I kept hearing stories about facebook friends who had DNA testing to determine their ancestry and found it fascinating. So many were finding little traces of unknown heritage that had somehow never been spoken through generations of stories. I was HOOKED!
At Christmas, Mike gave me a kit as a gift. I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to complete it and send it off for processing. For those of you unfamiliar with these, a small tube is included where you spit some saliva. Seal it and complete the accompanying paperwork. All of these are placed in a postage paid envelope and mailed it to the lab. I used Ancestry.com but there are a number of similar services that conduct the same or similar tests.
I received periodic updates explaining where my tests were during the process and as it so happened this was a popular holiday gift so there was more of a back log than usual.
Approximately six weeks later I received an email late at night detailing my results. I must have been in shock because when I look back on my reaction it was one of disbelief. I had always believed that I was 50 percent Swedish since my paternal grandparents immigrated from Sweden and 25 percent Irish and 25 percent English from my mother’s parents who were also immigrants.
The following day I sent Mike a text as he was travelling for work. I included the results and he immediately responded asking if I could talk. I could immediately detect from his tone of voice that he was quite shocked. He wanted to know what I thought before saying anything else. I told him that apparently the man I always thought was my biological father was, in fact, NOT. My results indicated that I am 49 percent Irish and 48 percent English. The remaining 3 percent was a mix of others but not a drop of Swedish.
The thoughts that circulated through my head were so numerous and yet I never once doubted the results. In fact, a lot of things became clearer. When my father passed away, 6 years after my mother, I had the unfortunate task of cleaning out their house. While going through his dresser I found a manila envelope containing a number of documents. One of these was my ‘parents’ marriage certificate. I read it at least 10 times before calling Mike in to look at it. They DID NOT get married until I was 24 years old! There was also a letter from an attorney stating that they lived as husband and wife from 1964 until April 1989 believing that a common law marriage was legal. I am sure you can imagine the shock!
So, when I found out the man who I always thought was my father, was not, I did not experience the same level of shock that would be expected . Since my brother’s birthday was the following day I decided to call him and ask him what he knew. He is 15 years older than me. His father walked out when he was about 2 years old and my mother and he never heard from him again. Though we are technically half siblings I never referred to him as such and have always felt that he is my brother whether half or not. I was hoping his memory would help explain what happened. There was, and still is, a part of me that wonders if he knew or suspected about this all these years.
When I told him my news he sounded surprised. I asked if he remembered anyone in our mother’s life prior to my birth. There was some silence and he asked if he could try to think about it to jog his memory since this all occurred a long time ago.
The following day he called me and relayed that yes our mother was involved with someone prior to “marrying” my father. He explained that my mother and “father” had dated for quite a while and one day she told him that they would no longer see Lenny. We were always told to not ask too many questions so he didn’t. My mother dated some men and there was one she was dating more seriously than others. My brother would spend a lot of weekends at our aunt’s home and when he returned one Sunday evening my mother explained that she & Lenny got married. A few days later they told him that they were moving to another state because she was pregnant and they needed a house with more space.
He further explained that once the move occurred our mother became a very different person. She no longer went out every weekend. She stopped working since she was now “married”. She didn’t see her extended family as much and as the years went on saw them less and less.
I have had this information for a while now and have gone through a lot of emotions. I started out very confused which turned to anger and then to empathy. I feel sorry for my mother in a lot of ways. She had to hide two large secrets and she most likely went through her life terrified that someone would uncover these. I can not imagine living with so much secrecy. What an incredible burden.
On the other hand, why didn’t she ever tell me the truth? There are medical issues I may need to be aware of. I was an adult with my own family when my mother passed away so she had plenty of opportunity to come clean. I have also wondered why my father never told me the truth once my mother passed away. I am convinced he knew!
This information does solve a few questions that I have wrestled to understand. I never felt as though I fit in and wondered what was “missing”. My mother always held others back and would never let anyone get to know her probably in fear that her secret would be revealed. I had an eye condition when I was four years old (strabismus-https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-muscle-repair) which is genetic yet no one in either family ever experienced it. Middle miss also was diagnosed with strabismus at three and had surgery to correct it at four, just like me. After a miscarriage I had some blood work evaluated and discovered that I had a clotting disorder (www.healthline.com/health/von-willebrand-disease). The doctors explained that you inherit the gene from a parent. My mother was deceased but I asked my father and he immediately got very angry with me. He refused to discuss it and told me he had no idea what I was talking about.
I have reconnected with some of my cousins since this started which I am really grateful. I wish my parents had explained all of this to me prior to their deaths so I could understand what happened and listen to the reasons for their secrets. I would have had the opportunity to grieve and heal with them supporting me. The piece I hope everyone takes away from this story is that it is so important to tell the truth whenever possible. Lies fester and build and hurt so many. The truth is always the best way!