Sunday, January 22, 2023


A classic fumble: An emergency preparation plan meeting, highly
advertised locally, purpose, time and location provided, but not the day! 

She told me that she’d kept me for six months, my mother—my birth mother. She told me that forty years ago. And it meant a lot to me to hear that.  I don’t remember when that was, at what stage of our reunion, thirty-plus years after our parting. I have loved knowing this. I loved believing that I was breast fed and received colostrum. I loved thinking the six months proved that she wanted me much more than a mother who leaves right after birth.

She told me something else: That my father was a former boyfriend of hers that came home from the war an amputee and an addict. She said she pity fucked him (her choice of verb that sounds a lot better in Québecois) in exchange for getting out of her life. The day after she told me that story, she asked my forgiveness for lying and she told me another story. That she was raped by a friend of her father.

Last year, I found out who my birth father was, and I met some of my relatives. My birth father was definitely not a friend of my birth grandfather, nor was he an amputee. Riding in a car one sunny day in Montréal together with a friend of my mother behind the wheel, my mother said, in response to something her friend had said, ‘Oh, I’d never go out with anybody who was not Québecois.” My birth father is Scottish and grew up in Edenborough.

Another thing my mother told me, that thrilled me, was that she was a lover of Gene Kelly. She showed me photos of them together and letters that he’d sent her—all left to me in her will. They worked together on a film. I believed everything. I was getting some backstory to a life lived with questions, not answers.

I can’t say I loved my birth mother, but I am immensely proud to be her son. I’m proud to be the son of a Québécoise, an actor, the founder of a theatre company, and a film star. (Of course, you don’t know her, but she’s a star because she got co-star billing in A Special Day, with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. She earned the appellation.) But she’s a liar. 

She told me a big whopping lie about my father an hour after meeting me in person for the first time. Plus, she refused to tell me who my father was. That decision made it impossible to love her, and if you can neither believe on respect a person, what have you got?

The reason I was able to sell a screenplay of my life story years ago, is because it’s a story about a young man who has experiences that convince him that he is French. So, he learns French and then chooses to work in professional performing arts. And then he meets his birth mother who is Québécoise and had a career in the professional performing arts.

Because I had those experiences, I believe my mother told the truth about keeping me for six months. I still believe that hearing French in vitro and for my first six months of life, planted a seed. I am mighty fucking proud of knowing, without proof, that I was French. I am proud to be Québecois; I think of myself as 50% Québécois by blood; 100% Québecois in my soul.

 I was convinced that I was French. I am 50% Québecois by blood, 100% Québecois in my soul, as far as I am concerned. Culturally, I’m English Canadian. But I’m even more proud of knowing it. Knowing it. Because I knew nothing at all about my heritage. For the lucky ones who get loving parents, their pre-history isn’t necessary. They accept their non-genetic family as their own. People like me who didn’t get loving parents, have no story at all until we make one. Knowing I was French, without proof, is my proudest achievement in life. That’s how I feel what I experienced. Knowing something without proof. It thrills me to be living proof of the human capacity to know the unknowable. Prescience is foretelling the future. I wonder what describes intuiting your genealogy.

But I can’t say that I believe the story about Gene Kelly anymore. The letters are as of friends. The photos could be of the shooting of a big deal motion picture. I’m pretty sure it was An American in Paris. (I’m too lazy to go through files in boxes in my attic.)

I had eight years with my birth mother, and I found out who my birth father was three years ago. I grew up believing I would never find them, but I did. Imagine that. That amazes me.

Another thing that amazes me is that I got infected with HIV, most likely a result of cleaning up blood when a friend visiting me punctured an artery. I was trying to stop his bleeding with hands open due to eczema cracks on my hands. I went to my GP when my friend called from the hospital to tell me I’d been exposed to HIV. He had no idea that he was positive. (Telling you about the assumptions of people, and their judgement, is another story.)

I went to my GP, had the test, tested positive and my doctor gave me a referral to Julio Montaner. Not long before my appointment, I got a call from Dr. Montaner’s office, telling me that my appointment had to be moved to a later date.

Here’s the point of the story: My appointment had to move, because Dr. Montaner was at the World AIDS Day Conference as part of a team of HIV researchers who’d discovered the cocktail protocol for HIV-AIDS treatment. I was not going to die! That was in 1996.

And gays can marry. And marijuana is legal.

Things I thought would never happen.

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