Sunday, March 26, 2017

I Found My Secret Half-Great-Aunt with DNA Testing

I mentioned in a post two years ago that my maternal grandfather was conceived out of wedlock.  His mother was between husbands, and his father got around.  I also mentioned that a much younger half-sibling had contacted my grandfather in the late '90s, but I never learned her name.  She lived far away, and my grandmother had said she would send her a copy of the only photo they had of my great-grandfather and the few she had of his other children, the legitimate offspring.  My half-great-aunt didn't know her father because she had been conceived during an extramarital affair.  Her mother and social father (stepfather doesn't seem accurate if they passed her off as his own) already had two other children.  My half-great-aunt would be about 70 now, barely older than my mother.  Well, I found her.  Or, more accurately, DNA testing found us both.

My half-great-aunt popped up on AncestryDNA the other day with just three people on her family tree -- herself and her biological parents -- and I immediately knew who she was.  Even without the family tree, the 450+ cM of shared DNA and the many DNA relatives in common made it clear that my great-grandfather was our closest common ancestor.  I messaged her explaining how we're related (cushioned with "I think") and that my grandfather was one of the children born after their father's wife died.  I was trying to put delicately that he was one of the outsiders like her, that almost everything I knew had come much later from my own research.  I wanted her to feel comfortable talking to me.  I wanted her to know I was an outsider too, albeit one with lots of collected data and photographs.

I asked if she'd been the half-sister whose named I'd never learned who had written to my grandfather in the '90s.  She wrote back right away, and she was welcoming.  She said she was probably the same sister.  The few details my grandmother had mentioned, like birth year and state of residence, matched up, and she said she had tried to reach out to her "father's people" back then.  She hadn't known her father, she said.  She'd only seen him once when she was little, and her mother was still married to someone else, so she hadn't been allowed to talk about him at all.  How strangely similar to being donor conceived.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Meeting My Sister for the First Time

I'm hesitant to write about this because, as largely unread as this blog is, it's not private.  My nearest and dearest are well aware of it, though they aren't interested enough to come here (they hear enough of this stuff in person), and I should assume any up-and-coming nearest and dearest will be clued into it too, which is why I don't talk much about my paternal half-siblings.  I want them to like me, even if they someday read my blog.

To recap, I was conceived with anonymous donor sperm.  The only half-siblings I've found so far are the two adult children my biological father raised with his wife.  I'm the only DC one I know of, though there are probably more.

When I found Joseph, my biological father, he seemed very concerned that I would out him publicly, tag his children in Facebook posts, or somehow stalk or inconvenience his family.  I forgive him for this because he doesn't know that's not my style (except for the stalking -- I'm an exceptionally quiet cyberstalker).  He didn't want to know me, but my half-siblings did.  I have spoken to my half-sister Simone once on the phone.  We text sometimes on holidays.  We're Facebook friends, as I am with my half-brother Hans.  It's a strange relationship.  I've always been afraid of being perceived as too forward or forcing myself on them.  Both have been welcoming and kind to me.  Neither have seemed particularly interested in me though, so I've tried to take their lead.  Our relationships cooled, which I think was actually a good thing because they feel more solid now.  I feel more vested.  I feel like I would have to make a misstep for them to strike me from their lives now, whereas I previously checked Facebook every day to see if they had spontaneously unfriended me yet.

Here's the point of this post.  Simone wants to visit me and stay in my house.  Right away.  I do not want this to happen.  I would like to meet her.  I would like to share a meal and talk for hours, maybe even spend the day together.  She is my sister, and she will be forever, no matter how this relationship plays out.  But we have never met in person, we've only spoken once, and I don't want to host her in my home.  I am self-conscious of my home, and I have a husband and child and dog to take care of in my home.  I want to be able to give Simone my undivided attention somewhere else.  I want to be able to decompress after we meet and be alone to process everything.  I declined her request.  I said maybe in a few months.  Want to set a date in a few months?  Maybe then I'd have time to get to know her enough I could handle it, though I didn't say that part.  She asked again.  It needed to be now.  To avoid saying no again -- but also avoid saying yes -- I asked what was going on and expressed concern.  I knew she had had a fight with her boyfriend.  I knew to a certain extent what this was all about because she posts a lot of information on Facebook, which I appreciate as a quiet cyberstalker.  We messaged back a forth and few times over the next couple of weeks.  Then she asked again if she could stay in my house.  I've gotten good at drawing boundaries over the years, but I never learned how to maintain a relationship with someone who might not want those boundaries in place.  At the advice of my best friend Jerry, who is good at complex interpersonal relationships, I did what Simone frequently does and didn't respond at all.  The next time we talk, I will -- like Simone frequently does -- pretend it never happened.  This might sound cold, but I think it's the kindest way I could handle this particular situation.  It's strange.  I feel like I'm relearning how to play a game I was never particularly good at.

In case you're reading this ever, Simone, I do want to know you.  You are interesting, and we have so much in common in spite of all the ways we're different.  I think we'd both enjoy taking absurd numbers of selfies together and posting them on social media for attention with various #sister tags.  I like you and want to know you better.  But I want to take things slow.  I know it's been over two years, but we've barely spoken in that time, let alone bonded.  I am afraid of being the rebound from your current relationship.  I am afraid the novelty of meeting a new sister and posting selfies together on Facebook will not be enough to make you feel better again and that you might end up upset or mad at me.  I can be a good friend, but we barely know each other, and I'm not the best person for this job.  We could talk over the phone, and I could listen and sympathize, but I'm not good at hosting guests.  I don't like doing it, and that's not about you.  I want to get to know you, but if I let you light a fire under this sister relationship, I am afraid it will explode.  You mentioned starting DBT once on Facebook.  I clicked "like."  It made me happy that you were getting the kind of therapy I had always thought would work best for you.  I wanted to express support in that small Facebook way.  You don't know that borderline personality disorder is one of my areas of expertise.  You don't know anything about the family that raised me (well, you might now, if you're reading this here).  I want to have a functional relationship with you, so I'm not letting this go too fast.  Maybe I could come visit you and stay in a hotel.  We could go out to eat and you could show me around.  This is the best I can do.