It’s been two weeks. And thus it is time for me to regroup, re-engage and restart my engines.
I’ve been in the pool only a few times in the past two weeks. I’ve kept terrible sleeping hours. I’ve been less than diligent about my diet. I’ve voluntarily worked crazy into-the-night hours.
Some things can’t change right now, and that’s fine. Work is extremely busy, but in an exciting way. But other things can.
Two weeks ago I found out something surprising, shocking, even devastating should I allow it to be. I learned that my biological father is not, well, my biological father.
For those who don’t know me well, in a nutshell, here is my father history: My dad Jim and my mom Donna divorced when I was young, and a few years later, my mom married Bob, my stepfather, who died about eight years ago. Thus, my two dads were and remain Jim and Bob. My mom died almost three years ago. Dad Jim is alive and well, and I’m meeting him for dinner tonight in Northern Virginia.
About 4 months ago, after a few years of starts and fits at family genealogy, I got serious about it. Ancestry.com, here I come! Building family trees was something I became obsessed with (imagine). Then, at the prompting of my kids and because of the rumor of Native American blood for generations, I did a DNA test. Fun!
I was so excited when I opened my results! I’m about a little over a quarter “Native American” and a lot “Iberian Peninsula/North African.” Woah! So exciting.
Now, those with more science background than me (which in many cases would include your household pets), are immediately raising the collective eyebrow. See, my family, they are white people. Really white, for the most part. I did find a 15th great-grandmother who was a member of a North Carolina Native American tribe, but you, your crazy uncle and your dog Rufus can figure out that 15th great grandmother does not equal 26% Native American.
But not me.
I started asking questions, though, about my dad’s family tree, which I was having trouble tracing back very far. All I knew was his grandfather was straight off the boat from Scotland. But wait, I’m 0% Scottish. Though raised in kilts with play bag pipes, as Dick is a Scottish name and my stepfather, a Campbell, was the proudest Scot to ever live, I was not one tiny bit a Scot.
Long (long) story short: My dad Jim finally confirmed for me that, that, no, he is not my biological father.
This is not news you expect at 48. That the pain in your hip is early arthritis, that college tuition is increasing at a dramatic rate, that family members need long-term care, these are bits of news you expect at 48.
Though I’m still in the process of building a paper trail to evidence all of this beyond any doubt, here’s the deal: my biological father (now deceased, I have learned) is 100% South American (“Native American” means indigenous to any of the Americas, my USA-centric brain learned) and he has a parent who it appears was 100% indigenous South American.
It’s been a shock and hard for some family members to hear. My emotions? Mostly sadness, for my dad Jim and for me. The saddest thing I think I have ever done is swab my cheek for a DNA sample, knowing my dad Jim was doing the same.
Other emotions? So far, no anger, at least not at those directly involved in the events. My parents did not have an easy or good marriage, and their parting was surely best for all in the long run. They went on to marry some great people and I am grateful for those great people.
There is, of course, righteous anger, but often people assume any anger they have is righteous. Almost never is that true, in my experience. Righteous anger is rare, and has to be properly cultivated to be beneficial. Being mad at a dead person or two for decisions made nearly 50 years ago, sorry, not worth the energy. Additionally, I won’t manufacture anger simply to comply with the “appropriate reaction” that society might expect.
I know my biological father’s name and the country of origin (I am first generation American on his side–crazy as that sounds to me), but there are other families to consider. Thus, at this time, that is something that I and a few of my family members know, as well as a few loved and trusted friends and mentors who are like family. It will stay that way. Perhaps always, perhaps for some period of time. I just don’t know.
So, it’s been two weeks. I’ve functioned fairly well, but not at full capacity. And therefore, it is time to embrace the truth, make sure secrets don’t dominate my life (though not angry at my mother, I do see how secrets surely hurt my mother’s health over the years, a process I wish to minimize for myself as much as possible), and smile at the thought that maybe, just maybe, I’ll find ways to connect more to the story of my biological father and his children.
Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take. – Angela Blount