Oh, I’m sailin' away my own true love
I’m a-sailin' away in the morning
Is there somethin' I can send you from across the sea
From the place that I’ll be landing?
The story that I was told from the time that I returned to the US as a pre-teen from my two and a half years in Mexico with my grandparents was definitely more colorful. The tale conjured up images of a sea captain who lived an adventurous, if not admirable, lifestyle. My new stepdad told me the story that his own mother had told him. I had no reason to question the account and so...I didn't. In the years that followed, I would repeat the story again and again. I took the Fagan name in a misguided attempt to keep a sense of unity, of stability, in our family. I didn't want to have a different surname than the one that my mother and my stepfather used. Then I found out that the name had come to him from his stepfather as well.
Being a curious kid, I asked a lot of questions. Russ (my new stepdad) never did say anything about his birth father and I'm not sure he knew anything to tell. But he did tell quite a story about Captain Fagan. The Captain had been a seafaring merchant and so was often not at home. Russ was quite young and didn't see the Captain very much. Then this man, that Russ had barely known, disappeared altogether. Russ's mom told him that she had discovered that the Captain had married other women, in other ports-of-call. In outrage at his polygamy, she left him and divorced him. Later she married another man named Ed. Ed was a quiet, unassuming man, totally unlike my imagined swashbuckling Captain Fagan who had a woman in every port.
More than fifty years had passed and then Russ died while cutting firewood down by the river on his twenty acres. Yeah, the place with the bullfrogs. He was well into his seventies by then. A couple of more years went by, like they do, and then, out of the blue, I got a message on Facebook from a woman, Mary Ann, who claimed to be Russ's half sister. One look at the picture on her Facebook profile and there could be no doubt that they were closely related. She had the Fagan nose. She had been actively trying to find her half brother and my name had turned up. Did I know Russ, she wanted to know. I told her about his passing and a little about the intervening years and my connection with her half brother. Eventually we ran out of things to say. Or so it seemed.
Mary Ann wished me a happy birthday on Facebook this February by private message and we began sharing memories again. One thing led to another and she got on the subject of her father, Captain Fagan, and the end of his marriage with her mother. She said that her father had come home from work unexpectedly and found Emma in their bed with another man. In shock, I told her the version that I had been told. "That's a good one," she said, and explained that her father, Captain Fagan, had owned a modest fishing boat and never got far outside the harbor of New Orleans. He sold fish to the local seafood markets and only traveled outside the area once, when he traveled over land to Los Angeles to visit his mother.
Just when you think you know a swashbuckling, polygamist, world traveling sea captain...
Names have been changed to protect the guilty.