My father’s father was a writer and the son of a philanthropist. His name was E. Malcolm Collins, II. I never met him but his novel, Angel Blood, was a permanent fixture on the bookshelf in our apartment when I was growing up.
The story passed down through the family was that he was an alcoholic and drug abuser, and in December 1971, he ran a bath of scalding hot water, stepped in, slipped and banged his head. He died in the tub. He left behind one daughter, my Aunt Carole, who also struggled with alcoholism and depression, and one son, my father “Mac,” E. M. Collins, III, who had his own issues with drug abuse and compulsive behavior.
In 1990, Aunt Carole checked into a hotel room and shot herself in the heart. Three and a half years later, my father died of congestive heart failure, a lifetime of Camel non-filters and horrible eating habits finally caught up with him. Aunt Carole had two daughters: Kelly and Ginger. Mac had four sons: Scott, Keith, Jeff, and me.
Not to air any dirty family laundry, but I think deep down my brothers and cousins would agree that there’s a little crazy swimming in our DNA; a compulsive gene, a predisposition to addiction, maybe even a touch of psychosis. But there’s also an overwhelming amount of love and music and laughter.
September 5th is the 21st anniversary of my father’s death. It’s hard to believe that over two decades have passed since the prison chaplain gave me the news. At age 40, I can see the evidence of his genetic fingerprints all over my life, and not just in my evaporating hairline or the blue eyes staring back at me in the mirror. I recognize him in my passion for sports, my own struggles with drug abuse, my love for the Blackjack tables in Biloxi, my affinity for cheesecake. There are signs of E. M. Collins II, in me too, and his father, and the echoes of countless generations before them.
When I began writing novels, I took on the pseudonym Malcolm Ivey as a nod to those men: Malcolm I, II, and III, the philanthropist, the writer and the banker. The “Ivey” represents the Roman numeral IV, Malcolm the fourth, my father’s son to the bone and the youngest of four brothers. Ivey.
On September 5th, I will raise a bottle of water to my reflection and salute the Malcolms in me, blemishes and all. As the brilliant Albert Einstein put it, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” I drink to that.
[This post first appeared on malcolmivey.com in September 2014.]