Yesterday is a day I’ll not soon forget. I was studying for our upcoming exam next Friday when I got a message from Rose, my dear and trusty friend/genealogist for hire. She had news for me that just could not wait. It was too much to text or type and wondered if we could speak sometime soon. I called her immediately on WhatsApp and she was en route to an emergency call from a friend and asked if we could speak later when she got back home. My heart was racing with anticipation but I said, “of course.”
Rose has been doing extensive genetic research for our family and me for months now and it all started with doing the cheek-swab thing and waiting for the results. Armed with the data, she has been “knocking down walls,” and blowing our minds with her findings. I couldn’t imagine what she had to tell me that was so urgent. I tried to get a grip on myself, thinking, “This is about the past. Dead people can’t hurt you.”
With the crisis averted, she called me back and did her best to deliver her news gently.
Some background: my birth father was a very unsavory sort and he recently passed away. I found him when I was 26 and though my birthmother and I rode on a tide of joyful incredulity at this circle being closed at last, he was an enigma and hard to like, though I gave him every benefit of the doubt. He was sharp as a tack and had enough good qualities that allowed me to happily keep the wool pulled over my eyes for a while. Eventually, however, I couldn’t continue ignoring what was actually so glaringly apparent. He had more skeletons in his closet than we would ever know.
In uploading my DNA test results to multiple sites, searching for ancestral roots, Rose found living relatives instead. This weekend, she saw a hit that was half-sister, aunt, cousin, etc and looked at all the data she had and tried to figure out who “she” was. Before she could blink, “she” had emailed Rose. They went back and forth a bit and Rose loaded all the raw DNA files from my two tests onto a very particular site that genealogists use for cross comparisons, called Gedmatch. It allows you to really drill down onto how close a match can be. So, Rose and this other woman used this to do a one-to-one comparison. On the x chromosome.
Turns out, she and I are a 100% match on our non-maternal x chromosomes, which means, we share a father.
Knock me over with a feather. I have a sister.
She was given up for adoption at five weeks of age. I don’t know how long she’s been searching, looking for answers of her own that have led her to me.
While Rose talked, my mind swirled. I noticed how dark my room had gotten and how cold, but I was sweating. I remembered how it felt when I’d found my birth mother, waiting while it was being confirmed. I paced the floor like a caged tiger. I was so nervous that it wouldn’t be she and that it would be she. I never thought I’d feel that feeling again. This dear woman, searching for some connection to someone had found me. I have been searching myself, for as long as I can remember. Looking for people lost to me. Looking for a sense of belonging, an identity of my own. Looking for myself, everywhere. No one has ever searched for me. It has always been I, turning over the rocks, searching. To have this news delivered to me while I’m here in Ireland, on this journey leaves me speechless.
My newfound sister is a crackerjack genetic researcher and is so serious about it, she’s enrolled in online courses in Boston. She had a wealth, if you can call it that, of information on our father’s youth and antics. In polite society, one might call him a scoundrel. There are other words more fitting, suffice it to say. It all drives home the fact of how lucky I was to have escaped a life of his influence. That he left my mother high and dry, pregnant with me was the first bit of a long string of good luck I’ve had. And, let me tell you, it’s good to be lucky. I am thankful all over again for the family that I knew. For their mark on me and my life. For their kindliness, openheartedness and undying love. How I wish Ooma were here for me to tell this story to. Her mouth would have been a perfect "O" and she'd have savored it with relish.
I hardly slept last night and this was in the forefront of my mind today and it’s a miracle I was able to function at all and do what I had to do. This was a day full of cooking and working hard to learn new techniques in addition to the pressure of our upcoming exam. I feel like I floated above it all, kneading pasta dough and making tart pastry, making soup. I don’t remember much of it.
All I could think about was I have been found by a bright and witty woman who is my sister and who has the name of a queen.