Have you ever burst into tears over a dead bug?
Likely not. I hadn’t either until a couple weeks ago. I was stretching out doing some gentle yoga when I noticed a ladybug on the edge of my mat. I went to gently move it, and realized it was dead. I felt crushed. I’d delighted over seeing it on the marbled kitchen counter a couple days prior. Even though I don’t invest much in the idea of good luck charms, I’d seen it as a sign–a wink from the universe affirming my big leap into the unknown, this migration from CA to Minnesota.
As I cried over the ladybug, I heard the voice in my head say: “Don’t be ridiculous! You’d never cry over a beetle or spider! You’re a bug racist.” True enough. But as the tears continued to flow, I realized that this had nothing to do with a ladybug, and ALL to do with a severe case of PMS: Post-Miracle-Syndrome.
I was only a few days into this brand new adventure and adjusting to my new home with Mark and Alice–my biological father and his wife. I’m sure that crying over spilled bug was more a result of this whirlwind of change and emotions that swept me off the ground since learning of Mark’s existence. In fact, I haven’t stopped marveling over this manifestation of a miracle. Just over 3 months ago, it was inconceivable to me that I would ever find and connect with my biological father, let alone that I’d be living with him. In Minnesota.
Today actually marks three weeks since my arrival in Mark and Alice’s home. When I look around at this beautiful guest unit that Mark built above their garage, I find it impossible to believe that he did not build this space with me specifically in mind. The walls in the living room are painted burnt orange (my favorite color); small Persian and Turkish carpets adorn the wooden floor; light floods the space through windows on every wall; a large Buddha figure peers down at me as I lie in corpse pose on my yoga mat.
Each day my eyes explore a new object of beauty as I peer up from my computer screen. There are literally hundreds of paintings and drawings on the walls both in the main house and in what has now become “my” apartment.
They bring to mind Mark’s first email to me, after our initial connection on Ancestry. He had written: “As you know by now, I have a link to the art world, albeit an unconventional one. I lecture on art forgery, the art market, and of course, Elmyr.”
But I didn’t “know by now” because his very first email had gotten lost in cyber space. And my first attempts to google him using his name and email had not been productive. So upon receipt of this email, I glommed onto the new keyword he’d provided: Elmyr. Now I got some results!
I pulled up one very in-depth article which spoke about Mark and his relationship to Elmyr de Hory, described as the world’s most talented and most successful art forger. (http://mspmag.com/Out-And-About/Articles/Features/Con-Artistry/). While I’d never invested much thought into imagining what sort of man my biological father was, or how his life turned out, I can assure you that I never surmised that he was keeping the company of world-famous art forgers and tasting the lifestyles of the rich and famous by age 21.
I learned that Mark met the charismatic Elmyr in the first moments after stepping off the boat in Ibiza and said yes to his charm and offer to stay in his guest room that night. Within days, he said ‘yes’ to the offer to be Elmyr’s assistant, in exchange for room and board. Who could say ‘no’ to such an adventure, I wondered.
When I shared the newfound information with my sister the next day, she responded with, “Who could say ‘yes’ to working for a notorious art criminal?” Alas, that is a good philosophical discussion for another time. But I was rather tickled about his colorful background.
And I was even more tickled when I learned that Mark’s main motivation for going to Europe at age 20, was to escape the Vietnam draft. My sister and I had always joked that our bio parents were surely “flower children” since we were born at the end of ’68, and our political views diverged significantly from our adoptive parents. Since we’d each been arrested for various anti-militarism actions in our younger years, I had to chuckle when I learned that we just might be a “chip off the old block.”
Then I thought of my dad, who would likely be rolling his eyes from his grave, for he’d never looked favorably upon Vietnam protestors. (He had served in the army and then became a law enforcement officer.) To this day I have vivid childhood memories of him fuming every time they showed Jane Fonda or anti-war demonstrations on the evening news.
It felt surreal to learn about the life of my biological father through a magazine article. And to see a face for the first time: a picture of him in his home, with paintings adorning the rust colored wall behind him. And now I am seeing these paintings IRL – in real life. And as I write this, I again pause to take in “my” apartment and its walls that breath art and beauty.
Years ago I spent a couple months in Bali and this had been my big take-away from that experience: beauty is not a frivolous thing, but essential. I realized I’d always assumed it was one of those ‘extras’ in life—nice but not necessary. But Bali taught me that beauty is medicine for the soul. And I feel that medicine as I soak up the aesthetics around me. Mark and Alice invited me here in their desire to support me in healing my body. Yet in the meantime, they’ve also provided salve for the soul.
A voice whispers in my mind: Mark created this for you. My mind flashes back to our first days of email exchange. He’d asked me the simple question “Where are you living now? Are you still in Turkey? Italy? In CA?” When I read his question, I heaved a deep sigh. It was a simple question which should have elicited a simple answer. But it wasn’t. Did I dare share with him my frustration about feeling like I was in a perpetual state of transition since returning to the States in 2016 after 15 years abroad? Did I dare admit that I was again in a transitional state, looking for work, and staying with a friend and not sure what was coming next?
I hesitated, but I did dare. I shared some disappointments, hinted at some of the struggles. I admitted that I had not yet found my footing back in the U.S. And then I felt total REGRET after hitting ‘send.’ It was too soon to be that open, that vulnerable, my mind said. I’d been too negative; I should have waited some weeks, some months, until this new relationship was on solid ground. He’s going to think I’m a loser.
So I never imagined I’d receive this reply the very next day:
Marci, you’ve shared some of your setbacks. (What I’m about to offer is not without forethought.) In 2016, we put an addition on our house. One of my longtime passions has been building and designing. Alice and I had discussed on occasion the possibility of putting on an attached garage. I said yes, we could do that but that would still leave us with a two-bedroom, two-bath house. If you let me build up, I said, we could make it a three-bed/bath house. And, oh, this would be my last hurrah. During the building, Alice kept asking, So, why do we need this space?
The universe works in ways we don’t always understand. You’re welcome to come visit and/or stay as long as you are comfortable. Please think of this as a safe house to regroup, collect your thoughts, de-stress. We would honestly be ecstatic with joy if you would come for as long as you like. I consider this time in my life – with Alice – the halcyon years. We live on a lake and Alice radiates a Buddha-like serenity that lowers everyone’s blood pressure.
Too soon to make this offer? That’s up to you. You’ll let us know when the time is right.
The only thing that prevented me from bursting into tears after reading Mark’s email was my conviction that I was hallucinating. Perhaps upon my 27th reading of that last paragraph, I finally did burst into tears. Three days after Mark’s initial email, he offered something that had been so elusive to me for years. The weary and discouraged part of me could hardly trust in the ruby red slippers on offer. Wasn’t it way too soon? Too fast?
And yet my heart told a different story. It was so ready for this miracle. It whispered: When hearts recognize each other, time is unnecessary. In the realm of miracles, there is no time.
The universe works in ways we don’t always understand. Mark had built the extra unit in 2016. The same year his unknown daughter returned unexpectedly from Europe, in search of a nest.
It took four years, but she finally found her way to it.