The last cut was the deepest
The e-mail hit my inbox at 9:51, on June 21: “Your AncestryDNA Results Are In!”
I’d been waiting patiently for weeks, as I’ve always been a genealogy fan, trying to go back on both sides of my family as far as I could.
I hit the website, which has been open on my browser for almost the entire time of my wait. I clicked on the Ethnicity Estimate link, and there it was: 37 percent Irish, 37 percent Great Britain, 8 percent Italy/Greece, with the rest just smatterings here and there.
Oddly, there was little French, and zero Native American — and my understanding had always been to the contrary. I knew that our name had been “La Pierre” once upon a time, before it became Stone.
Then I clicked on the DNA Match link. There were two people in the top-level, close relationship category. One was my niece, Heather.
Who the hell was this other guy? I had heard the name, from my hometown in Oswego, New York, but we were not related at all far as I knew. Yet, here he was in my top tier DNA match.
I messaged five of my cousins on Facebook, asking them if they knew how we were related to this guy.
Duh. There was only one way I was closely related to this guy.
I was in tears for a couple hours. I was not crying over my lineage, but over my stolen childhood. But what I first got a hint of over 25 years ago was true: I was a bastard.
Back then, my mother consulted with my first wife, Peggy. She was inquiring if I had ever said anything about my father maybe not being my father.
I had not.
The reasons for the questions were that my dad had often blurted things out in anger, in the heat of battle, about me not being his son — and she was afraid I had overhead them, or at least some of them. I had not — or if I had, did not understand them.
The fights were epic. We would be parceled off to various relatives for a few days, and then brought back as if nothing had happened. We moved to California in 1965, ostensibly because of the snow. I found out later that it was an ultimatum from my mother: move vs. divorce. Somehow, she thought the women in California would be less interested in my father than New York women. Wrong.
Things did not change, except that we children no longer had the family support group.
When he was out carousing, my mother used to plant me in her bed so there was no room for him if he came home. For years, I thought it was because I was the oldest. My mother broke my heart from the grave when I finally woke up (another “duh”), and realized that I was a pawn in those battles, and that picking me instead of one of my siblings was the best “Screw you!” she could throw in my father’s face.
The psychologists call it emotional incest.
So, in June of 1954, in largely-Roman Catholic Oswego, New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario, after several years of marriage, and trying and failing to get pregnant, with increasing pressure from families, I’m sure, and in the shadow possible sterility… Mom strayed.
Was she first? I will never know.
My first wife told me both that I had met the guy, and that they’d done all the testing that was doable back then. Inconclusive either way. Maybe, maybe not.
I didn’t talk to Mom about it, but I tried to talk to my father years later — and he was having none of it.
No name had been forthcoming from my mother, but I recognized the name on Ancestry as belonging to a family friend, part of the old gang of guys in my father’s world that played rabid softball on humid New York evenings, guzzling beer between innings — and sometimes during. My uncle told me the man is dead, but was a “stand-up guy,” so, obviously this is a son who was named after the father, just as I had been named after mine, in a twisted attempt to block out reality — some form of myopic, hopeful compensation or denial.
Interestingly, he does not have a family tree — just a DNA section. Maybe he had some knowledge beforehand as well? I don’t know if we will ever discuss this, but I certainly don’t want to disrupt his life or his memories.
I called Ancestry. I hope they don’t get too many of those types of calls, for their sake. Sure enough, nieces, half-nieces and half-brothers would all show up in the “First/Second Cousin” category, with a very, very high confidence level.
I have been suffering for some years now with alcohol, depression and childhood PTSD. I also have some organic issues from my mom’s family, but it all started way back then by being shunned by the man who was supposed to love me and nurture me, and show me the ways of life. My versions of Dad 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 were a much, much better product than I experienced, with so many upgrades, but I will nonetheless always regret that they were not all they could have been.
Likewise, Husband 2.0 was much better than Husband 1.0, but of those, too, could have been much better, and my journey these last few years has been very, very difficult for Wife 2.0, the love of my life. It’s been tough. I’m sure it was tough for my father, too, to have me there as a daily reminder… of love, broken hearts, shattered dreams?
Given the life I’ve had, I should have been growing old gracefully and graciously — not experiencing horrors deeper than I ever imagined. As bad as it’s been, the overall basis of my life makes it easy not to feel sorry for myself. Rarely, and never sober.
Would I do Ancestry again? Of course. I now know the truth.
Given my father’s behavior, I’m surprised there were not more “surprises” in Ancestry — which I’m sure will change as the database expands. Is there a chance that this guy is, instead, my father’s son — that he is the outlier? Slightly, perhaps, but the facts as I know them say otherwise.
What has changed.
I now know only half of my family medical history.
I had a father, but I never had a dad, although my wife’s father has been wonderful.
My niece is upset. I don’t know yet how my children feel — perhaps they themselves don’t know yet, either, nor do I know how my three siblings and two nephews will react.
Perhaps with some myopia of my own, I have focused most of my genealogy efforts on my father’s side of the family, including extensive Civil War records of an ancestor killed at Cold Harbor. Time and money wasted.
Am I sorry I took three years of French in high school? Mais, non.
Gratitude is something that’s supposed to be a large part of my recovery. I have survived and, given that I have only offered you a small glimpse into my first 18 years, my survival was not at all inevitable, so I am very grateful for that. Not only survived, but thrived.
My children. My wife. My friends. My dogs. My cat.
At least one half-sibling, maybe more.
My health is great, and will remain so for awhile if I stay on this path.
I also now have a hundred people in my family tree that are third through eighth cousins, with a high degree of certainty, that I didn’t know anything about — on both sides of my family. Some of these people have thousands of people in their own family trees.
And, hey — there’s not a trace of “Trump” anywhere to be found!