Today is probably one of the heaviest and happiest days of my life; happy that my journey is over, but heavy because the pain it caused me is still very much real and very much haunting me, still, even now. I know, so many people love my story; it was amazing in the end, but it was paralyzing. Absolutely devastatingly paralyzing, up until the end.
The very first time I can remember being curious about my father was in Kindergarten. We were supposed to draw a picture of our dad and I just sat there not sure what I was supposed to draw. Those stupid crayons taunted me. Mocked me. I was peeking at everyone else’s papers watching them just color and draw like it was no big deal. And at the time, my six-year-old-self hated them. I hated them for knowing, and all I could do was sit there, feeling like an idiot. Feeling like I didn’t fit, like there was something wrong with me. That was the very first time it occurred to me that I wasn’t like the other kids; I wasn’t like my friends. Of course, I asked and asked, but my questioning was never well received. I was made to feel guilty over my desire to know. I was made to feel like I did something wrong by asking; like somehow it was my fault.
For a long time, I was told it was one man, and it wasn’t. The news that it wasn’t him devastated me. Prior to the test, I at least had a name. I thought that was terrible, that all I knew was a first name. I had no idea how much worse it was going to get; how much less I could know. I had been told the DNA test was just a formality; that this man had a jealous wife who didn’t believe I was his. The results came back negative and it was like a knife to the heart. I was refused any further information, despite begging, pleading, sobbing, bargaining… Nothing I did mattered to anyone and I knew it. I still remember the day we opened that envelope and I remember each and every word said to me. Replaying like a clip from a horrible movie in my head every time I think of it.
When I was 17, I managed to get two names, again, with begging, pleading and making deals I should never have agreed to. I was told it was one of the two, for sure, no question. Five and seven years later, I knew it wasn’t either one. Another name, some digging on my own for a couple other names, and I had no answer, I had no leads. I was never going to know and there was absolutely nothing I could do.
I was a mess. I was a train wreck. I was a f***ing disaster. This was it? I spent so much time trying everything I knew how, learning how to try what I didn’t know how, forcing myself to push on, banging my head on walls, crying until I felt like my lungs were going to fold inside out and fall out my face, wishing on every star as a kid, every goddamn birthday candle, even praying, back before I stopped believing… This was going to be the end? This was going to be the final devastating chapter? I was depressed. This was rock bottom. Rock effing bottom. It couldn’t possibly get worse than it already was… Seemed like that being a trend. It just got worse and worse and worse. I had a hole in my heart, nothing was ever going to fill. A question mark hanging over my head and that blank space was going to follow me into my grave.
There are no words for how ugly of a place that was for me.
Everyone told me to move on, they were sorry, nothing they could do, nothing anyone could do. And I just couldn’t. It was consuming me. Absolutely consuming. How am I supposed to just let it go? I have NEVER wanted anything this bad, and through no fault of my own, it was completely unattainable. I was completely powerless. I was hurting beyond anything I can describe and there was no band-aid that could fix that kind of wound.
Then, I heard about adoptees and abandoned babies finding their family through ancestral DNA. I am pretty sure most people thought I was grasping at straws. I probably was. I really don’t know. But I jumped in, feet first. I banged my head on a million more walls. I cried until I felt like my lungs were going to fall out my face. I obsessively and compulsively checked and checked and re-checked and re-checked a million times a day. I built hundreds of trees. I looked for connections so desperately that often times, I saw them where there were none. I ate, slept, dreamed genetic genealogy. My dreams tortured me; I would dream I found him, I made the connection, I knew his name, then I’d wake up and it wasn’t real and I couldn’t remember the name from the dream.
It absolutely consumed me.
And then, one day, when I hit yet another worse-than-I-thought-it-could-get point, I snapped. I couldn’t keep doing it. I couldn’t keep this up. I needed a break. I was going to look one more time, and if there wasn’t anything new, I wasn’t going to check again for another six months, minimum. It was killing me. It was breaking my heart and pouring salt on the wound over and over and over.
I logged in and suddenly, unlike the hundreds of thousands of times I had checked before (and I mean that number literally), there was something new. Something new and something big. Within an hour of opening my account, I knew my father was one of three men, shortly after sending a message, I knew which of the three it was. I got dizzy. Super dizzy. I felt like I was drunk and I puked in my trashcan.
It was over. It was finally over.
I got my answer. That was all I ever wanted, and I was lucky, in that I got more than I wanted; I got a father, two new sisters who are so much like me it’s crazy. I got a new uncle, new aunts, a whole family, cousins, grandparents, even a great-grandfather, all of which welcomed me with the most open arms I’ve ever seen. I remember being so jealous of other people’s reunion stories; mine was the most perfect one I’ve ever seen unfold.
I got to meet most of my family. They looked like me. THEY LOOKED LIKE ME. All of them, I could see bits and pieces of myself and my kids in each and every one of them. It was a huge deal for me. Growing up, no one ever looked like me except my mother. I remember seeing people on the street, just in passing and I’d notice a similarity and wonder “Maybe that’s my dad” or “maybe they’re my cousin/sister/aunt/uncle.” That followed me my entire life and would hit me at the most random times; passing someone at the park, the store, a kid in my class. It never went away… And then when I found them, and I could see it, with my own eyes. They all looked like me, and my kids. My two new sisters are almost clones of me at a younger age.
I got my answer, but I got so much more than I ever expected and it couldn’t have been any more perfect than it was.