CURIOUS. BALANCED. LOVING.
Every MPE story has a starting point. The discovery comes entirely by surprise for many, whereas it confirms others’ long-held, conscious or subconscious, suspicions. If there truly is one, the typical story involves submitting a direct-to-consumer/recreational DNA test yourself or being contacted out of the blue by someone who has. Mine has a little of each with an added twist.
One afternoon, a friend of mine called me with what he described as “interesting news.” He told me that he and his older sister had taken DNA tests and found something unexpected. He informed me that both had discovered the man they thought their father wasn’t. Their research afterward led them to believe that my father was their BF. Additionally, they had reached out and somehow convinced my father to submit a DNA test. The results confirmed their research findings. “We,” he informed me, “are half-brothers.” He sent me a screenshot of the DNA evidence to prove it. Because I was already aware of two other half-siblings from my father, this news honestly wasn’t that surprising. I remember laughing with him about the strangeness of our new situation.
What my friend didn’t know, however, is that many years ago, I had also taken a DNA test from the same direct-to-consumer company, primarily because I was ethnicity curious. When I told him about this, he informed me that I wasn’t on his match list and followed with the question, “You are the adopted one, right?” “Adopted? I was not adopted.” I quickly replied. Confused, he told me that my father had told his sister I was adopted. He must have misunderstood. I was 58 years old and was confident that I wasn’t adopted. My birth certificate listed my father and mother. I had seen it many times. I called his sister to see where this part of the story originated. She repeated her brother’s claim that my father had told her I was adopted. Further, she explained, he had married my mother, knowing she was pregnant with another man’s child.
When I learned the adoption news, I was more than two hours from home and my laptop. I wasn’t laughing anymore. My head was now cloudy and confused. The drive home was a blur. “Could this be possible?” I asked myself, “Was I adopted?” Once I arrived, I quickly checked my DNA matches. Neither my father nor these two new “half-siblings” were there. As I surveyed my 80,000 + matches, none matched my surname. I found that I was 100% confident connections tied to my mother. However, most of my “close” matches were surnames utterly foreign to me.
It was true then; I had been “adopted” by my BCF. But, unfortunately, my mother had taken her secret to the grave. My BCF had told a stranger rather than me. I found out I was an NPE from a friend who was a completely unrelated NPE. My friend was right about the adoption but wrong about the two of us. We were not related. In a nutshell, that’s how my story began.
Life does not prepare you for such moments. As abrupt and shocking as it was, this revelation explained so much. My physical appearance, personality, and temperament differed significantly from my father’s. I was athletic; he was not. We had little to nothing in common and even less to talk about. We have not spoken in many years. Those who knew both my father and me well commonly joked that I must be “the milkman’s child.” My wife has known my father for more than 30 years and never once thought we were related. I laughed these comments off, but I really couldn’t disagree. The differences were problematic to me. I knew enough about genetics to know that much of what defines our identity, the sense of who we are, is inherited. I feared that I would start to see undesirable attributes of my father revealing themselves in me one day.
The realization that I was adopted lifted an incalculable weight from my shoulders. The fear that I would someday become my father was a burden more significant than I had previously appreciated. Yet, strangely perhaps, as the reality set in, this genetic enlightenment was validating and liberating for me. The truth had freed me.
Despite a fitful night’s sleep, I awoke energized to find whatever truth awaited me, knowing I was more fortunate than most. Although I had hurriedly scanned my DNA matches the evening before, I was mindful of two things: 1) I had many, many “close” matches that shared a common surname, and 2) one of those mystery matches identified as a possible first or second cousin and he had an extensive, publicly available family tree to study. Additionally, I inherited my late mother’s affinity for genealogy and her extensive collection of family data and artifacts, so I was not intimidated by the idea of a search.
Despite the rough start, good fortune smiled on me on the remainder of this truth quest. Much quicker than most, I first identified my paternal grandparents, soon followed by finding a man that I believed was my biological father (BF). His extensive, detailed obituary and included photograph felt like breadcrumbs left just for me. Like me, I learned that he had been a college baseball player and had taught at the same school and at the same time my mother had. His photo, taken during a much younger time in his life, looked like me, a realization that still takes my breath. I learned that he had five daughters, but one had passed. Because my search felt uncomfortably easy, I asked DNAngels to help either validate or disprove my conclusions. They confirmed my findings but suggested I consider asking one of my BF’s daughters to submit a DNA sample for the ultimate validation.
By this point, I was aware that attempting to communicate with one’s biological family under these circumstances was a potential minefield—stories of sadness, heartbreak, disappointment, pain, suffering, and rejection litter NPE-focused Facebook groups. Stories with happy endings are far less common. Yet, despite these concerns, there was an undeniable and irresistible pull from the deepest fibers of my being to find some connectivity with the biological. So I forged ahead while steeling myself for the worst. I was twenty-two days from the initial NPE discovery. What awaited me far exceeded my wildest and most optimistic expectations. I have four new (half) sisters, officially now my superheroes. Not waiting for the results of a confirmatory DNA, each accepted me unconditionally. They warmly welcomed me into their family and helped me know our father through their eyes. They showered me with memories, photographs, mementos, and, most importantly, love. They have been patient with me as I was processing all that was happening. Finally, they invited me to meet them and made time to start developing a solid foundation for this new journey together. In the end, my story has become OUR story, and I look forward to writing the next chapter with them.