Wednesday, October 24, 2018

This is Me: An Adoption Story, Part 7

Coincidences and Connections

If you haven't been following along and want to catch up, here are all the prior installments of this strange and mostly marvelous tale:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:

Part of the weirdness of this journey for me was watching all these odd coincidences unfold. Realizing that I had a circle of friends in common with my Uncle Paul was certainly one of them, but not the only one.

Another delightful discovery was that I had a cousin who lives a few towns over from me. He and I met for an extended breakfast last December and pretty much talked nonstop. G's father is my maternal grandmother's brother, so I *think* that makes us second cousins.

(Parenthetical aside: No matter how many times I look up the difference between a cousin and a cousin once removed, I can't keep the distinction in my  head. It makes sense when I look at the genealogy charts, but vanishes after a few minutes.)

I realized, when putting this blog post together, that it's been nearly a year since G. and I met and I definitely need to reach out to him and reconnect.

So to recap:

  • In October of 2017, I found the adoption file that I had believed was lost in our 2010 house fire while looking for something in the attic.
  • I fired up google and typed in my birth mother's name
  • I found her; but she had died in 2010
  • Through the family tree that was posted for her, I found her brother, my uncle
  • He and I were connected by a circle of science fiction & fantasy creators
  • Through Paul, I was embraced by my large extended maternal-side family (cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and my birth mother's 2nd husband) with one exception:
  • My maternal half brother utterly rejected me
That brings me up to the Spring of 2018. To that point, I had not yet connected to any of my paternal family. 

During this process, I had signed up with both Ancestry and 23andme. Despite my initial misgivings about the confidentiality of my genetic information, I decided to go ahead with the genetic testing mainly because I hadn't known at the time if I would ever get my health history from any relatives. Given that I have children, and given how much we are discovering about the importance of genetics in health and disease, I chose to risk the privacy issues. 

One of the things that 23andme does is sends you periodic reports when it finds genetic matches and gives you their best estimate on how close a relationship you share. 

In late June of 2018, I got an update from them with a new genetic match. RB was listed as a likely 1st or possibly 2nd cousin. And his last name was the same as my birth father's. This was my first clue to discovering my paternal side family!

I sent an email through the website and got a response back a few days later. Here's where it gets tangled.

The person who answered my email was LA, the daughter of RB. She had been the one to manage the DNA test for her father. It turns out that her father, rather than being my 1st cousin, is actually my half-uncle on my paternal side.

RB's half brother is my birth father, but R did not grow up with his half-siblings. They shared a father but had different mothers, as my paternal grandfather divorced his first wife, who moved with her child (R) to Utah. My paternal grandfather then remarried and had multiple children with his second wife, one of whom is my birth father. 

Through this half-uncle, I was connected to a huge branch of the family, much of which live in Utah. I have corresponded with multiple levels of cousins only to discover that one of my (2nd cousins? Removed? Gah, this gets so complicated!) is a science fiction writer with whom . . . wait for it . . . we share an entire network of mutual friends. 

Yes, folks, there are bone fide science fiction geeks/writers on BOTH sides of my genetic code. 

And it was utterly delightful when I discovered that both Paul (my maternal uncle) and Karen (my 2nd cousin, something something removed on my paternal side) were both attending WorldCon in California this summer. The two of them found one another and took a photo together for me. 

Paul and Karen - the 2 sides of my heritage meet!

To be continued. . . 

P.S. Happy "Foundaversary" Paul! It was just a year ago that we spoke for the first time!

(Read on to part 8)

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  1. I am still blown away every time I see a picture of Paul how much the two of you look alike! And then I am filled with joy, all over again, that you met for-reals, and then I squee and hug my puppies and laugh.

    1. Thank you! It's been a journey full of love.

  2. Hi again. This is Karen's mother, Pat Castelli. I just finished reading your seven-part memoir of finding your birth family. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Hi pat! Thank you. I have so much more to add to the story. It has been such an amazing journey and I'm so grateful for the love and welcome I have been given.