Episode 40: Dad Was a Rascal – Surprise, You Have an Older Sister!
SEASON 2 FINALE EPISODE: We’re joined by Marisa Sullivan and Carol Simpson, who recently discovered they share a biological father. Marisa always wished she had an older sister. Her father died when she was only six years old. Decades later, Marisa received an email that changed her life – and the life of her sister, Carol.
Marisa tells Today.com, “Carol and I like to laugh about how different we are. She’s retired military personnel living in rural Missouri, and I’m a health advocate and entertainment reporter in New York City. Her social media is filled with pictures of her grandchildren; on mine, you’ll find me posing with celebrities on a red carpet.
But our dad lives in both of us.
I get my love of nightlife and adventure from him. He is probably also the reason I’ve been attracted to bad boys. Carol inherited his warmth. She has this ability to make everyone around her feel comfortable. And she’s also very wise, one of those people you’d describe as an old soul. When I’m struggling with a decision, she’s one of the first people I call. Carol aways picks up on the first ring.”
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This is Family Twist, a podcast about astonishing adoption stories and finding family via DNA magic. I'm Kendall. And I'm Corey, and we've been inseparable partners in life since 03-04-05, also known as March 4, 2005. In January 2018, our found family journey took us 3,000 miles from the San Francisco Bay area to New England, where we now live near my biological father, two half-siblings, and their families.
and the adventure continues.
Thank you for joining us again on Family Twist. Our guests this episode are Marissa Sullivan and Carol Simpson, who are going to share their very unique found family story. Welcome to the podcast, Carol and Marissa, or should I say sisters, Carol and Marissa, and how does that sound? Yeah. Yay, thank you. Our first intro, Carol, how awesome. Yeah. Is it weird to be referred to as sisters? Not really. Carol was like, she literally signed her
first email I think your sister, she was very, cause some people can be kind of weird about it at first and it's maybe awkward, but she was just care bear full, her arms fully extended out, your sister Carol, she was, and she also had more time to process it cause she knew months ahead of me and she can fill you in on that part. And then, and yeah, she just made me, we both just kind of warmed up.
pretty easily to each other. Excellent, excellent. So to get started, how I found out about you two was I read the article on today.com that Marissa wrote. And it was like, wow, this definitely seems like a good fit for family twist. I think the thing that struck me immediately was the first photo I think in the article is of your...
parents when they had just gotten married and your dad's got this great grin on his face and he's smoking a joint.
Yes. He had that rascal look on his face and you know, and we forget now that it's getting legalized everywhere, but that was pretty like badass and kind of, you know, back then that was still crazy. That's right. Yeah. You know, doing hard drugs in front of somebody to a certain extent. Right. And he just like had the devil may care look on his face like, hey, I just got married and this is happening. So deal with it. I see that look on.
Carol's face, my face, our brother Mike, I think it's carried on forever. That sheepish little grin. So in that article, you talk about how tough it was to lose your dad at such a young age and how you and your brother dealt with it differently and that you'd always wished you had an older sister, Marissa. So let's talk a little bit about
how that happened, how years later you found out you did have an older sister. Yeah, so yeah, for the sake of the story, a colleague of mine, Rachel, wrote it. It was kind of like an as told and, you know, my story's so, so, so complex. So for her to digest everything and do such a great job, but unfortunately, you know, a lot had to be cut down because nobody's gonna read, you know, that's for my, that's like a series. Nobody's gonna sit there and read my series online.
So she did a great job digesting. But I did just wanna throw out that we do have other siblings. My dad had a, his firstborn son is Tim Jr. He is still alive. He wasn't so much in our lives. So that's why she focused primarily on Michael and I, cause it was just the two of us with my mom Marion and Tim in the house. The others were older. My dad had kind of, he had a couple of adopted kids.
Danny and Andrea and our older brother Tim, who's a half brother, it was just too complex. It just didn't make sense to tell, but I just wanted to make sure that they all got a proper shout out. And I also have a step-brother and step-sister as well. So, you know, it was just one of those things that the story just focused on Carol, my brother and I, but I just wanted to say that because that's important to us. So anyways, yeah. I think I actually told Rachel.
I read the, when I was young, I read those like Sweet Valley High twin books and I kind of, I didn't even want to, okay, not only did I want a sister because I'm such a little brat, I wanted like a twin sister. Like I just wanted, you know, I just thought it'd be so cool. I had always wanted like a twin. So I thought, yeah, I just, I was just, I did, I did want a sister. My brother and I have this, we still have this, we still fight like crazy in a way, but we kind of, we fought a lot. Like,
You know, we were, I grew up kind of, pretty much a little brute, a little tomboy. And yeah, it's like, I feel like in a way, like sometimes, like my mom was my sister and my friend and my mom. And yeah, I did, I did want a sister. So I can't, wait, sorry. Do you know that meme, you guys, that goes around, that was going around on social media like a year or two ago? It said like, if your dad had shoes that look like this.
You probably have other siblings out there. And there are these obnoxious white leather, pimp daddy loafers. And I literally said to myself, I'm like, I bet I do. I'm like, I literally, I almost wasn't shocked to be honest. But I was, yeah, I was so, as a journalist, I'm the one covering these stories. And to have this happen to me, it just stopped me in my tracks for a bit.
I think you posted that and I had seen that too. So probably before I had even reached out to you. So it was kind of like that little internal joke too. Like, yes, you do have other siblings. Yeah, no, exactly. And honestly, I went to go look for myself because Carol was really well-versed in all the genealogy. She had been studying it and she had checked, she had.
What is it, dotted her eyes, crossed her teeth, whatever the phrase is, but she had done some heavy research, runs in the family, and I trusted her, but of course I wanted to see for myself, especially as a journalist, I had to verify. So I did the test through Ancestry, and lo and behold, same exact results. We had a stronger tie than my mom, like my Aunt Peggy, my mom Marion's sister was on there.
Carol and I had a stronger connection than even like my aunt. So that, you know, it was just, it was just obvious that she was indeed Tim Sullivan's first born daughter. What? So Carol, let's talk a little bit about the fact that you did, you, you knew that you had a sibling out there and knew who it was or discovered who it was, but you but you waited a little while to get in touch. Can you talk about that?
Yeah, sure. So my discovery happened really during the pandemic and everything slowed down for us. And I think if it weren't for that, I might not have paid as much attention to what I was seeing. But when I opened the results and there were all of these Irish surnames, I knew that something was amiss and I was going to have to do some research.
And using Ancestry and a couple of other sites, I was able to first get in contact with our uncle in Ireland, our Uncle Jack. And so from there, he did confirm that, yeah, you know, Tim's my uncle, Tim's your dad. And we started talking about Marissa and Michael. And I had told him then that
I don't think it's a good time to reach out to Marissa while she was going through her chemo treatments. I didn't want to bring about a shock or do anything that might create a whole tailwind in her treatment, create stress. Little did I know that it wouldn't have bothered her like one bit.
And so Uncle Jack and I decided to not tell anybody in the family until we knew that she was at least doing better and healthier. And so I stalked her for a little while and she posted quite a bit and I thought, oh my gosh, that's my sister, she's such a rock star. I can't, you know, I can't wait. And then I told Uncle Jack and he's very lyrical.
I said, okay, you tell me when you think the time is right that I should reach out. And he dropped these little clues to Marissa and to me both. And so I figured out that, okay, now's the time to reach out. And so I had sent Marissa an email and then she followed up with a phone call. And I remember when she called, I was in the car with my daughter and I recognized her phone number and I answered.
Hello, sister. And I hear this laughing and we're laughing. And her mom is with her. You guys were on your way to the airport to go pick up Michael. And thankfully, Marion took control of the whole conversation and kind of steered us in a logical, like, how did we get to where we were? And bless her heart.
I couldn't ask for a better, I call her stepmom now, a better stepmother. She's just amazing. Wow, that's wild that that's the first conversation. You know, you're in the car with your mother going to pick up your brother and you hear from your father's firstborn daughter. And she's not the best driver. And we were on the freeway, like going over the St. Petersburg Lake suicide bridge. And she was, yeah, she knew nothing of it.
at all and we to the oh Carol and I have this is breaking news Carol I she heard from one of our dad's best friends on Facebook and he did not know so there's a chance that Tim did not know that you know you and you could tell that side of story if you're comfortable but just so you know yeah my mother she wasn't aware because sometimes you know people keep those secrets nobody knew.
about Carol, I don't think Tim, our dad even knew, which, you know, I don't wanna speak for Carol, but that's the hardest part about, like did this person, did this dad of mine know or not? You know, so. Right, right. Wow. So at the time, so when my mom and our dad met, it was, my mom describes it,
she was selling magazines and was at a gas station and this black sports car came rolling up into the gas station and this man jumped out and she said, and the doors of the car opened up sideways, like a DeLorean. So I think it was his friend's DeLorean that he was driving. And so they started chatting each other up. My mom sold him $75 worth of magazines, he got her phone number.
She made her quota, so she went out drinking with her girlfriend, and eventually they met up and were going out. But she didn't know that he was already married until she got pregnant and then realized, well, this isn't going to work, obviously. They're both from Catholic families. So that's when my mom moved on from Chicago to...
Kansas City. So, you know, it's hard to say who knew what and when that was so long ago, but that is amazing that your mom was able to reach out to him and he didn't know either because we had a lot of questions like who might have known in his circle of friends. Yeah, like did our dad take it to his grave to like, but you know, I would think
his best friend and Carol wasn't the guy that was with him. I'm trying to find, I found his wife. We're both like little stock, stock, stockesses. But yeah, so that's, I don't know. I just hope that's of some comfort because it's one thing and like, I don't want to speak for Carol again, but to, you know, it's one thing for someone to choose not to have you in your life, but.
If they think that like, if they don't even know that you exist, I don't know if it's harder. I mean, it's like a double-edged sword, but I would think it would make you feel a little bit better that it didn't just completely turn his back, you know? I mean, it's so common. We've heard so many stories now about, you know, people not knowing, not having any idea. You know, it's just, now, you know, you can't keep secrets anymore with DNA because DNA does not lie.
But, you know, going back, you know, decades, of course, we didn't have this, you know, consumer technology. And, you know, it's all it's all coming out now. Yeah, I was shocked. We didn't have any. We probably will find out eventually as more and more people upload their DNA. We joke about it. There's probably more. You know, I keep thinking I'm going to get one of those emails from Ancestry, too. I don't haven't had any surprises in mind.
You know, I think my dad and Tim could have been pals. Let's just put it that way. They seem like really social jovial, you know, fun loving guys who, you know, like people and yeah. So I'll just leave it at that. This is the 60s. I mean, not to like, I just think, it was just a different time. Even now, I mean, the things that people are doing behind closed doors, that's why I try to do my part to, I try to normalize all, like I'm pretty open about.
any kind of weirdness or shadiness in my life because everyone has it and they all feel like they're harboring this guilty secret and I feel like it affects your health so badly and that's why I'm just, I just, I tell so much truth that people think I'm actually like joking because, you know, because they wouldn't expect someone like me to share some of the things that I do and I'm like, no, like I just have no, I don't have any shame really.
You know, well, you know, it makes you a better journalist, too, Marissa. I mean, I think if people are like, well, you know, she's willing to be an open book and this forthcoming, you know, you probably get people to drop their guard, you know, your subjects and stuff. Oh, my. You have no. Yeah, you have. You can only imagine, but they they've yeah, they drop their bombs pretty quickly with me. Give me like give me like two minutes with somebody. I'll get to like the nucleus of their core.
That's great. I mean, that's what makes a great journalist. So thanks. And I always say kudos to the people who are, you know, still working in journalism because I just consider myself semi-retired. I mean, this is obviously a form of journalism, but, you know, it's it's it takes a unique individual and a particular skill set to make a career out of it. So hats off to you. Thank you. Yeah, I took a break during, you know, when I was going through cancer and stuff, because, a, I just didn't care about anything or anyone else.
but myself, I was a proud, selfish person, because I'm like, I don't care, none of this matters right now, because I may not be here. And so, you know, I was still, I still like, loved the support I got from everyone, and it just put every, so many things in perspective. I just didn't, just so many trivial things.
I just want to teach people like you, you know, not to be morbid, but it's like any day could be this could happen to any of us like any day could be our last. So I just I've always just seize the day like Tim. Unfortunately, he had a he did evade death quite a few times, though. I don't think it didn't make it into the article, but he survived a small plane crash in San Diego. He was on the I saw with my own eyes the the newspaper is like a local newspaper. It was on the cover.
There's some just a bunch of ruins and he just walked off like scot-free He just was doing he's got all sorts of things My mom said he like lit himself on fire like jump in the water. He hang from bridges. He'd race that was in there He raised just anything that moved horses cars boats So the fact that he made it that far Right, wow, so that's what everybody I've met says about him
You know, Aunt Peggy, my mom, your mom, Uncle Jack, you know, Uncle Jack's wives, they've all said, you would have loved him. He was so full of life, so full of energy that, and when they talk about him, their faces light up. And that's what is so amazing to have that kind of a legacy that people three decades later, four decades later,
Um, their faces still light up when they remember him and talk about him. And so I, I already knew I had like these little nuggets, little pieces from everybody that I talked to about what an amazing man he was. I, um, I, I wish I could have met him and I'm fortunate that, that I still, I, I get to know him through Marissa because I think she is, she must be so much like him that's, um, she's probably the closest I'll ever get.
I'm stuck with you, right? It is pretty true. I do have a fearlessness, maybe not quite to his level. But I was pretty I was like that when I was younger, like big time. I had I would just I'd be cackling on the back of someone's motorcycle at 14. They'd be doing like a wheelie down the street with my long hair dragging on the street. And I'm like, we. So I had no fear that I'm a little more. I'm a bit more careful.
I think I'm verbally bold, but I don't, you know, the hard parting habits that were kind of somewhat like Tim are done. I grew up with a lot of those, but never like addictive type thing, but like, you know, kind of the hard parting, burning the candle lifestyle. And so I chilled out on that, just age, cancer, COVID, you know, you name it. Learning your lesson in multiple directions.
Absolutely, absolutely. So Carol, was the reason that you did a DNA test because you had some questions about parentage or were you just doing it for curiosity? What led you down that path? I was talking to my daughter about our German heritage and what I thought was our German heritage. And I remembered that she had taken a DNA test, her and my son and stepkids.
And I said, Hey, well, let me see your, um, your results there. And so we opened up her ancestry and, and I'm like, who's all of these O's and Macs and Shays and my daughter's like, what is, what is that? And I go, those are Irish surnames. There's like nobody German on here, at least, you know, by surname. And she goes, what's that mean? I go, it means I'm getting a DNA test. And if it.
So if it weren't for those and the Macs and the Shays, I probably would not have done that. And that just random conversation. And it just probably wasn't time for us to find these things out earlier. But towards the end of my career and after what Marissa had gone through and life slowed down during the pandemic, I think...
I think that was the time. That was the time to research and learn and reinvent yourself. And, uh, the, the timing was just right after that. Maybe we wouldn't have seen all of the hints that were out there before in our hectic lifestyles. But because of all this, we were really forced to slow down and take notice. And yeah, we've all been searching for, you know, like comfort going, but all this nostalgia, even like.
Even in TV and film right now, there's all this nostalgia to the, you know, back then, back then before all this craziness took over. So yeah, I think there is a sense of just people are just going back and wanting to learn more and just do anything to go back in time to avoid this crazy world that we're getting. We're still in it. Yes, we're still in it. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it certainly gave us time to reflect.
And, you know, it's been an insane few years. So, wow. So Carol, was it a surprise then that, I mean, was it the parental situation? Was that a surprise? Or if you're comfortable talking about that, like what was your situation growing up? What was your family like? So when my mother left Chicago, she ended up in Kansas City.
And that's where she met the man who I thought was my father. He knew he knew I wasn't his child. But he also knew the stigma back then and he Back then to be a single mother with a child, especially Catholic. That was the worst thing ever. And so he put a name on my birth certificate. He gave me a father.
You know, as far as my mom's family was concerned, they're from upstate New York, and now my mom's in Kansas City, so they didn't know the whole story. And he passed away in 2004, and when my mom finally came clean with me about everything, she said that, "'Your father, John, said thank you for not telling Carol "'the truth because I got to be a part of her life.'"
That kind of made everything okay. So, you know, the, why didn't you tell me? Why didn't, you know, she would have taken it to her grave had I not found out and for good reason. So I can certainly forgive her. I can certainly forgive the situation that she was in at the time. She would have had to go live with the nuns and I would have been adopted out. And this was a way that
She saved me from whatever would have come from that. So I have to be thankful to her for the decisions that she made. And she's very, very happy that Tim's family has welcomed me with open arms. She said, that is just amazing. You would have loved him. That's great. Carol, do you have half-siblings from your mother and stepfather?
Um, yes. So, uh, my younger sister that I grew up with thinking that was my full sister. So now this is my half sister. And, um, so that, that created some, um, a little bit of tension there. Um, so my younger sister said, well, I always knew you had a different father. And on the inside, I was thinking, yeah, I did, I did too somehow, you know, you just kind of look back and you're like.
There's like, I'm not like everybody else for some reason. And then my father who I thought was my father had remarried and had a son. So I grew up thinking that's my half brother, but he's not related at all. So our dynamic changed a little bit, but we brought it all back in. We had this candid discussion that said, no, wait, we will...
will always be family and I'm thankful and I love the family I grew up with. But I also love the family that I'm getting to know and to learn about. And so my younger sister just yesterday said, she goes, yeah, I went back and read that article that Marissa had and she goes, I love her already. So I thought that was so sweet for her to say that.
So it's a, some of that tension, well, most of that tension has, has went away. Good. Well, you know, family has a million different definitions. It means so many different things today. You know, I mean, we, we all have, you know, people, we all have our, our blood relatives and you know, the people are our close, close friends that we consider family and our chosen family. You know, it's, it's, it just runs the gamut. You know, there's no such, there's no, you know, whatever 1950s leave it to Beaver, you know.
It just doesn't exist anymore. And it was kind of a facade even then, as we're finding out all these things, all these secrets coming to light with DNA technology. So, wow. So, Kara, what were you kind of hoping for when you did the test? Like, were you thinking like, oh, maybe there will be siblings out there? What were your hopes and dreams with this?
find out who my biological father was and to get to know my siblings, like blood siblings that are out there. And we joke about there could be more. And I think Marissa's in agreement. If we found somebody, I don't think anything could hold us back trying to reach out and say, Oh my gosh, there's another sister or there's another brother. How?
How exciting. Calm down. They have to be cool like you. Yeah. I'm the tougher one. I'm the tougher critic. They would be. Carol's like the care bear for everyone. I'm like, slow down, there's Cissy. Yeah, I'm the optimist. How did you two start to bond? I mean, that first conversation must have been pretty wild, you know, with your mom and the Karma Rissa, but.
But beyond that, how do two sisters who haven't known each other their entire lives start to bond? Well, since I was, well, I came from, during lockdown when I finished treatment and everything, I drove across country, I left to LA after like 20 years. Missed it, but it was, you know, served a purpose. Who knows, I'll be back. But I still go back for work and stuff. But anyways, I was in Florida, my mom is in Bradenton, Sarasota.
I was living in St. Pete for the year, and so I was fairly close to where she was going up to visit her son and his, well now his wife, and they just had a little baby. She's, Carol's a grandma too. She was going to visit them outside of Charlotte. They live outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and I just so happened to be going to Charleston in South Carolina, and I'm like, you know what? I was gonna just drive, because I'm like, you know what, why fly? I love driving, and it was...
It's still kind of pandemicy territory. So I'm like, oh, I'll just drive, like whatever. So I, yeah, I took my Jeep all the way up to North Carolina and I met up with Carol and her son DJ. And this is like the coolest part. Like I said, like I had to see it for myself for the test. Like Carol's like, oh.
XYZ, I did all the research, definitely do it yourself. And I needed to see for myself, so I did. But it was when I met her son, and I could see a little of Carol in like my, Tim's firstborn, Timmy, who's around the same age as her. But her son DJ looks just so much like our brother Mike and like specifically our dad, Tim. So when he walked in.
Yeah, that's when I started tearing up, because I'm like, okay, this is like for reals. So yeah, we had the best night. We went to an Irish bar. We went to this cool rooftop for a drink, and then we went to this Irish bar, and everyone loved our story so much. We were so happy, and like singing every song together. Carol and I had all the same favorite rock songs, like White Snake and all these 80s weirdo songs, and everyone loved our story so much, that I don't even think we paid for a drink the entire night. Like we had the whole bar.
just entertained and we have all these videos from the night. It was like, it was pretty epic. It was a lot of fun. There was no doubt there was another like check. Okay, White Snake comes on. She's like, here I go again. I'm like, this is my song. She's like, this is my song. And I'm like, what? I'm like, this is the song that I played when I moved to LA. This is the song I played when I moved to New York. Like, this is my song. And she's like, no, no, no, this has always been my song. It's our song.
It's like little things like that were coming up that were just, you know, just little crazy little coincidences from two sisters who didn't know each other. Yeah, I remember. Let me see your eyes, okay? They're kind of like mine, but they're a little bit lighter. Let me touch your hair. We have one side that's droopier than the other, our eye. Yeah, yeah. So we have that. And she's got more of this little draw.
from Kansas, where are you, Kansas City. My Chicago accent thankfully has gone a little away, but it comes out when I'm drinking, but it's mellowed out back in LA. But now I'm in Queens, New York, so I sound like a, oh my God. I'm like nauseating when I have a couple in me. I'm like, oh my God, this accent is coming out. It's like, who am I? I love it, I love it.
So from that first meeting, um, was it like a conversation like, I know we're going to be closer or like, like, let's make plans or how do you, how does the relationship, um, like, how do you further that relationship beyond that initial meeting? Well, I think the next day, the next day we, we, um, we got up and we drank beer the next morning and little hair, the dog that bit us, you know, had some moonshine and had some moonshine. Yep.
Yeah. And we sat outside and we kind of got to know each other and our backgrounds, how different it was growing up for each of us. Some of our experiences might be similar, some are very different. Me being in the Midwest and Marissa being bicoastal, so
Yeah, there's some similarities, but a lot of differences. But I think there's a lot of, I don't know, character things that are probably very similar, even growing up separately. Definitely the drive and the need to succeed and be at the top of our game. That became evident early on.
both having empathy and trying to understand where each other came from. So it did not even feel forced at all. It was just like, okay, this is my sister, you know? Right. What I love most about Carol, oh, sorry. Just real quick. No, please go ahead. What I love most about Carol is like, I feel like innately we're both like truly like.
I feel like we're good people. We are good people, we're morally good people, wanna do the right thing. But does she accept a little bad behavior and has she participated in some as well? Hell yeah. So I would say things and she would not even flinch. So that I think is great because I truly love people. And we all met them, we meet them out. We meet people who are a little stuffy and maybe we're like, oh, they're probably not gonna.
you know, they're not gonna be so keen on this story I'm telling you, whatever. And then they surprise you and they have a little glimmer in their eye or a little smile. People can be different and still kind of be appreciative of another person's different side. But like she was, yeah, she was non-judgy at all and I really appreciated that. And she let some, yeah, she let some bombs drop from her youth as well. And we kind of.
We just, yeah, we were just both very open. And out of the two of us though, I feel like she definitely is the more of the older sister. She's definitely more like the nurture. I think I'm a nurturer. I just, like for a while, I didn't have time to nurture anyone or anything. Like even myself, like my life has crumbled in all areas, like so many times. Not only was I going through cancer, but I was going through like a divorce and.
you know, I'm really vocal, like, it was in the wake of like a pregnancy loss and like, you just name it. I just had so many things coming at me, just from like the career changes to like relationship changes to cross country moves, then Florida to New York, and then just, you know, just, God, I just feel like my life is just always, anytime it's settled, I feel like the tablecloth gets pulled out. Like, I'm just, I'm used to, unfortunately, I'm used to it. Fortunately, unfortunately, because I'm very,
I'm quite resilient. I almost like thrive on it. Like I thrive on that challenge. So I'm just hoping that I finally feel like at ease and at peace and it's a nice feeling. So I, you know, I finally got over my like self sabotage-ing phases. There's multiple and yeah, so hopefully I am focused and hopefully my life has settled down enough to where I do have more time.
for my family and for Carol, but everyone is, she's been very understanding. I always just say, please don't take it personal. Cause I was like, I moved to New York, I think I lost my job. You know, I quit a job last year because of my moral standards that I was just talking about. I was just like, oh, I don't like how this feels here. It's toxic. I quit with like $0 to my name. And I didn't look back. It was terrifying, but you know, and I just, that's what I try to always teach people. It's like.
And then these other doors opened up and I started working for like, you know, a top tier magazine. And so, yeah, you kind of just have to take that leap sometimes and not have that safety net. So absolutely. No, I totally relate. I mean, that's, you know, we, Kendall and I have moved across the country twice now. I heard that. Yeah. You know, yeah, the second time, you know, being because we found his family. So it's.
I totally get it. And it's like, I don't know exactly what I believe, as far as like fate and spirituality and stuff like that goes, but it sounds like a big sister came along at just the right time for you, Marisa. Right, oh my God, you just made me tear up a little. And that was exactly the angle. That was why, like the today show, I pitched like a year ago, I think. And then my friend emailed me, my friend, former colleague, and she's like, hey, do you still wanna do that story?
I don't know, but finding your sister, and that was just evident, I think. It was kind of like this light at the end of the tunnel, the rainbow over this horrible, just like knocked down time after time. And then all of a sudden, just dealing with the pain and loss of my dad, and then Carol all of a sudden magically appears. It's kind of like, yeah, I can't be here for you, but...
Voila, it's a sister who can be there for you when I'm not. So Carol, you touched on something that I wanted to revisit and that's, I think people in situations like you two are in or people that are in situations where it doesn't turn out so nice. I think having that empathy and understanding is really important because when somebody either thrusts a discovery in your face or it's a mutual thing that both parties are looking on an ancestry or 23andMe.
It's, you know, you still don't know exactly what to expect. So I think approaching every renewed relationship with that degree of understanding and empathy is really important. And, you know, it sounds like you two have that in spades and not everybody does, unfortunately. I feel, I feel so fortunate. Like you said, I've, I've seen so many stories where, um, people tried to reach out and were rejected by their biological families because.
Maybe it was a secret that family members wanted to keep secret. So there's always that risk. But I will say I did get some help from the research team at MyHeritage. And they said, you have to reach out to your sister and maybe throw caution to the wind.
And looking back, I should have heeded their advice, but I just made the decision to wait until I knew Marissa was better. And even then, I wasn't quite sure, like, how would this be received? So, of course, I'm ecstatic that my biological family was there for me and receptive to that.
So I wish everybody could have that same experience that I had. Well, Carol, I think you made a very respectful choice because, you know, she said, who knows what the reaction would have been. And, you know, you didn't know Marissa as a person at the time. So it's like, you didn't want to sense, you know, have her, you know, all of a sudden experience a setback from her recovery by kind of throwing this wrench into her life. So, you know, you couldn't know. So I think that was, I think you.
made the right decision. It sounds like Marissa would have been thrilled to hear from you no matter when, whatever she was going through in life. Marissa was partying in Hollywood, like after each chemo, like on Friday. Well, until things got a little heavier, but my doctor was like, go for it. It's not, and I don't like to promote it, but I just was, I have this, I started this charitable business called Breast Cancer Bandit.
I've always been this like, bandit's one of my favorite words because it just describes me. And I don't really go about life like, I'm just, I've always been a nonconformist, maybe not on the surface, but I've just always kind of had my middle fingers up. And, you know, I just don't, just I believe in balance. And it's like, I don't believe in following all these rules and living, you know, what if that, what if those were my last days?
You know, I wanted to go to a little party, dress up, put on makeup. So I truly try to help other survivors kind of like, I don't tell them like, go out and drink. But I do tell them, like, don't be afraid to kind of, you know, make yourself feel better. Get dressed up. Try to like go out and see how you feel. Don't feel don't feel guilty. Don't plague yourself. It's that whole like the guilt thing. Oh, I had a drink like, oh, who cares? Like, you know, eat some vegetables the next day. Like, so, you know, so, yeah, I would have totally been like.
I would have been so receptive to her, but I do just that alone just speaks volumes, as you said. And I identified that immediately. And everyone I tell the story to, when I was talking to, you know, when I did the today.com piece, immediately the interviewer was like, oh my God, your sister is an amazing person. Like she immediately picked up on that, like without even me prompting. And she just like went on and on like.
how amazing, that just signifies such an amazing person. And that's who Carol is. Because some people wouldn't think that way. And there's nothing wrong with that if they don't. But that's how much depth that Carol does have. And I, and from my side, I'm so much of an empath that, like for me, because I felt, I wanted, I was living through it. I was just so, like in a way I was happy, but I was sad for her.
For me, it's like, oh, I've had my entire life to mourn my father, our father, and...
And like for me it was fun. I'm like, oh, I have a sister, oh my God, I just finished cancer, I'm a survivor and now I have a sister, wee. And Carol has just found out A, that her dad who has passed is not the dad she thought he was. And then she finds she has another dad and finds out he died. Not only does she find out that he's dead too, he died of AIDS back in the 80s. Like what the F? Like so. Right, right.
And I was just thinking of it, I was just like, God, I wanted a hold of her hand, you know? Like, cause I can't even imagine all of that. And you know, she's dealt with it so wonderfully, I think. And she's like, she said about her mom, she's, she had that kind of, she never will have that full closure, but that partial closure that her mom gave her, like just saying like how, you know.
her dad she grew up with, which is like, thank you for never telling her, because he truly wanted to be that guy. And so it just shows how much he truly loved her. So hopefully that provides solace and forever for Carol, you know? Well, and now she has you, right? Yes. But I'm not going through crisis. No, I'm just joking. That's why you're there for each other, right? I mean, now you've got a larger support system.
Yeah, we had a girls weekend at um, so she came in met my mom who's like, oh my god You think me and Carol are like empath like care bear warm nurturing people. My mom is just like, oh my god She's like the baby whisper. She's always like Hugging people and like stroking their hair like she's just beaming with love and rainbows she's so sweet and she like she fully embraced Carol we had a such a great time and
Yeah, with all the craziness going on, like we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like, but we are definitely do. So, you know, the pace so far has probably been, you know, hopefully like two outings, like a year, hopefully more, now that I'm a little more settled. And we want to meet up in Chicago, of course. And she, and I'll let you, you can tell the story of meeting our brother, Mike, who I grew up, who's featured in the article.
I call him Hunter, because he used to hunt boyfriends that I was, older boyfriends I was dating. So I call him Hunter, but everyone else calls him Mike. And we're going to have a little family reunion, hopefully with our uncle Jack, who lives in Dublin by the way. We didn't get into that. And when Carol says he's lyrical, she's like not even, that's almost like understating. He's a leprechaun. He speaks in like limerick. He's like a real life leprechaun.
He was emailing me all these cryptic, he really is truly the most colorful writer. And I was like, Uncle Jack, what are you saying? He's just like, he sounds like a Lucky Charms commercial. And it was like, and then he finally kind of, I was like, wait, what, who? Do you have a long-lost cousin? Like, who is this person? Who are you talking about? And then like, he sees these, he's just speaking in circles almost, and riddles. From the heavens above, and yeah. I know. And then,
He's awesome. He's just entertaining as all hell, but hopefully we can all Carol went on a quest to Ireland by herself and stayed with Uncle Jack's like a month or so and had a chance to kind of You know Have that moment of kind of chasing her family, you know Since our dad is no longer here see where the ancestors came from Uncle Jack has has 12 kids and and we've met like Marissa you've met them all but
And that was like 11. Yeah, I think I have one more to go. Yeah, you have what I've met nine, I think nine out of the 12. So still working on the rest as as well. Wow. It's a great trip. Well, I was going to suggest that the three of us meet up in New York for a night, but now I'm thinking we almost like if you, when you guys do your Irish, I, your trip to Ireland together, I want to tag along. Yeah. We should start our own like.
Carol should be hosting like a genealogy. Like she really knows so much about it. She studied so much about it. But yeah, some people aren't open to it. But can you imagine for the people that who are receptive to it, how wonderful of a gift it is. And we talked about this for me from a health writer standpoint. Carol wouldn't have known that a family, a sister had breast cancer. Right. Which is obviously so important for a woman. For sure.
She didn't know any cancer, any sort of breast cancers in her family. So that alone is like a big push for people that they should get out there and suck it up, drink a glass of wine, take a deep breath and see what's going on out there. You never know. And it's, you know, unfortunately we've had more happy stories on the podcast than we have not happy stories. Oh good. It's, you know, people are connecting every day.
You know, it's, you know, it's all it's not always going to be fairy tale ending, you know, or whatever. But it's like we can't own. I certainly say all the time. Well, the good is so outweighed the bad. And, you know, on the days where we're out shoveling snow here and missing California, you know, we can think like, all right, but we did this for a reason. We're here for your family. Kendall's parents sound like gems. Oh, my God. Are they still with us?
So yes, so his dad is here in New England and he's got his half brother and half sister from his dad here in New England. Then Kendall has another half brother in the Carolinas. And then on his mom's side, his birth mother is still alive. He's got three siblings on that side. So unfortunately he is not connected with his birth mother. She's certainly aware of the situation, but I won't dig into that for this episode again, but it's just.
That hasn't worked out yet, but who knows what will happen in the future. But yeah, it's been, you know, it's been great. You know, yes, we miss California every day, but, you know, we're happy to be here. I know I call Los Angeles is like a drug addict, like ex boyfriend that you miss that's like kind of fun. He's fun, but he's not good for you. And it's best to stay away. But you just miss them and love him. And God, it is that love, hate love for me. It always has been. I love music so much. I love.
I was living in the neighborhood where like, you know, like Jim Morrison played by the he had the whiskey and like Marilyn Monroe lived in a house across the street from me. I just there's nothing that will fill that like mystique. There's something about like the Laurel Canyon, the vibes there. And I'm not feeling it here. I'm not a punk girl. So or or hip hop really aside from like some Cleveland like some bone thugs and some Midwest old school hip hop jams.
I'm more of like that West Coast, you know, sunset strip, rock and roll kind of girl. Yeah. So that's kind of what I miss. And so, but I, we get to go back and it'll be there. It'll always be there. It'll always be there for sure. Yeah. We're just, we're setting our sights either on, you know, retiring there or retiring overseas. So same. God, I know there's really nowhere else I really want to go. I've been researching.
you know, the AZT and HIV, the first treatment, and I didn't, so this was a game changer. I don't know, Carol, I don't even know if I've told you this, because I've been so busy, but my mom doesn't have the best memory in the world, and I've, every time I prompt her to tell me stuff, I learn like a new nugget, so it's like, there's all these secrets that are still unraveling, and she's just like, oh yeah, you're on this clinical trial, because I always thought that we were brought to, to another state to get tested, because they didn't know how.
you could transmit HIV at the time, which was true. They didn't know for sure if my brother and I had it or not. And so we did have to get tested. But we were driving back and forth to Milwaukee, not for like these tests, but we were driving because he was on the first trial. He was on the first clinical trial for AZT. And I'm like, okay, hold on, that's a game changer. Cause all this stuff in the news was like Fauci and like all, it's just, it's so timely and it's just so interesting.
And horrible too, just like, I've done a research paper kind of on the topic and just like how long it took, you know, like President Reagan at the time to even acknowledge that it was an issue, just because it was only affecting gay men and they were keeping it all quiet, but meanwhile everyone's getting infected and dying and it took them like six or seven years to like address it formally. And so there's just so much shady stuff that I've been looking into. And I'm gonna, I'm kind of, you know, I may delve deep into it.
for like a, for a book on that topic and weave that into kind of my life and where I am now. So, doctor's still alive, my dad. And I found the guy who did the trial. Like, you don't mess with me. I will find you and I will, well, I won't kill you, but you're gonna tell me things.
So, and Carol will be by my side the whole way. That's amazing you found his doctor. Oh my goodness. Excellent. Well, this has been great fun. And I will say tomorrow when I'm, my sort of like Friday afternoon after work sort of tradition thing that I do for myself is a little bit of karaoke. So I'll be busting out some White Snake tomorrow and thinking of you. Family Twist features original music from Cosmic Afterthoughts.
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