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Since this first aired my dad listened and I got the first ever update on my family history in Ireland. Why don't we talk about it? Well I will get into that after but first here are the corrections.
1) The farm I mention was actually my grandmother's sister's husband's farm and it was in England. I did not learn if I had ever visited it, but it is likely that we may have stopped by. My uncle did lose his leg on the farm and my father's family was living in Ireland at the time so my uncle remained in England for medical treatment. It's likely I had assumed the farm was ours since the accident occurred there and I was never given any other details and didn't even know about the family who actually owned it.
2) We aren't sure how many times for sure I went to visit family but it wasn't every second summer. My cousins, aunt's and uncles did come to Canada a few times and we went over there occasionally, so my dad figured I had just confused the two different occurrences. Chalk that up to a child's memory and some interesting years in my early 20s (which likely damaged some brain cells) but my last trip over was when I was 15.
3) I had two great aunts who were nuns, although he thinks I did only meet the one. Also he confirmed there was a great dog there which I loved to play with. So that's likely why the memory stands out so well.
4) There may be more that I don't recall after the conversation but I'm sure my dad will one day remind me. My dad does want to remind people that he finished school in England where he said it was much more enjoyable because there was less of a focus on religion and learning Latin and more of a focus on history and academics.
As a journalist, finding out that I was inaccurate was certainly infuriating. I live for facts and to know that my assumptions of my own lineage were skewed was quite aggravating. At the same time, it was a catalyst for likely the very first honest conversation I have had with my father about his family. At 28 years old, I finally learned the first name of my grandparents. It's also strange, as a journalist, because my occupation and passion is learning other people's histories and lineage, asking strangers tough questions about their own family turmoil. I have never put those questions to myself.
I've been thinking a lot since that conversation about how little I knew about my family and some of the assumptions I had made over my lifetime. Whether I filled in gaps because I was embarrassed not to know or too afraid to ask is certainly a question I am asking myself. The other big question is why wouldn't my family ever speak about it?
As Malone's one cardinal rule in the family, which is unspoken, is only speak on surface issues, sorry mom and dad if you read this, but it's true. We are always aware of where we live, our jobs, movies we have seen recently, but any of the real struggles that would allow for emotional vulnerability are never touched on. They are saved for friends in my case or church for my parents. I have seen families that certainly are close so I know it's not everyone, but for the Malone's the number one thing to do is keep the peace. Speaking about difficult childhoods would not do that.
In the conversation with my father I learned that my grandfather was a bus driver in both England and Ireland. That shocked me because my father only told stories about how sick he would get on the bus and how much he hated it, so I would never have guessed my family's link to it. I'm not sure what I thought he did, but I never thought bus driver. My grandmother apparently helped drive the bus sometimes and was actually born in England. I knew that she had struggled while they lived in Ireland and was isolated but now understanding her English roots and the political tensions at the time, it helps to see why. They lived in subsidized housing their whole lives and financially struggled. I asked, but didn't get a straight answer, about both of their deaths. So although it was implied it was natural, I do not know what happened or when. I know my father left to Canada, mostly for work, but I may never know what they thought about my father's decision to leave and never really return.
Clearly we had an honest conversation, but in the end stuck to the cardinal rule of not stirring anything that could get too emotional. I can only imagine some of the memories are difficult for my father and would like to understand it better, but as a Malone I couldn't push.
So why don't we talk? Why, as an adult, don't I change this trend? I don't know. There are difficult stories on both my mother's and father's side and there is also poverty, I feel to some extent they might feel shame. The pauper who becomes the prince doesn't reflect on his days in the street, does he? At the same time, knowing the struggle both my parents grew up with and where they came to, what they were able to provide for me, makes me honour and respect them. That would only increase if I knew more about who they really are.
When people ask about my family, I keep it on the surface or completely close up. I am continuing the trend and maybe that's the same for my parents. Maybe closing the door to our lineage was something they learned, something that made it easier when my dad had to come to Canada and leave everything he knew behind. Then it was something I learned. In the same way I assume to just not ask questions, my grandparents may have sent the same message.
I'd like to think there's some big family secret like a prince or a robbery that we are all hiding hoping it will go away and then one day someone will drop it on us that we are actually descendants of the greatest railway thief in Ireland, but that's pretty unlikely. In the end I believe that my parents had to close off from their family to survive what was happening in their lives, and it just became easier to stay closed than to reopen.
In my work I speak a lot with people where their culture and traditions tell them to gather and talk about their history and where they come from. It helps them to understand who they are, how far they've come, and where they have yet to go. It's a beautiful thing. I hope I will take something away from it, but the Malone is strong in me.
Will I change? Will I really learn about my family? Will I breach the surface? I honestly don't know.
I do know that this podcast has been a big eye opener. I certainly need to nail down some facts about my family especially in a day and age where my mistakes are logged forever online. It's not only from a professional standpoint though, it's also very personal. Who I am is linked to where I come from. I cannot ask other people to take me into their lives if I'm unwilling to actually look into my own.
I just hope it doesn't take another podcast for the next honest conversation with my family to happen.
Kelly Geraldine Malone is a freelance journalist, podcaster, and radio producer based out of Manitoba, Canada