I can’t really get over how awesome this photo is.
I’m heading to California in January for a wedding, and I’m going to spend two weeks there visiting friends and maybe writing in a tiny cabin in woods in Marin or Big Sur. I want that to happen so badly, but the world isn’t really cooperating. Apparently tiny cabins in bougie hippie areas are really damn expensive. Obviously.
Driving around California makes me so happy. It’s always been calming and cleansing (well, not when I was learning to drive in Los Angeles at the tender age of 24 - that was fucking terrifying). When I picture myself driving through the Sierra Nevadas with a passenger seat full of In-and-Out detritus I can actually feel my shoulders release and my eyeballs relax.
The whole reason for the trip is that a friend of mine is getting married, but I’m excited to see all my other friends and to see my Aunt Arlene who lives in San Diego. Not only am I excited to see her, but I’m super excited to actually ask her questions about my family.
That’s what the next step is, as I said before. I need to get some other people’s perspectives in here. I’m not going to tell her, or anyone else I talk to, about this project, so I’m not sure how I can have a formal conversation without seeming shady, but I’m certain it needs to happen.
My aunt isn’t the only person that I want information from. I’m currently trying to track down the woman who was my father’s mistress when he died.
My father was living with a Swiss woman named Irene (that was also his mother’s name) when he died. She was an economics professor, and I don’t know if she lived in Ukraine full-time or was just visiting. My sister, who was working in Ukraine the summer my father died, asked Irene if she was having an affair with my father and instead of answering her directly she wrote my sister a letter in which she apparently gave a long-winded “Yes.”
I have no idea when my sister even told me about Irene. It probably wasn’t right when my father died. Having that information must have been a really awkward burden for a twenty-one year old. It’s one thing to know your father’s living with another woman and not being able to tell your mother or little sister about it, and it’s a whole other mess to hear your mother go on and on about how great your father was after he died when you know he was living with another woman and lying to his wife about it. Maybe those are equally terrible.
I’m not sure if my sister asked my father about Irene directly, but I remember her telling me that he asked her not to tell my mother because “she wouldn’t understand.” You think?
I’ve always been curious about Irene and wanted to know more about her, but it was never really a priority. Now it so is. But since I’ve known about her for so long my sister is very suspicious about my questions. She thinks they’re weird, and she thinks I’m weird for asking them.
This is actually the most I’ve ever thought about this woman, and the more I write this the more shocked I am that I’ve never thought about it more. I can’t remember how I reacted when my sister told me my father was living with another woman when he died. I must not have had much of a reaction. I probably didn’t even care that much, but that’s changing as I type. I don’t feel personally betrayed because I never held him in particularly high regard, but I am pretty pissed for my mom. He really did move to Ukraine and create a whole new life.
I’ve been trying to find Irene for the past week. I’ve Googled all sort of combinations of this woman’s name + Economics Professor, + Economics Professor + Ukraine, Economics Professor + Ukraine + Switzerland and I haven’t come up with anything. I did find many, many people with the same name on Facebook. I friend requested two of them who seemed like they could have been my father’s Swiss mistress 18-years ago – I picked them based on the following criteria: “She looks like a trashy older woman who lives in Ukraine who thinks she looks very elegant” and “She’s standing behind a podium” - but I haven’t heard anything. I really want to find this woman. I assume she’ll be shocked to see my last name in her in box, and I hope I can convince her that I only want to ask her some questions—I’m not angry and have no interest in making her feel bad. I don’t. However, I am very interested in finding out about her relationship with my father and what she has to say about him.