“I once was lost, but now I’m found.” — Amazing Grace In June of 1963, a young couple adopted a twoday- old baby boy from the Home of the Holy Infancy — a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Austin, Texas. The couple raised him, loved him, gave him a sister and a family, taught him right from wrong, protected him, provided for him and gave him a good life. The boy, who always knew he had been adopted, grew into a man who often wondered about his origins and his biological family. That boy — that man — is my husband, Gene, who is 59 years old this year.
A few years ago, I convinced Gene to spit into a vial, upload his unique DNA to the Internet, and register with Ancestry.com. Every few weeks, Ancestry would send him a notification saying that they had found matches suggesting a third cousin, a fourth cousin and other very distant relatives. Then two weeks ago, it happened. Ancestry noted that a man in Texas shared 24% of his DNA with Gene (suggesting a half sibling), and moreover, there was a photo of a face that resembled my husband’s.
Excitement swelled in our house like a tsunami. Gene sent the biological stranger an email using the first line from a Doobie Brothers song, “You don’t know me, but I’m your brother…” And then we waited.
A few days later, my husband checked his inbox and found a response from “Chris” in Texas providing a cell phone number and asking Gene to contact him immediately. A few minutes later, Gene placed the call and put “his brother” on speakerphone, so I could hear the conversation. There were tears and moments where neither man knew what to say.
Chris, 52, was in shock — understandably confused and emotional — but DNA doesn’t lie. DNA exposes truths meant to stay sealed for a lifetime. DNA answers questions and sets people free.
As the two grown men have tackled their new relationship, I’ve been amused at how similar the process is to dating. They’ve posed questions as basic as, “How tall are you and how much do you weigh?” “What do you like to do in your spare time?” “How did you end up in Georgia?” and “What’s your family like?” When my husband’s phone rings, I watch him race to answer it in case it’s his newfound brother. Gene, who is inherently quiet and short on words, has talked on the phone more in the last week than the entire 34 years I’ve known him. A few days into their new relationship, Chris and his wife, Leslie, asked us to FaceTime (video call) with them. In a panic, Gene and I rushed to the bathroom and spiffed up a bit. My husband combed his hair and put on a clean shirt. I brushed my teeth and applied lipstick. And then we FaceTimed with Gene’s new family, who seem to be lovely, lovely people and are as happy to know my husband as he is to know them.
Yesterday, the Texas brother called a family meeting to tell his four children that they have an uncle in Georgia. An hour later, we FaceTimed with the entire clan. Each niece and nephew told us a little about themselves. They stared at Gene through the computer screen, and Gene stared back — all of them in awe at the stranger with the strong family resemblance.
Gene and Chris share a mother, who has carried this secret on her back for almost six decades.
My husband sat down and penned a letter to his biological mother yesterday. He wrote that he has no hard feelings or animus for her — only love and gratitude for giving him life. He asked her to call him or respond via email. As of this morning, he hasn’t heard from her. We hope that she will find it in her heart to connect to him, but we are bracing for the possibility that she just can’t. continued from page
And there’s a half sister. Connecting with her is next on his list. We’ve also figured out who my husband’s biological father is, and we’ve found photos of him, too. Gene is going to wait until after the first of the year to reach out to his paternal side.
All of this has been a lot to take in. There’s a line from a song by The Chicks that states, “Who do we become, without knowing where we started from?” Thanks to the magic of DNA, my husband’s story is finally being told to him. He’s finally able to see faces that look like his. He’s finally able to fill in some gaps and understand the biological links that will eventually make him feel whole.
And for those of us who are watching the saga unfold, we couldn’t be happier for him. Fifty-nine years is a long time to wait to meet your family.