Recently, I caught up with an older friend I hadn't seen for a while. When I asked what was new, she replied, “Well, I have a new brother and a different father than I thought I had!” She proceeded to tell a complicated story that started with her daughter, who was doing genealogy research, and ended with a DNA test.
I was shocked. Even though this kind of stuff is the bread and butter of TV plots, I'd never known anyone in real life who found out something like this. I have friends with adoption stories, but no one with a story quite like this to tell. And what makes it even more remarkable is that this woman is in her 80's and her living brother is in his 90's. After I closed my dropped jaw, I asked her how she felt about this new development. She said that she was still processing things, but some pieces of her childhood made more sense now. The next week, her daughter was going to take her to meet her new half brother. She wasn't sure how she felt about that either. She was having a hard time wrapping her mind around an 80 year history and identity that had suddenly changed.
Since my visit with her, I've thought a lot about how I'd feel if something like this happened to me. Intellectually, I know that I would still be who I was and a past that I didn't even know about for most of my life wouldn't matter. But the emotional part of me started to think what if someone told me that my father wasn't my father. Or if I had siblings that I didn't know. That made me feel very unsettled. We each have a personal story that we tell ourselves and others--who our parents are, where we've lived, what happened in third grade, etc. I don't know if I'd be ready to tell a new story all of a sudden.
But that is what life is about and that's what makes each of our stories so interesting—there is always something new waiting for us around the corner.