Yesterday afternoon, I was laying on my couch chatting with my best friend when suddenly my condo started shaking. The light fixtures were swinging, and the chug and shuddering noises associated with an earthquake were in my ears. And as quickly as it happened, it passed. A 5.0 quake south of the Channel Islands. It was only the second earthquake I have felt since moving back to Southern California three years ago, thankfully.
Last night, I experienced another earthquake, but not an aftershock. What I mean is a metaphorical earthquake, my own life's tectonic plates shifting and grinding together. Let me explain...
At Christmas time, I bought Ancestry DNA kits for myself and my husband. When taking the test, you have to indicate whether you want your results to be public and thus be matched up with other test takers with whom you share DNA. Martin chose to have his be public; I did not. You see, I knew that there'd be a strong likelihood that I would be matched up with members of my biological family. As an adopted child, I've spent the last 38 years with lots of questions about my biological family. Yes, I grew up in a family who loved me deeply and provided everything they could for me. However, they could never provide me answers to my questions. And those questions have haunted me for as long as I could remember. What can I say? I'm a researcher and someone who engages in scholarly work. I need answers for a curious mind that often never shuts off or down.
We got our results back in early March with Martin's DNA test showing really interesting information about his ethnic background as well as so many matches with his family. Mine came in the next day. And because I chose it to be private, I was excited to find out that I was 58% Irish/Scottish/Welsh and 11% Great Britain and surprised to find that I was 12% Scandinavian. (And I'll save my comments about the science behind these categorizations and what they really mean...) However, I had 0 matches. Nothing that could connect to my adoptive parents' genealogy family tree. Nothing that told me where or who I was from.
Curiosity got the better of me though. I clicked the button to change my settings, and after a few clicks to refresh the page, I got a shock: a perfect match via DNA to my biological father. Long story short, this set off a few weeks of rabbit holing on online searches about my biological father, including finding his Facebook profile and also ultimately finding a post made on an adoption registry site back from 2003.
On St. Patrick's Day, fittingly enough based on my ethnicity match, I sent him a message. Last night, he responded with the subject line of Happy birthday! My metaphorical earthquake was getting that message, except the plates shifting seemed to be like puzzle pieces settling into place rather than things getting disrupted.
I've had a whole host of emotions about this reconnection. I imagine he has too. However, I am grateful, most of all, to have some questions answered, to have contact with this man who helped give me life, and to be connected once again in a small way. I like to think about the fact that my biological parents gave me the greatest chance in the world, and they also allowed my parents to become parents to their eldest child. I am still my mom and dad's child. Nothing will change that.
Tomorrow, I turn 39 years old, and in 2018, the year, I claimed my one-word intention to be courage. I'm finding that courage takes many different forms. My biological parents showed courage all those years ago. My parents show courage in their love for me on the regular. I demonstrated courage in reaching out and making contact with a stranger in some sense, but one who has had an immense role in my life. He responded with courage in reaching back out and asking for my understanding and centering the courage of my 18-year-old birth mother who made the decision to give me birth away from family and friends back in a small town in upstate New York in 1979. Courage is in this story. Courage runs deep.
And so, for my 39th birthday tomorrow, I wish for more courage, for me, for them, for you. We need more of it because we all have our earthquakes to withstand, and we all need courage for what's to come.