Family Secrets“To me there was nothing strange about my story because it was my story. And I thought everyone had a strange story.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Making sense of memory can be challenging, especially when family secrets are involved. As David Diebold said to Ryan Tubridy this morning, sometimes we don’t remember events, we remember memories. David joined Ryan to talk about his book, This Is How We Dance, a memoir which chronicles a childhood that was shaken by a revelation worthy of Hollywood. Which is appropriate enough, as David was born in Los Angeles and moved to Dublin with his parents when he was 3 in the early 1970s. Needless to say, Los Angeles and Dublin in the early 70s were very different places:

“My dad has described it since as going back in time, you know? I mean, you didn’t see horse-drawn carts in Los Angeles, but right up until the 80s, you did in Dublin.”

David’s three older sisters stayed behind in LA when he and his parents moved to Dublin. Unknown to the young David, his family secrets travelled with him. When he was 6, his sister Julie came to Dublin to visit and David recalls opening the front door when she arrived:

“She took me into a room and said, ‘Do you know who I am?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you’re my sister, Julie, from Los Angeles.’ And she said, ‘No. I’m your mother.’ ”

Although that kind of bombshell might have been shattering, David believes that children are capable of absorbing a lot of the sort of things that might leave adults reeling. The real sucker punch, he told Ryan, was for his mother – or, rather, the woman he had up to that point believed to be his mother. Because, as he put it, the thing that she had not been ready to tell David, had already been told.

Julie stayed for a year, living not far from the family home and young David basked in the attention his unusual situation brought him:

“To me there was nothing strange about my story because it was my story. And I thought everyone had a strange story.”

To which Ryan replied, ‘Which they do, but in Ireland we just didn’t talk about it’. And, some might say, we still don’t. It turns out that young David was rubbish at keeping a secret – he literally told anyone who’d listen about his family situation:

“I’d go home with friends from school and the first thing I would say to their mother, as they were making lunch they would say, ‘How are you? How’s your mum?’ And I’d say, ‘Well, which one? ‘Cos my sister’s actually my mother.’ ”

David also told Ryan about looking for his biological father, the premature birth of his own son and unexpectedly manning a Special FX stall at an LA trade show. And you can hear all that here.

This Is How We Dance by David Diebold is published by Monument Media Press.

Niall Ó Sioradáin

© The Listener 2020

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