A DNA Story: Part Two with More Surprises!

Life is beautiful…and full of surprises

Dear Friends,

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.

Matt clearing property at his new home in Texas

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.

Jed on a quiet morning of reflection and hunting in his new home state of Texas

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.

No matter what life throws at us, happiness is always within reach

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.

Matt and Jed look at Texas sunsets these days, far away from the town of their birth, San Francisco

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!

Baby boom years post WWII: Large families!

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)!

Does every family have its secrets ~ no doubt

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.

Rita Marie, in a better place these days

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.

FORGIVENESS

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.

Love,

S.G.

26 thoughts on “A DNA Story: Part Two with More Surprises!

  1. I think there’s a funny movie with Vince Vaughan about the offspring of a sperm donor all finding each other. But beside that…I think you should turn this story into a screenplay next.  Truly remarkable!

    Sharon E.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sharon,

      Thank you did your great comment. I recently read about that Vince Vaughn movie and I have never seen it, but now I want to see it! Yes I think we need some more movies with redemption, human connection, forgiveness and the beauty of love and family.

      Matt and Jed were lucky to find one another after all these years and it will was a happy ending/beginning. Never would I have dreamed that Matt would have found a half sibling nor would I ever have dreamed after meeting Rita Marie a number of years ago, that she and her brothers were the byproduct of a sperm donor. Rita Marie grew up thinking that her father was her real father so when she was in her 60s and found out the truth, it was a life shock.

      I so appreciate you reading and commenting!

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

  2. A thought provoking piece that shows another side to DNA reunions, not all of them happy, but personal truth and information are there for those who venture into testing and your post is a good suggestion to think about, in advance, as to what it may bring. Often, it can an opportunity to bring new family members into the fold. I’ve often said, “You can’t have too many people who love you.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Suzette,

      I love your philosophy that you can’t have too many people who love you. What a blessed way to go about life!

      I know of someone else who learned about a half sibling via DNA testing (a by product of an affair by a parent) and they want nothing to do with this new found relative, their own blood. With the popularity of DNA testing, I’m afraid discoveries and revelations like these will be more common place. Coincidentally, Matt’s Texas neighbor also found out about a half sibling who so happens to live in San Francisco and he never knew she existed before. The two of them, polar opposite personalities, are striving to forge some kind of relationship.

      Life definitely presents more often than not some hard choices. I always try to err in the direction of an open heart.

      Thank you for your wonderful comment.

      Love
      S.G.

      Like

    • Hi Bonny,

      I so appreciate you reading and commenting! I would love to talk to you more about the revelations in this blog next time we meet in person. The date for my next trip is uncertain but I will keep you posted.

      I’m sure you are still busy helping with family and living your life. I do miss my Pacifica life and friends and hope I can get back before the end of the year!

      Love
      S.G.

      Like

  3. HI, Susan – This is such a thought-proking and very well-written post. Like most people, I’ve heard bits and pieces about DNA testing with Ancestry.com, etc. I hadn’t given much thought to the extreme challenges that the frequency of this type of testing now raises for families. Even if someone chooses not to seek out this kind of information, it does not mean that it won’t eventually be presented to them. I honestly have no idea how I would react in Matt or Rita’s situations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Donna,

      Sorry it’s taken a couple of days for me to respond. I so appreciate your support and your kind comment! I agree with you that I’m not sure how I would react if I were Matt’s Mom or Rita. I’d like to think that after fifty years, I would embrace the son I gave up for adoption and meet my three grandchildren but I’m not walking in her shoes. I hope one day to write a follow-up to this story where Jed finally meets his birth mother. Matt’s wife would love to see her mother-in-law take a step in that direction, but in the meantime she stays out of it. As far as Rita is concerned, she told me she has no desire to meet her donor half siblings which amount to at least 16 on the ancestry site, and of course that only includes those who have chosen to get tested. How many were sired who have *not* gone through DNA testing.

      This was a great piece for me to write about because it does provoke thinking and how DNA testing can lead to doors being opened…or slammed.

      I hope you are doing fabulous!

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

  4. It’s amazing what life throws at you. You never know what’s around the corner. Maybe it’s a new life path, maybe it’s new family members! Nice job Nana, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Meg,

      Thank you so much for coming here and reading this story. You know I trust your instincts and your opinion as well. I’m glad that you liked what you read. It means the world to me.

      Love,
      Nana

      Like

  5. So very interesting… thank you for the update!

    I think many (most?) families have secrets that have been buried for a long, long time. Many “scandals” of the past would barely cause a blip nowadays. As they say, “sunshine is the best disinfectant” but some secrets are just too painful for some people to let go of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Janis,

      Thank you so much for reading the update. Matt’s wife told me after reading part one, that it didn’t include enough information. I thought about a part two but it wasn’t until Rita contacted me that I started to get more motivated. I think Matt and Rita have incredible stories to share and I’m so honored they allowed me to tell their stories here.

      I love that saying about sunshine as the best disinfectant (so wise on so many levels) and a favorite of mine is used in 12 Step rooms a lot is: “we are sick as our secrets.” Of course, everyone deals with shocks and secrets in their own unique way. It would be great if one day I can write a part three that talks about Jed and his three daughters meeting the birth mother. We shall see.

      Thanks so much for your wise words!

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

  6. Hi Susie!!! So beautiful. What a story and you are an amazing writer! I hope you are doing well, I miss you. I look forward to seeing you again one day soon🙏 Love you. Laurie

    Please excuse any typos Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Laurie,

      Oh dear friend, SO good to hear from you! I do miss my old life when we would get together either for golf or dinner and just chat away about our lives! Our kids grew up together and we’ve weathered many storms.

      I really appreciate your compliments and am so honored that you read this incredible story. I tell you, life is stranger than fiction. I never dreamed that one day I would learn that Matt had a long lost brother, or that old friend Rita had just learned a secret that upended her life and tore apart all that she knew.

      When I did my DNA test, there were not a lot of surprises (ethnicity wise) but I learned that I had some Swedish and a smidgen of Eastern Europe/Russia – just a smidgen. I loved getting the English/Irish/Scottish percentages because on a deeper level, I really identify with the Celtic culture.

      Missing you and as soon as I plan a visit to my old town, you will be one of the first to know.

      Love you,
      S.G.

      Like

  7. Thanks for this story, Susan. You’ve given your readers much to think about with respect to DNA searches.

    As always, I enjoyed your post. You are very talented.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Virginia,

      Thank you for your very kind words. I hope to chat with you soon about the ins and outs of writing about this subject. I’m really honored that Matt and Rita allowed me to tell their stories. I’m hoping it was therapeutic for them, because as I said in another comment, “we are sick as our secrets.” I think deliberately burying our pain and refusing to deal with it is just delaying our healing, but as I said, it’s an individual decision and no one can force the healing of another. We have to want it ourselves! It’s like trying to force an alcoholic to get sober; unless it’s a desire within their own being to want to get well, no amount of coercing is going to work. Bottom line, I hope one day that Jed’s birth mother will have a change of heart.

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

  8. Dear Susan, I did think about you on September 30th. I recall you mentioning trying to post one blog at least once a month. So, I made sure to get mine out on September 30th. Seriously.

    You are right about how many details and how long a post. I love reading the extra details, extra layers of a story. Again, goosebumps, Susan, with “Amazing coincidence.” In my head, I am one big OMGosh. I have friends who have been adopted and some of the feelings they share is part of what you share.

    Fascinating information Susan on how you are right. A.I. done in the early 1950s. I know some families have their secrets and I suspect many more.

    You have hit the nail on the head “…would not be here in this world if it weren’t for donor dad.” And the subject of Forgiveness, another big topic. Thank you for being you, Susan. I am left with goosebumps and perspective.❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear E/E,

      As I moved closer to publishing on the last day of September and putting the finishing touches on my blog, I did see you get yours published “under the wire” as well and I had a little chuckle saying to myself “E beat me to it”. ha ha

      There is no way I could have included all those details in one post; it ended up being perfect that I decided to write a part two. It’s not the kind of story one can tell in one sitting especially as it contains so many layers, as you note so astutely.

      I was so naive because when I found out my old acquaintance and her siblings were products of a sperm donation in the early 50s, I was truly surprised. From what I heard about Rita’s background, I wouldn’t have thought her family had the money for such a procedure. I wasn’t alone in that thinking either. I know Rita grew up in a family that did not have a lot of money.

      I feel very moved and honored that this story created goosebumps for readers. And if it helps people to understand and forgive each other more, what a blessing.

      I just caught wind today that there might possibly be a part 3 brewing – a part 3 that would be a miracle and I am crossing my fingers that it comes to fruition.

      Love
      S.G.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your posts are nice to read in how you divided them into Part one and two, and I look forward to a potential Part 3. These are the types of stories I will never forget. They open my eyes to another life. The importance and blessings of being able to have children. The extent and expense of trying to have children. And, the ripple effect of all of this. I love how you pay attention, Susan, to all the layers and nuances of life. I am grateful for your gift with words so you can share the stories with us.❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Beautiful, touching, uplifting. Thanks so much for sharing these amazing coincidences which we know are just part of the Universe’s plan. Your pieces are always so uplifting with a nice message and beautiful pictures. They always speak to me and I look forward to the next one.

    Like

  10. An emotional story that highlights the various challenges that DNA testing brings up for some folk. I have a rather happier story in that family history revealed that I was related by marriage to my best friend even though she was born in a different country. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello!

      Sorry I have been so late in responding to your kind comment. The days blend into one another in a ground hog day kind of fashion and I feel I am in some kind of time warp. Thus, I get lost in a mind fog now and then, and I realized I hadn’t responded to your comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to read. Yes, some DNA revelations may have a more joyful aspect to them; while others create a life changing earthquake upon the ground one walks on. After I wrote part two, some new developments have taken place and I am hoping that a part 3 will be in the offing. It is a positive and one I had hoped for some of the characters in the story!

      Stay well and serene and thank you again,

      S.G. (Susan Grace)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know what I would do without a routine. So true about keeping us grounded … something that is predictable and gives us a feeling of continuity because for sure the external world has none of that. A daily routine got me through the darkest moments of lock down.

        Like

    • Dear Saania ,

      I sure appreciate you stopping by and reading! I put my heart and soul into every word so it’s nice when and if it touches another human being. There may be a Part Three coming which I’m super excited about. But I need my guest writer (Matt, part one) to write it! So it’s on his timetable.

      Love,
      S.G.

      Liked by 1 person

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