.  It rang.  A woman answered.

"Hello.  I'm calling to talk to Malcolm?"

"Just a minute darling, he's driving and has to pull over."

As I waited for him to come on the line my heart was beating out of my chest.  I was taking the kind of cleansing breaths you take when you are in labor.  In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Then.

"Hello young lady."

His voice was deep, booming and authoritative.  Confident.  A spontaneous smile burst onto my face.

"Hi.  How are you?"

Immediately he got into it.

"Well, I want to say that I'm mad this happened to you."

"Nothing happened to me, I'm fine."

"I wasn't told about you and I'm mad that this was done to you."

"Ummm."

"I'll never forget that day."

"What happened?"

"I'm not going to say, but I won't forget it."

The female voice in the background said "Ask your Mum."

Malcolm repeated it. "Ask your Mum."

"OK.  So.  How are you?"

"If I had known about you I could have helped you.  I come to America all the time.  I buy my cars from Mayberry Ford on Hollywood Boulevard."

This was astonishing to hear.

"Really?  You come here all the time?"

"I used to- for work."

"What kind of work do you do?"

Here's where it really got interesting.  I'm not going to get too much into specifics for reasons of privacy, possibly security and also, well you'll understand soon.

Malcolm went back and forth a little bit about how he's not supposed to tell me what he had done for a living.  His other children had never known.  He was forced to be gone for months at a time, working for the government, a prominent American contractor and various other international operations.  Everything he worked on was to be kept a secret and for his own safety the Government insisted that he not be listed in the Electoral Rolls.  He said that that is why I hadn't been able to find him.  He mentioned a particular incident that happened in the early 1970's that had been "classified" but has since been released to the public.  He said that he was contracted to work on that particular operation. (I had never heard of this incident-but after a quick Google search, found out that it had indeed occurred at the time he had said.)  He was a "driller" and "cranker" and, though I don't quite understand it, I think he worked on "rigs" of some sort.

At this point I was ready to hear more about his childhood and his family history.  I asked him his birthdate and if he had any siblings other than Kym. (He does not).  I asked him about his parents.  He said his father, Lionel, was a Scientist who also travelled a lot.  He is listed in the Electoral Rolls as an "Electrical Engineer".  He was quick to tell me that Lionel had been an alcoholic and after his parents split up he saw very little of him.  He got along with his mother, Arlene, a lot better later in life.  She had died in the 80's of emphysema but had never smoked in her life.

I asked him about his grandparents.  They were Clarence and Ethel.  Ethel's maiden name was the same as a former Australian Prime Minister and he was quick to mention that she was related to him in some way.

When I asked if he was Irish he got quite obstinate and insisted that his family were "Celtic Scots".  He said that he was 6th generation Australian and that his forebears had had some sort of "skirmish" with Douglas MacArthur before coming to Australia in the early 1800's.

 He said that he had gone to a Catholic Boarding School in Sunbury,Victoria called "Rupertswood".  I had never heard of it, but he assured me that it was very prominent and had only accepted students that had above a certain IQ. It was also the home of "The Ashes".  For my non-Australian readers, "The Ashes" is a Cricketing tradition.  It involves an annual (I think?) Cricket match between Australia and England.  Said ashes are apparently the remains of a ball that was burned after Australia beat England in a match and was said to commemorate to memory of "English Cricket".  There is some sort of urn that contains these ashes and I guess whomever wins each series gets to keep the ashes until the next match (or test.?)
I really don't know- or care. If you are reading this and feel an overwhelming desire to correct/clarify my description- please don't waste your time.  It really has nothing to do with the story after all.

 Later I would research "Rupertswood".  While it has quite a history as a private estate, boarding school and hotel, it's most notorious lore is that of the prosecution and conviction of several of the Salesian Monks that ran the place in the 70's and 80's.  There are numerous stories of abuse and molestation of the boys who attended the school.  Malcolm would have attended in the 1950's- early 60's at the latest.  In my research I have not found any evidence or reports of this sort of abuse occurring back then.

I asked Malcolm about his children.  He told me their ages and gave short descriptions of each.  I asked if he minded if I reached out to them on Facebook and he said he didn't care.  He made it clear that he hadn't seen or heard from the two oldest (Adrian and Melita) in several years.  When asked why, his response was that they didn't respect his rules or his lady.  He was very clear about his feelings on the treatment of women and he had several philosophies that, I'm sure, were meaningful and succinct to him.  I found many of his thoughts confusing and often contrary to previous statements.  He is 70 years old however, so it is understandable that certain thoughts may be a little foggy.

He told me that he was 6'2", fit and healthy.  Six Feet and Two inches tall.  Lynn's estimate all those years ago had been way off!  According to her he had been almost the same height as her.  Can a man grow another three inches after the age of 21?  Why am I so short?  Malcolm's other kids are each at least 5'7"- and their mother is tiny.  She looks to be about 5'1".  He said his grandmother Ethel was quite small, so I must have inherited the short gene from her.

After about 45 minutes I realized that I had been asking all the questions.  He was great about responding and had long, descriptive explanations for everything.  However, he knew nothing about me.

"Do you have any questions for me?"  I asked

"Yes.  When are you coming to visit me?"

Whoa.  

"Ummm.  I don't know.  I've just found you and it's quite a long trip.  I'll have to think about it."

"You'll stay with us right?  We have plenty of room."

"Uummmm...."

Malcolm was referring to himself and Carol- the lady who had answered the phone.  She is his third wife.  After divorcing Vicki (the mother of his children) he had been with a lady named Maggie for several years until she had unfortunately passed away from breast cancer.  I'm not sure how long he and Carol have been together, but she has several children and grandchildren that he says he treats like they are his own.

I decided I needed to get some more questions answered.

"Are there any actors or entertainers in your family?"

"No.  All my kids are educated."

Now. My immediate thought was that he was making a joke- or that he really doesn't understand that being an entertainer is not something that you do because you're too stupid to do anything else.  Having been raised by so called "civilians" I have encountered many an attitude that seems naive to understanding the skill, intelligence and discipline involved in being a successful performer.  At that moment I shook it off and didn't really dwell on his 'faux pas'.

"Well, I guess I'm the first then."


I think he got a little flustered and realized that perhaps he had mis-spoken.

"Oh. So you're famous are you?"

"No.  I have been a working actor most of my adult life though."

"Lovely."

"Is there anything else you'd like to ask me?"

"When are you coming to see me?"

"I still don't know."

We went back to me asking the questions.  He liked to answer questions.  He liked to tell stories.  He knew something about everything.  He had a confidence about him that reminded me of a teacher or a television presenter.  He knew a lot about tall ships, automobiles and dogs.  He had never drank or smoked in his life.  He didn't own a computer.  He called himself a "Luddite".  He told me that a Luddite is someone who opposes the use of technology.

From Dictionary.com.
 Luddite: a member of any of various bands of workers in England (1811–16) organized to destroy manufacturing machinery, under the belief that its use diminished employment.

My guess is that anyone who calls themselves a Luddite in this day and age is likely just a technophobe.  I'm sure there are many 70 year olds that don't use a computer and don't think that they are missing out on anything.  It does, however, surprise me that someone who claims to have worked as an engineer and on main frame computers in the 60's would later resort to Luddism.  It's an interesting juxtaposition.

After about an hour and a half I decided that it was time to hang up.  I was exhausted by this influx of information and had barely had time to write anything down.  Looking at my notes from that day there is a cluster of disjointed exclamations.  Celtic Scots. Diana Trask. Mayberry Ford. Douglas MacArthur.Vietnam Cranker. Timboon. 1808.

This was a lot to take in.  I left him with the promise that I would call back soon and that I hoped to connect with my half-siblings on Facebook.

After hanging up I experienced a curious sensation.  I had just spoken to my FATHER for upwards of 90 minutes.  He had been friendly- even happy to hear from me.  He claimed to have never known about me.  Then I realized. He STILL knew nothing about me.  He never asked about my childhood, my hobbies, whether I was married or had any children.  Nothing.  He had no curiosity about why I lived in the United States.  He simply had never asked anything.  It seemed that had already come to the conclusion that I had been an orphan and was looking for her daddy.  Perhaps he was nervous, in shock, didn't know that it was okay to ask questions.

 I don't know.

 I can't say that I was disappointed.

 The door was wide open for further contact.

  I couldn't, however, shake the feeling that he had needed to control the conversation-and that he was more concerned about guiding my perception of him than to even think about being interested in me. As I spent the rest of the day marinating in what had just occurred I began to come to a realization. I have always had this desire to create alternate realities.  My personality has always come across as larger than life.  One of the driving forces in my search has been my desire to pinpoint why exactly I am the way I am.  I could speak forever about my take on Nature versus Nurture, but in the end, I have yet to come to a conclusion about it.  I was raised by people that were in a different play than I was.  They already knew their lines- while I had to improvise and hope that I was doing it right- all the while not feeling authentic or fulfilled.  Alternately, when I found my mother, I was delighted by her kindness and relaxed take on life.  Yet, I still could not understand how I had turned out this way.  By "this way" I don't mean that as anything other than drastically different from those who raised me- as well as my maternal biological family.

My conclusion was this. I may be the only one that has been paid to act- but I was certainly not the only actor in the family.

One thing was definitive.  Though I had finally obtained my life-long goal- there was still so much more to learn.