Who Do You Think You Are?
My story begins innocently enough, with a vague curiosity about my genetic origins and a conversation with my ex-husband about the current trend of do-it-yourself DNA kits. My 60th birthday was coming up, so he thought one of those tests would make a good milestone birthday gift.
The 23andMe test sat on my desk for several weeks before I finally opened it, elegantly deposited the required saliva into the tube, registered it online and dropped it in the mailbox. I started getting periodic email updates on the progress of separating the identifying strands of my DNA from the spit sample, and I was invited to participate in some surveys which I would sometimes do when I had some free time.
Finally, the test was complete and I opened the online results to find nothing all that startling. I was shown to have 44% French and German and 37% British and Irish ancestry, with a bit of Scandinavian, Spanish and Portuguese, and Eastern European in the more ancient ancestors. There was an option to create an account and connect with possible relatives in their database, but I decided to put that off for a while.
Then, late one night while I was sitting up in bed, wide awake during February’s full moon, I created the account and clicked the “DNA Relatives” button. When the list of names popped up, I stared at it, confused. All of my four siblings are sisters, but the first name on the list was a name I didn’t know, labeled “Half Brother.” The second unidentifiable name was labeled “Aunt.” I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing for several minutes before I clicked on the half brother’s name to see his profile. There he had written that he was born two years before me, was from a town very close to where I was born and lived in until I was 7, and that he was adopted. He had found his mother’s name, which he shared, but his father’s name was left blank on his birth certificate, which had just become available to him a few years ago.
So the logical conclusion, once I was able to form one, was that my father had had a dalliance before I was born which resulted in the birth of this child who was given up for adoption. It was a startling revelation, but not really all that surprising, since my parents divorced when I was 15 because my dad had found someone else. I sent a brief note to this newly-found brother and thought how strange it would be to tell him about his father and our family.
The next day, I received an excited message back from the brother and we exchanged email addresses to continue the conversation. He let me know that he had found out his birth father’s name not that long ago, so I sent him a brief outline of my family, thinking it would fill in some of the blanks for him. After a few exchanges, he said, “It is apparent that your birth father is . . . as he is my birth father.” The name that filled in that blank was not my father’s name. But it was the name of a close family friend who was my godfather.
This second shock derailed me. I spent the rest of the day swimming through a vast sea of emotions. I reached out to some friends who helped to hold my head above water as I floundered around with the enormity of this new truth. I talked to my sisters (who I now know are half-sisters) and we sorted through what this all meant. By the end of the day, I was calmer, but still reeling. How does this affect my identity, my sense of self, the very foundation of my life? How could my mother withhold this from me her whole life? We were very close and I thought we shared everything. Did the birth father know? Did they make a pact to keep it a secret forever? Or did she really believe that her husband was my father? I don’t look that much different from my siblings, which I’m sure was a relief to her. But she must have suspected, perhaps until the day she died at 80 years old in 1997.
In fact, they’re all dead now (except for that second name on the list, my birth father’s elderly sister whom I don’t intend to contact). My father died in 1990 and my birth father died in 2016. Which means that the story behind my birth will remain a mystery, and there’s no one left to blame. Which is truly a blessing, in many ways.
In fact, when I woke up the next morning, I decided to see the whole thing as a blessing.
One of the greatest gifts of following a spiritual path is understanding that everything that shows up in our life’s path offers a gift, an opportunity, a blessing. Usually, though, these events appear as challenges, sometimes even tragedies and shocks. And there is no way to understand them as anything other than immense challenges when we are immersed in the necessary emotions surrounding them; the grief, sadness, anger, disappointment and other powerful reactions must be fully realized and expressed for as long as it takes to wade through them. Eventually, we will find that we’re able to make decisions again about how to proceed, what to do with what has shown up, and how to start to move toward a better feeling place.
That next day, I still felt the swirl of conflicting emotions, but I realized that I was still ME, that the father who raised me was still my father, and that whatever happened 60 years ago that led to my arrival here on this earth was truly a blessing, no matter how it happened or what was kept hidden. I decided that my life was still my life, and that this truth has always been, it’s just that now I know it, and I also know that shining light on a truth can offer tremendous healing and growth. I realized that I had found this new brother, who amazingly shares many similar views on life and spirituality, and that if he has come into my life at this particular time, there must be something for us to experience together as brother and sister.
Now, a month later, I still periodically find myself in that swirling vortex of emotions, but those moments are becoming less frequent as I choose to focus on the opportunities that I know will continue to emerge from this situation. My newly-found brother and I now communicate via email regularly and I know that although we live far apart, we’ll arrange to meet in person soon. He is getting to know my children as their uncle and we continue to be amazed at the similarities we are discovering in each other. And just recently, I had a dream that my father (the one who raised me) communicated to me that he’s still my father, that he loves me and that all is well. And I truly believe they were the words of his spirit.
Here, in this experience, is the true opportunity to consider who I really am. I am an unlimited, eternal, energetic being of light, who chose this physical existence, with these particular genetics, for reasons I may never truly understand in this lifetime, but I have complete and utter faith that those reasons were really good ones. And that no matter what my earth lineage is, my spiritual lineage remains unchanged. I’m a child of the Universe, of Source energy, and this sacred experience of human existence is just a part of the vastness that is my soul. And in this way, I can truly live my life in a state of gratitude and peace.