It became abundantly clear that my August blog regarding DNA discoveries needed a part two. Key parts of the story were missing (I didn’t want to inundate readers with too much dramatic detail all at once). I’m back to tie up loose ends and share another twist that occurred when a reader, moved by the blog, contacted me to share her own amazing DNA story. I had no idea that additional surprises were waiting in the wings!
First, we continue Matt’s story of exploring his ancestry. He had always wondered why he looked different than the rest of his family and with the advent of commercial DNA testing, he was able to get answers. We learned that Matt had a dark complexion in contrast to his fair mother and cousins. It turns out that in addition to plenty of Irish, English and Italian, Matt’s DNA is enhanced by ancestral roots in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Puerto Rico, Cameroon and Senegal. That mixture led to Matt’s exotic looks and explained his darker complexion, and his decision to do DNA testing led to meeting a half brother (Jed) that he didn’t know he had.
Expanding on the circumstances of Jed’s adoption: when Matt’s Irish-Italian mother was 19, she became pregnant by her boyfriend, a young man of Polynesian/Filipino descent. In 1970, even though San Francisco was still experiencing the reverberations of the free wheeling 60s and summer of love, out-of-wedlock pregnancies were a serious no-no to both the Catholic church and Irish/Italian communities. The boyfriend had anger issues and was abusive and Matt’s mom didn’t see much of a future with him, and gave the baby boy up for adoption.
Matt learned that Jed had to wait in an orphanage for months until an Asian couple was approved for adoption (due to adoption agency rules at the time). Jed was adopted by a wonderful Filipino couple who gave him a loving and supportive home filled with family and affection. After giving Jed up for adoption and breaking up with the father, Matt’s Mom began to date the man who would become Matt’s father.
AMAZING COINCIDENCES CONTINUE
Here are additional coincidences not mentioned in part one which are quite surprising. Matt and Jed’s biological fathers were both police officers and shared the same first name: Gerry. And to add more intrigue, the two Gerry’s were roommates. Matt seems to have heard about a knock down, drag out fight between the two men which Matt presumes was over his mother. Yet the two men had sons who also went into law enforcement and who would meet over 40 years later and become the best of buddies, because of DNA testing.
In part one, I didn’t touch upon the more distressing and emotional aspects to this whole ordeal that led to Matt’s Mom still feeling traumatized fifty years later and not ready to face the fact that the baby she had given up for adoption had returned many years later to look for her and possible siblings.
Matt stood firm and let his parents know that while they might not be ready to meet Jed, he was going to have a relationship with his brother. He was respectful and told his parents that he wanted “no more lies” and “no more secrets”. Matt’s mother wrote him saying that she was very happy that Jed grew up to be a wonderful man with such a great family but she still felt lingering trauma and raw wounds.
Jed, to his credit, harbors no resentments and lives life to the fullest. He is a wonderful human being, husband and father to three girls, and I know he and his family would be there with open arms should a change of heart occur on the part of his birth mother.
No more lies, no more secrets
An old gym acquaintance, Rita Marie, contacted me after reading my August blog about DNA, Matt and Jed. She had discovered that her parents had kept a deep dark secret from her and her brothers. It all began when 65 year old Rita decided a couple of years ago to go through DNA testing. Her results sat quietly in a virtual file until a stranger contacted her through the ancestry site and declared they shared the same father. Rita asked, “Was your father Marco?” “No,” the correspondent replied, “I have something to tell you; our father was R.B, a Stanford student who donated his sperm circa 1950 to 1963; there’s more than a few of us donor half siblings walking around.” Rita’s head was spinning and the shock almost debilitating; she cried for days and confided in only one or two people in her life at the time. Imagine finding out such news in your sixth decade!
Rita’s parents tried for thirteen years to have children. They watched as their Italian relatives had a gaggle of children in the 1950s. There was a doctor in their city who was performing artificial insemination and people from all over came to see him, including Rita’s mother, Angela. Angela suffered three miscarriages but eventually gave birth to four children via artificial insemination. Rita believes her oldest sibling had a different father, and she and her other brothers have as their father the Stanford student who may have been donating sperm to earn money. As I read Rita’s email, I had no idea that A.I. was being done in the early 1950s. But it seems that attempts at A.I. date back to at least 1799 and in 1951, the number of children born as a result of A.I. had risen to 20,000 (up from 10,000 in 1941)!
Rita did not share the news right away with her siblings (it was traumatizing enough for Rita; she didn’t want to put that on her siblings), but one brother decided independently to go through DNA testing. This prompted Rita to write the “donor half sibling” begging her not to contact her brother on the ancestry site, but Rita’s entreaties were ignored and more shock and pain ensued. The brother did not take the news well.
Rita’s donor half sibling was on a roll – whether anyone wanted the news or not, she was going to let them know they had a donor dad. She was contacting people far and wide. Rita Marie wrote her an email calling her out for her outrageous actions, and shut off contact. Almost four years later, Rita is still processing the shock and recently reached out to old friends to let them know the secret she has been carrying inside. Thus, the healing begins.
TWO EDGED SWORD
DNA testing is a two edged sword. Check privacy settings – is it what you want? Do you want people contacting you? Matt left his account open to those who matched very closely; but Rita can’t remember if she ever checked her settings. I opted to not be contacted when I did my DNA testing. Matt had a happy outcome but it opened up raw wounds for his mother.
Rita would have chosen not to know as it upended her life for awhile, although it did shed light on family dynamics and explain why her father seemed so distant. Now she tells her gastroenterologist, “I don’t know if colon cancer runs on my paternal side; I know nothing about my father.” Friends who know the truth look at beautiful Rita and remark “You’ve got some awesome DNA!” And I tell myself that kind, considerate Rita with whom I used to joke around in our senior aerobic classes would not be here in this world if it weren’t for donor dad.
Sperm donation is also a two edged sword. If a donor sires too many children, the risk increases that half siblings will meet, marry and produce children. It has happened, so now sperm banks try to put a limit on how many children a donor can sire. The laws vary by country but in the 1950s, Mr. R.B., Stanford student, had no restrictions placed on his donations or live births. A 2018 Washington Post article reveals the controversies and repercussions of sperm donation.
Part One and Two of a DNA story and its chronicle of family secrets and estrangements got me thinking a lot lately about forgiveness. I used to obsess at the terrorizing antics a relative engaged in, and it got to the point where our family had to hire legal help. Yet, now-a-days in my evening prayers, I express forgiveness towards that person and ask that she be joyous, happy and free….and at a safe arms length! I’m surrendering to time to heal wounds ~ we all grapple with shocking news in our own way, and find healing and understanding in our own time.
“Every time I try to tighten the noose of resentment around someone’s neck, I am really only choking myself. Today I will practice forgiveness instead. I know that the more I forgive, the better my life works.” page 289, Courage to Change.
I hope you have enjoyed reading part two of the DNA saga. The names of people in the story have been changed to protect their privacy, and I am very grateful that they gave me permission to share their stories. You never know how shared stories may help others, or how a blog may inspire others to find their voice or take a chance.