Learning you’re not your father’s biological son is no less unsettling on day two as it is on day one.
I slept poorly last night. I had more questions for the mirror’s reflection than any night prior, wondering about the origins of the features staring back at me. A stranger. A man with blue eyes and — probably — advanced crow’s feet around those same eyes. I wondered anew about questions of nature versus nurture, and to what degree I might be a product of behaviors and traits coded into me as opposed to those shown to me.
Is there more or less magic in that?
And yet, those questions have made me pensive, not pained. What I am, who I am — I’ll make sense of it in time, I tell myself. But the pain I do feel has in fact come from something that’s currently out of my control — my sister doesn’t know yet. And with the hopes of affording her a degree of in-person support, I know I’m sworn to secrecy until tomorrow night when my parents can tell her face-to-face.
Then, I’ll stand by the phone and wait for Sarah’s call.
I’m more than a day away from that moment, though. And I am numb to all around me as I sit in my living room. My eyes wander and lock in to focus on the midnight blue wall. I’m in a daze. My arms feel at once disconnected from my body, a floating head without a home. I am so terrified by the idea that my sister might take this news differently than I have — that she might reject me once she hears it. And because of that, I physically struggle to feel my own body.
My sister is woven to me, the way one thread of a fabric requires the other to take form. I am not my whole without her, and for the first time in my life, I am forced to entertain the possibility of such a horror becoming real. A loose thread that could unravel me entirely.
And yet, there’s more at play that I can’t help but concern myself with. In the middle of this explosion that is my life, I have learned two other undeniable, world-changing truths:
Morgan is no longer a DNA stranger — she is my half-sister. And Thomas, who likely has no idea that Morgan and I exist, is our half-brother.
Morgan and I engaged in a tearful call the night before. “God, I don’t even know how to say this,” I began, “but…You’re my sister.”
There was a brief silence on the other side of the phone, and a response through held-back tears. “Oh my God…”
I retold the phone conversation I had with my parents just minutes before, though I couldn’t yet feel the words like they were my own. The entire chain of events, the unexplained curves, the mystery — all of it seems better suited to a Dateline episode than my own life.
I fill Morgan in on the missing pieces to our puzzle, which seem so easily explained now that they’ve been shown true. Two people wanted a baby. So they found a way to have one. There was no affair, no mix-ups at the fertility clinic. There was no unusual explanation, either — except for the lack of one.
“So…yeah,” I finished. “You’re not my random aunt or something. You’re my…sister.”
And then just as quickly as I’d told her, something I needed, something she needed. She broke into an eruption of laughter. Pure laughter. It came out near the intersection of shock and joy, but it brought me back to reality as quickly as I’d left it on my drive to the grocery store, where I’d made the call. I’d felt like I’d been anesthetized, and the sound of a smile in action brought me back, there in aisle six, next to the Pop-Tarts.
Today, the raw energy from that call has subsided to a degree. Or so I thought. Unbeknownst to me, that live wire still coursed with electricity, as Morgan had already taken the liberty of drafting a note to Thomas — to potentially blow his world up too.
She forwarded me the email and asked for my God’s-honest opinion on what she had to say. And frankly, the transition from familial ambiguity to “now I have a brother and a sister” felt jarring, though entirely appropriate.
Once you know the truth, who are you to withhold it from someone else who shares an equal stake in it?
Thomas – I am not really sure that there is a right way to start out this email so I’m going to go with straight forward – I know that in the past couple of days a guy by the name of David Berry came up as a match for you as a potential half sibling on GEDmatch.com. David and I recently have sort of gotten to know one another (insane story to follow) and it prompted me to upload my raw data as well. Lo and behold you and I are also a very close genetic link. I can tell you that this has been a shocking experience and I felt that once my suspicions were confirmed, I owed you a note.
After months of emailing, David and I got on the phone a few days ago. And an hour and a half of talking basically boils down to – our secret theories were the same. Mostly. I was conceived via sperm donor, and David thought his Dad might be my donor. I thought maybe there was another party in play. We ended the conversation mostly sure we were ready to take a siblingship test and move on from there. That night i googled siblingship and stumbled across GEDmatch. I registered but decided to wait until morning to figure out how to download my raw data. Imagine my surprise when David texted me first thing yesterday morning saying he’d found the same site and uploaded. And found you. He called his parents yesterday and last night I received a call from him saying that they called him with the whole truth. He was conceived by artificial donation in Rochester, NY almost exactly one year before me. His 33rd birthday is Sunday. He and I are half siblings.
To cross check our theory I uploaded my raw data to GEDmatch last night and today discovered that you and I are even closer in shared centimorgan’s than David and I, leading me to believe, you are also our half sibling.
This seems insane. And so much to send to someone I don’t know in an email. I didn’t want to be vague because I know GEDmatch doesn’t email you to update your search results/matches unless you frequently check them yourself. I don’t want to (and I know I am also speaking for David here) cause harm in any way shape or form. There doesn’t seem to be a great set of etiquette rules on how to go about something like this. David and I had months to mull over the idea and we are both just tossing it at you in the matter of days. Who discovers two siblings in two days, right? We both came to the site to verify what we thought and stumbled across you.
I cannot even being to imagine how you’ll receive all of this and whether you’ll have any interest in a conversation with us. You may be totally surprised out of left field as David was, or known you were the product of a donor and always kind of hoped for this like me. Or neither, maybe you’re perfectly content not knowing. All of the above are okay. As I told David, whatever we do, we can’t mess it up. So whatever you want to do- I will be respectful of it. I just needed to put it out there and take the step.
I hope this insane email finds you well- Please let me know if there are any questions I can answer or if you’re interested in further conversation. Also, if you’re not- as I said, I’d totally understand -just let us know.
The note to Thomas choked me up. Morgan’s words were comprehensive but careful. They were drenched in care. And despite the fact the note wasn’t for me, I couldn’t help but feel some residual warmth for myself to be comforted by. Perhaps it had a halo effect as I considered the degree of warmth I hoped to share with Sarah the following night.
A few minutes later, she hit ‘send’ on her email. And we waited. Not long, though. Two or so hours later, an email response showed up in Morgan’s inbox. Thomas had seen the note at dinner, out on the town with friends, and realized quickly it was too substantial to wait on.
His note was short, Morgan explained on her call to me. But the abbreviated version was this — he was happy to hear from us. And if we were both free on Sunday, he’d be open to jumping on a three-way call with us.
Life comes at you fast.
One night, your dad tells you you’re not his biological son. And by the time that same week is out, you’re on a three-way call with your (new) sister. And new brother. And by the time the line clicks off, you’ve finalized plans to meet them both in person.
11 days from now.