Tuesday, June 9, 2015

CHAPTER 23- GOING HOME (Part 3)

We were finally on our way to the iconic Great Ocean Road- but first we had to make a little detour to Timboon.  I had heard that word mentioned so many times by Malcolm and I couldn't imagine not laying eyes on the place of which he has spoken so fondly.  I don't think he has ever claimed to have lived there- but it continuously came up in responses to questions about his family history.

We descended into this little town nestled in a basin of sorts and to my left, I noticed a car dealership called "Timboon Motors".  I guess that could be the current version of the Timboon Motor Company? It was a small town- so I'm sure someone would know of the Campbell history in these parts- right?  The downtown area consisted of a main street that curved around some shops and eateries and then ascended back up and out of town.  There was a smaller street "above" the main drag that consisted of an op-shop and a Realty business.  Other than that, there was a famous railway line and "trestle" type bridge that had run between Camperdown and Timboon- but had been closed down in 1986.  The Timboon Fine Ice-cream company enjoys some local fame throughout Western Victoria- and is stocked in some stores in Melbourne.  There is a single K-12 school- that also houses the local library.  We decided to check out the local flavor and see if we could get any info on the Reg Ansett situation.  As is my way, I tend to drum up random conversations with strangers that come out of nowhere.  No sooner have I complimented someone on their lovely boutique that I then launch into "have you ever heard of Reynaldo Ansetti?"  The first time I did this, Sharyn audibly guffawed at my sheer gumption.  There are times when I'm tired of pussyfooting around a subject and feel that it's best to show my hand- lay it all out on the table, if you will.  Each time I brought up Reynaldo- I would watch eyes glaze over- a look of bewilderment as though I were speaking a foreign language. I guess, actually, I was.  When that name yielded no response I would then follow with "how about Reg Ansett?".  Now, any Australian over the age of 40 has 'heard' of Reg Ansett- so naturally most expressions went from bewilderment to recognition- though still a visage that seemed to ask "but, why?"  I would then have to explain that I had been "told" that Reg Ansett and my Great Grandfather, Clarence Campbell, were thought to have launched a transportation company called the "Timboon Motor Company" in the early part of the last century- and from the success of that venture- Ansett Airlines was born.  (Malcolm had never mentioned why Grandpa Clarence hadn't managed to get in on that action- though I probably didn't ask.  There had recently come a time where I had stopped asking questions out of fear of having to listen to another incredible and unlikely saga).  Anyway, I ran these questions by almost everyone we saw.  The responses ran the gamut of "Reg Ansett?  Not in Timboon.." to "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha."  Enough said.
As Sharyn and I exited the charming town of Timboon we began to speculate on the emergency town meeting that would be called that evening.  "Who were those two women (one of them an American) asking questions about an Italian man AND Reg Ansett?  They spoke to EVERYONE?"
We crack ourselves up.
Within a half hour we arrived at the Great Ocean Road- and our overnight stop, Port Campbell.  As luck would have it, any Timboon history and "lore" would be housed at the Port Campbell Historical Society- which was just blocks from our hotel.  We passed by it on our walk in to town for dinner and , as it was closed, planned our visit for the next morning.
Port Campbell is a sleepy oceanside town that is probably a booming vacation spot during the "high season".  There were plenty of buses full of tourists from Europe and Japan- but I think the place probably really picks up with the locals during the warmer Christmas season, which was still a few weeks away.  After a light Italian meal we wandered down to the waterfront/beach/inlet area. The sun was just setting and Sharyn snapped a few photos of me staring at the view.  I seem to have deleted most of them- but below is one of them after I ran it through an "app" that turns photographs in watercolors.  Oh well, at least I have that.
Port Campbell, Victoria- rendered in "computer generated" water-color.
The next morning, as I repacked my absurdly over-stuffed suitcase, Sharyn did something that she would have done when we were both twelve- which is why she is the best human ever.  There was was large wooden chest below the window that was being used essentially as a coffee table- or extra seating.  Sharyn, dying to know if there was extra bedding stored in it, had to peak- and found it empty.  She then proceeded to devise a note for the next hotel guest that possessed the same curiosity. The message read:" Thank you for freeing my spirit.  I'm going to haunt you ALL NIGHT.  Muah ha ha ha."  She then proceeded to illustrate the note with pictures of terrifying, flying ghosts and what could be construed as "bloody smudges".  Satisfied at her work, she left the note at the bottom of the empty chest and closed the lid. I love how Sharyn's mind works.

As we headed out of town, we remembered to make our stop at the Historical Society.  This "museum" touts itself has housing collections relating to " Shipwrecks, Early Settlement, Coastal and Rural Development, Commerce, Significant People and Events leading up to the current times." Perfect.
As we entered the converted weatherboard "house" we were greeted by an elderly couple that were anxious to share their knowledge of the area.  There were objects that had been salvaged from many of the several ship-wrecks along this coast.  Though the Loch Ard is the most famous- the numerous other nautical casualties had rendered the area the title of "The Shipwreck Coast".  The Loch Ard relics were limited to a few tiny pieces of pottery and a spoon or two.  Sheepishly, I inquired to one of the docents, "So, would it have been possible to salvage some of the wood from the Loch Ard wreckage and build furniture from it?"  The woman spoke first saying something like-"I'm pretty sure the whole thing went to the bottom of the ocean".  Of course she was right.  If some of the wood had actually been salvaged and built into furniture- how would it have ended up in my fathers house?  At this point I had to give the Reg Ansett question one last shot.  Sharyn took the opportunity to video tape their expressions- to signify the last time I was going to ask anyone about Reynaldo flippin' Ansetti....

We set out along the Great Ocean Road.  My family did a lot of road trips when I was a child- I dare say we travelled to the entire right side of Australia- all the way up through the center and as far north as Darwin.  I do not, however recall seeing the stunning sights of this glorious Victoria Coast.  That's not to say I didn't- but I can't imagine forgetting the beauty and impact of this drive.  It is truly breathtaking.
First stop was the infamous and aforementioned Loch Ard Gorge. Trying to describe it would be a waste of time- especially since the pictures speak for themselves.

Sharyn- speculating that a piece of petrified wood that she discovered was left over from the furniture in Adelaide...



The remainder of the day was pretty much more of this- I don't ever remember taking a trip where every time I would round a bend and see a new view I would spontaneously exclaim "Oh my God!"  It's a sight to behold- and if you ever visit Victoria you are doing yourself a disservice if you miss this area.




Just a few of the "Twelve Apostles"


By mid afternoon we had arrived in Lorne.  We were now entering the areas riddled with cerebral postcards of childhood memories.  From here on out I would be experiencing "sense memory" overload.  Though Lorne has obviously grown in size and population since I was last there, it was a comfort to know that my memory of the basic layout was intact.  It's just a lovely resort town.  It's the type of place I could imagine myself living if I were ever to return to Australia full time.
Lorne, Victoria
After a lunch of my always desired "fish and chips" (with extra vinegar) we strolled along the promenade, took random pictures of dogs (for my daughter- we are a dog family) as well as some wild cockatoos.  There seems to be an over-abundance of cockatoos these days.  While they are beautiful, they are apparently a nuisance to property owners.
Before long we were back in our trusty rental to finish our last 12 miles of the day.  It was twenty short minutes to Aireys Inlet- the home of my friend Linda (of the psychic and the wedding) and her husband and two teenage sons.
Linda is my oldest friend.  By oldest, I mean that I have known her longer than anyone, other than my immediate family.  I have a vivid memory of the day my family moved into the house across the street from Linda's family (the Edwards- or "Edgys" as they were known around town.  Aussies love to give everyone nicknames).  We were three.  We were on the sidewalk and she was chasing me in circles making some sort of inaudible tribal sound, all the while with a crazed grin on her face.  I was afraid.  She was excited because there was finally someone her age in the neighborhood.  We grew up, literally, feet from each other.  
Linda and Mark have lived at Aireys Inlet for, at least, the past twenty years.  They have both always worked in the hospitality business, and they ran a very successful hotel for many years before branching out to new endeavors. We checked into the motel closest to their home and before long Linda was there to pick us up and take us to her house for dinner.
The last time I saw Linda was my wedding- 19 years ago.  Much like Sharyn though, it's always easy to pick up right where we had left off the last time we communicated.  The great thing about life long friends is that, even though you may not have much in common at this point in life- there's a foundation of familiarity.  When we meet as children, we just want someone to play with.  We don't care about their politics, back-ground or agendas.  That's when we get to know people down to their soul.  They are just your friend.  It's the most pure kind of friendship.
Upon Linda's arrival we did the standard staring and giggling- that awkward reconnection thing you do when you realize how much you have both changed- and how much you both haven't changed.
Linda's house was just a mile or so off the main road.  It looked like a modern tree house in the most idyllic setting.  The entire upper floor had a view of a huge open field that is regularly populated by kangaroos. Herds of them. Like cows. Only they're Kangaroos. Really.
It was great to see Mark (Linda's husband) who was busy working on a lovely meal, as he is ever the most hospitable host.  Their boys were both well over six feet tall- and, I would guess, swoon worthy to any teenage girl.  Not a surprise as both of their parents are unfairly attractive people.
Of course, the conversation became about my "journey" and how I had arrived at this point in my search.  It was, once again, nice to have Sharyn there to help tell the story as, by now, she is almost as familiar with it as me.  It's difficult to know where to start- or where to end.  As much as I want to keep the side of Malcolm that is most disturbing (his compulsive lying) out of the story- it really is the most fundamental part of explaining who he is- and how I feel about finally finding my "father".  However, the more I shared about this "trait"- the angrier I started to feel.  I remembered how freeing it had felt to have Sharyn listen in on our early morning phone call two days before.  I was also tired of playing along with the "bull".  I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent, authentic person, and I find it exhausting to have to continue a charade.  With this weariness, coupled with a healthy, third glass of wine- I pulled out my phone and exclaimed "listen to this".  I pushed the button that corresponded with the label "Walter Mitty", activated the hands free feature and set the phone down on the table.  As it rang, I brought my pointer finger to my lip to signal that everyone should keep quiet.  It rang.

"Hello"
"Hi, it's Julie."
"Hello there young lady. How is your trip?"
"Good.  We went to Timboon yesterday."
"You did?  What did you find?"
"Nothing."
Silence
"No history of Timboon Motor Company.  No one has ever heard of Reynaldo Ansetti.  I asked everyone-even the local historians."
"Aw- it's Reg Ansett."
"I know it's Reg Ansett.  There is no history of Reg Ansett ever being near or around the area.  People looked at me like I was crazy."
Silence.  Then.
"Well, you know why that is?  When he went bankrupt nobody wanted anything to do with him- so they don't want to admit to any connection..."
"Seriously?  That's not how it works Malcolm.  Nobody deletes connection with notoriety- no matter how "infamous" they may become.  In this day and age- if someone of that much fame were connected with a location- or a company- you would be able to easily find it on the internet. That's just a fact." 
He continued to talk in circles- thinking that he could convince me that he was right.  I was having none of it.  Somewhere along the way I had reached the point where I was ready to cut my losses.  I had my DNA sample.  I had all of the "truth" that he was able to muster up.  I had known that once I confronted him directly he may never speak to me again.  I realized that I was, indeed, in that moment.  I was officially "calling him out"- there would be no turning back. 
But, instead of shutting down- or hanging up- he just....changed the subject.
"So, how are you?"
It was as though he just pushed a "reset" button.  It was probably his most basic coping mechanism.
Not knowing how to respond to that, I just said something like," I have to go.  I'm having dinner with friends".
"OK.  Bye."
I felt simultaneously victorious and dirty.  I hadn't meant for it to take such a dark turn, but it just sort of snowballed once I knew that this was that "moment".  I can't say how my friends felt about the whole situation- I think it may have seemed as though I'd Shanghaied the poor guy.  I think I tried to gloss over the awkwardness by muttering something like," So, that's pretty much him in a nut-shell." I don't recall if it was clear that this was the first time I had actually argued with him.
As messy as that had seemed though, I knew that this conversation had been inevitable.  I had come to terms with the fact that we would probably never have a "normal" relationship- and maybe never even communicate again.  That seemed like a reasonable option.
  My goal now was to connect with other family members, share my genealogical findings, and continue to research this fascinating clan- to which I was actually related.

Tomorrow was my next reunion with more Brant family in Geelong.