My half-sister Simone texted me over the weekend and it got me thinking. I wrote the following to submit to AnonymousUs:
When I first found my biological father and his family through DNA testing, I found my only known half-sister. Our father told her about me at my request. She was in shock. "I always wanted a sister," she told me. "I can't believe I've had one all this time and didn't even know." I knew how she felt. We'd both grown up with only brothers.
My sister and I look a lot alike: same pale skin, same hair, same eyes, same jaw. We like a lot of the same things: hiking, baking, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We're both half German, though only she grew up learning the language, and only she feels a connection to the culture. And there are even more things we don't have in common -- the way we dress, the books we read, the music we like.
We've never met. I was in kindergarten when my sister was born and moved a thousand miles away. It was another 25 years before we learned of each other's existence. We've texted, Facebooked, talked on the phone -- tentative efforts to become "real sisters" like ones who've grown up together. Her parents don't approve, but we're adults and it's out of their hands now. My mother forbade me from ever seeking out my biological father's family too. "He was just 'a donor,'" she told me. "It's different." Still, even if you believe family is only who you choose to include, my siblings and I have chosen to include one another. As far as they're concerned, I count. I feel like their opinions on this matter hold more weight than mine since they aren't donor conceived like me.
Families aren't exclusively made up of intended parents and the children they choose to raise. That's a family, sure, but sometimes children -- certainly donor conceived and adopted children -- have additional family beyond the ones who raised them. Sometimes family means shared blood in two people who look alike but grew up apart. Sometimes two strangers are family simply because they are sisters. I don't think it's as "different" as my mother believed.