Last Saturday I sat down on couch and drank my coffee. I scrolled through my email and saw that I had a message from 23andMe. I few months ago I decided to put a strangely large amount of saliva into a little plastic container and send it off through the mail. I wanted to dive into my heritage and learn about my medical precursors. To finally learn where my ancestors came from. I’ve been making jokes for years about how I’m third generation white trash but that’s my comedic way of skirting the issue because I honestly didn’t know.
My mom had me when she was really young. I was conceived when she was 17 and she had me a month after her 18th birthday. I knew bits and pieces of her lineage but depending on the day I asked my grandma, she would change it. I think it’s because my biological grandpa is German and it seemed like there was a lot of shame attached to that. She would fluctuate between Scottish, French and English and would leave it with European. Her second husband, the man I’ve called grandpa my whole life, was born in the Ukraine and came to Canada as a refugee. He makes the most amazing food (obviously) and has been my rock through the years, but we haven’t spoken about this much either.
When I was 6, my mom told me that a man named Kelly was my father and not Jim, who my mom married when I was still a baby. I was confused but Kelly seemed nice and my mom, little brother and I had made a midnight move from Jim about a year before with only a few garbage bags. Kelly and mom had my sister, which completed our family of 5. We spent holidays and time with his family and I learned that Kelly was Irish.
If you’re following along that would make me English, French, Scottish, German and Irish with Ukrainian influence. When I got my results, it confirmed that I am indeed a very white girl.
The big piece was learning that I was British, especially at such a high amount. I wondered where the heck all of that British DNA came from but moved onto the health reports. I was relieved not to have any precursors for big scary diseases but it did show that I had an increased risk for Celiac disease, which I have been diagnosed with and Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in my eyes, which I’ve already had surgery for. It was really, really accurate based on what I know about my body and gave me some insight and relief going forward.
There’s a section of the results that shows your DNA relatives. It took a couple of weeks for me to say yes to this, but my curiosity took over. The first thing that I saw was a name of a woman that I’ve never seen before who had shard a very large amount (23.8%) of DNA with me. For reference, I have a second cousin on 23andMe who I share 1.84% of my DNA with.
The email I’d received that morning was an alert that Linda had messaged me back and left her email address. I got in touch right away and we went back and forth about when I was born and where I lived as well as her family dynamics at the time. I gave her as much information as I could fully knowing that there was holes in the stories I’ve been told. After a few emails, she asked me if is it possible I was adopted or have a different biological father than the one I thought I had? With the amount of missing pieces in the stories I’ve been told, I let her know that anything was possible.
Shortly after, it came to light that her brother, Don was my biological father. In one day, sitting on my couch, my entire world both crashed in and opened up. I had so many questions but my first feeling was relief. Kelly has turned out to be a not nice father or human. He tried in some ways but really, really fell in others. By the time I was 8 or 9, I felt like a fish out of water with his family. I just didn’t fit in. When the abuse was the worst I would make up stories of what my real parents were like and weirdly, finding this information out felt right. It made so much sense to me on a soul level.
Linda was so kind in making sure I had a support system to help me through this information. Her and other members of the Blake family reached out to welcome me into the family and honestly, I felt really overwhelmed and confused. I even questioned the DNA results because it sounded so much like fiction. I mean really, who sits down for coffee and finds out they have a different biological father a few hours later?
With all of the outpouring of love and curiosity from my new family, I was spiralling. I am so thankful for my lovely friends, brother, and grandpa who took my calls and listened to me freak out about all the things and having all of the feelings. Truth be told, it’s been just me and the girls and my grandpa for a long time. I’ve spend most holidays alone and have learned how to handle the loneliness and isolation that comes with fending for yourself since a very young age. Knowing that I have this big family that are so curious about me, want to spend time with me and love me, well, that felt like a lot.
Over the next few days I found out so much about about my new family and biological father. I’m lucky that my aunt Linda loves genealogy and sent me documents full of my family tree and lineage. I noticed immediately that the documents had just been updated to include me, Tenesea and Azalee. Again, I cried happy tears. To this family, I matter.
I finally got ahold of my mom (we’re estranged) and she helped me fill in some pieces of the story. She obviously knows my biological father but told me repeatedly that she truly thought Kelly was my father. I’m sure she was saying this out of shock and we can chalk a lot of this to her being bad at math. She told me that if she was me, she wouldn’t open herself up to my new family and to be very, very cautious. As usual, I didn’t take her advice.
I took the plunge and called my new aunt. Linda is sweet and caring with a touch of sass, which amuses me to no end. I’m pretty sure her and I could talk for days on end and not run out of things to say. She reminded me that I come from a long line of strong, bad-ass women and listening to her, I know that to be true.
Shortly after, I called my biological father. It was initially weird for both of us and we acknowledged that. I got a little bit of history from him and he got a little bit of history from me. He sounded sincere and kind. He said he wished that he could have been around to help give me some stability when I was younger and said he was proud of all that I’ve accomplished. He was stoked to have granddaughters and asked a lot of questions about them and what they’re like. He said that it may be too late to influence my life but he was so happy to be there to watch these little ladies grow up and to hopefully positively influence theirs. We also talked about my 2 half-brothers, 4 aunts and uncles, 5 nieces and nephews and some of my cousins (there are a lot!).
We both agreed that it’s crazy that we live so close to each other. I’m in Courtney on Vancouver Island and he’s in Powell River on the Sunshine Coast. There’s literally a ferry that takes you within 10km of my house and 10km from his house on the other side. Far from the 1300km and multiple ferry rides from my old home in Edmonton just a year and a half ago. This could explain the draw I felt when I got to the Island and the Comox Valley and how quickly my move came together. Does feel like there’s some universal magic in play here. I also talked to his lovely partner of 17 years., Sheilagh.
They made a plan to come and see us today…Saturday. A week after I sat on this couch and found out that I had a different dad than the one I grew up with. The day the pieces started to really fit together.
I woke up full of energy and nerves. I wanted things to go well but I also didn’t want to go in with too many expectations because who knew what was going to happen. They showed up at the house and almost instantly the nerves fell away. He told me not to mind if he kept staring at me because she’s just so happy I’m real and he still can’t believe it. We drank tea and talked. Tenesea sat and listened and Azalee curled up in his lap and snuggled in while he chatted. It was really, really great. We had a nice lunch and kept the conversation going and then came back to Matilda to visit some more. They had to leave for the afternoon ferry but we promised to see each other soon and we took some photos.
This could very well be my dad’s first selfie. The matching plaid was not intentional.
And here are the mermaids with their new to them grandparents. They are so happy! We all are.
It was a really wonderful day. On top of coming to visit us, they had presents for the kids and fresh eggs from their chickens for me. My dad said he’s going to bring me a lawnmower next time he comes out, which is so very kind. According to my friends, food and machinery are ways that good dads show love. I’ll need to get used to this. Also, I’m fairly certain I will have choices on where to spend holidays from now on.
Bravely Loving Forward