Cheryl Hughes: DNA
About a month ago, I was standing in my kitchen when God spoke to me—and yes, I am one of those people who thinks God speaks to me, and I can’t prove it, and nobody can disprove it, so here we are—and as I was saying, God said to me, “I’m going to give you a gift.” I reacted with a nonchalant, “That’s nice,” and didn’t think anymore about it.
A couple of weeks before, I had approached my half-brother about submitting a DNA sample to Ancestry.com. I planned on doing this, as well. I asked my brother for the favor because of a doubt that had hung over me for 15 years, a doubt that was planted inside me on Christmas day those many years ago.
On that particular Christmas day, my dad was angry. He said my biological sisters and I hadn’t given him a fair chance, that we hadn’t given him an opportunity to prove himself to our husbands, and that he hadn’t even gotten a chance to know them.
I was puzzled by the outburst. True, we didn’t live next door, but hadn’t we always shown up for his birthday and Father’s Day? Hadn’t we always been there for our stepmom’s birthday and Mother’s Day, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas? Hadn’t we all sat for hours at these events listening to him expounding on the events of the day, while preaching his political views with the fervor of an old-time revival preacher, and summing it all up by telling us our country was doomed? Well, hadn’t we?
On that Christmas Day, 15 years ago, my father concluded his outburst by turning to me and saying, “And I don’t even know if you are my real daughter!”
“Merry Christmas to you too!” I thought but didn’t say. I was too startled and hurt to say anything. I was once more reduced to the little girl who had always stood before him with no words to defend myself.
Kinship and how you feel about your family is a complicated thing. There are those who can brush off an incident like I experienced with retaliatory words like, “If you don’t want me to be part of this family, that’s fine with me!” I am not one of those people. My dad’s words weighed heavy on me for years.
When I approached my brother with my request, he said, “It doesn’t matter how this turns out, you will always be my sister.” I explained that I felt the same way, but I just wanted to know if Dad was my father, and if he wasn’t, maybe there was the possibility of finding out who was.
I ordered the kits. I knew it would probably be a while before they were processed, due to the Covid-19 tests taking priority in the labs these days. I sent mine in immediately. My brother waited an extra week before submitting his. With these particular kinds of tests, only people who have participated in the specific DNA service you are using will show up as relatives in your data bank. I called my brother on August 30th to tell him my results had come in. He told me his hadn’t, but they sent him notification that his results would be posted by September 14th.
Saturday, September 5th was my birthday. It was two pm when my phone rang. My brother was on the line. “How are you doing, Sis?” he asked.
I assumed he was calling to wish me Happy Birthday. “I guess I’m okay, in light of the fact that I’m turning 65 today,” I laughed.
“Today is your birthday?” he said surprised, “Oh, I’m so sorry I forgot to send you a card, but did you notice what I said when you answered the phone?” he asked, “I called you Sis.”
The reason he had called finally dawned on me. I started to cry. “Thank you so much for doing this for me,” I said, “This is the best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten.”
Knowing is a powerful thing. It precedes belonging. It comes with rights and obligations that I am more than happy to embrace.
God did have a gift for me. He delivered it on my birthday.