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Monday, May 8, 2017

Science and Technology by Kelli Turpin


 


I’m a fairly private person.  Google my name and the first thing that pops up is my RateMyProfessors.com profile from over a decade ago, then a few things that aren’t about me, then my profile at City’s Counseling website, followed by a bunch of other stuff that also isn’t about me.  (Some of the images connect back to the blog posts I wrote a few years ago.  I didn’t click through all of the images, but the first couple of screens?  Not me.)  A friend from high school found me through the blog a while ago (about three years or so, I think).  Then a few months ago, I got an e-mail from a stranger that rocked my world.
I need to go back to the science part.  (Google is the “technology” part, if you must know. <grin>)
At some point last summer, after many requests from my mother, we ordered two DNA kits from Ancestry.com*.   We duly spit into the little cups and sent them away for processing.  Sometime in September, the results got posted on-line in my account^.  We oohed and aahed and promptly forgot about it.  (For anyone who’s interested: my “ethnicity estimate” is 48% Great Britain, 19% Ireland, and 33% Other Regions, which includes 16% Italy/Greece – that will be important in a minute).
In February, I got an e-mail at work entitled “Ancestry DNA.”  It was a busy time, so I actually didn’t read it until later that day.  I kind of shrugged and thought: Hmm.  Maybe I have a relative at City College!  When I finally read it, I learned that I had a younger sister.  Wrap your mind around that.  This wasn’t like the pages of 4th or 5th cousins that Ancestry’s test had spat out before.  This was an actual sibling.  (Technically, we would share the same amount of DNA if we were first cousins as well, but since we both knew our bio-father’s name and it was the same name, it was siblings.)

Now, I’ve always been the baby in my family.  My brothers are significantly older than me (they were 14 & 15 when I was born).  I’m the only grand-daughter.  My entire identity as a member of my family was intertwined between those two things. 
Understand that I’ve always known that my Dad wasn’t my biological father.  Dad died when I was very young, so I have no idea why he “adopted” me as his own or why the rest of his family just accepted me as one of them without so much as hiccup.  I just know that I have his name even if I don’t share any of his DNA. 
It honestly never occurred to me to care about my biological father.  Thom pretty much waltzed into my mother’s life, hung out for a while, donated some sperm, then left, never to be seen or heard from again.  I knew his name.  I knew he was Italian, but everyone warned me to take that with a grain of salt, because “Thom lied a lot.”

So, I have a sister.  She’s eight years younger than me, give or take, and she’s always been the older sister.  Our bio-father spent about a year with her and her mother before he left to go back to his wife(!), so she actually has pictures#.  When he died, not long after she attempted to reconnect with him, as his only living relative, she was the executor of his estate (not a job I envy, after doing it for my aunt), so she went through his stuff.  There was no mention of me or my mother, though there was rumor that he was “married” to someone with my mom’s name before he married his wife.
Science told me that I actually was Italian (Thom’s mother was Brooklyn Italian, third generation American) and matched my DNA to my sister’s.  Technology made it possible for us to reach out and connect.  We talked on the phone for about an hour, though we haven’t yet met face-to-face. 
I can’t say that my life has changed significantly.  I’m still the younger sister to my brothers, even though I’m now an older sister, too.  I’m still me, with all of my own peculiarities (or eccentricities).  But, now I know why I talk with my hands and why I love driving fast+.  I’ve been able to fill in some of the missing pieces that, while I never noticed their lack, make me who I am.

*Around the Fourth of July, I think, because Ancestry.com has sales on the big holidays and we had results in September.
^While I can’t claim that no one will ever see the results, everyone who doesn’t own the account is completely anonymous to everyone other than the account owner.  I know who belongs to which test, but the DNA testing company only has a number. 
#She divorced him.  Go figure!
+Because my grandfather was a race-car driver.

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