Dear Dave: Meet Your Family – 52 Ancestors #185

For three days and nights, the tears rained like a defective faucet that I couldn’t turn off. A combination of nerves, excitement and sadness, all tossed together in a salad-spinner. That DNA match set off a tear tsunami. Finding your family meant, of course, that I got to revisit your final departure, on the anniversary of your funeral. No irony here. 

Yep, allergies in full bloom!

Sleep, however, eluded me successfully.

Would Helen read her messages about your DNA match?

Would she reply to me?

Would she answer my questions?

Would she tell me who her grandparents were? I didn’t want to seem too nosey at first. What I really wanted to ask was, “where was your father in July of 1954?”

Would she sense the fear and trepidation in my e-mail and become wary?

Would crossing my fingers help?

And then, suddenly, ding, there it was. An e-mail from Helen. Then one from another cousin with the same surname.

Helen apparently hadn’t held it against me that I had to correct my original e-mail, not once, but twice. I shouldn’t type when I’m nervous and somewhat overwrought – but had I waited for that to subside, I’d still be waiting.

We had come this far and reaching out was the only way to end the agony – regardless of the outcome.

Then the next step in the worry-chain began. If this sounds like “over the top” anxiety, all I have to say is that you’ve never stood in the shoes of someone during the discovery process of long-lost immediate family. I thought I understood it before, but empathy is no substitute for the proverbial mile in the moccasins. 

Would I ever hear back from Helen again?

Would she tell me who her father was. 

Did she have uncles?

Where did they live in 1954?

I did (mostly) resist checking my phone every hour during the night to see if Helen had replied.  I admit, I checked twice. Ok, maybe three times.

Was it only yesterday morning that Helen sent her phone number and invited me to call? Surely, it was at least a year ago. 

I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe right now, or maybe a parallel reality.  Of course, sleep deprivation doesn’t help any. Like Helen said, it’s like we’ve stepped over some transformational line in the sand that we didn’t even see – and now we’re suddenly on the other side wondering what the heck just happened.

This just happened so fast. We’ve been run over by a bus whose passengers are every emotion on the planet.

Life changed in the blink of an eye. Helen has a new sibling – her family just expanded. DNA did in an instant what 60 years failed to do. I’m just so grateful that she is welcoming of this news and not upset. 

Yesterday, after I finally composed myself enough to call Helen, sitting at my desk in my jammies because I just couldn’t wait any longer, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Of course, I did.

Thankfully, Helen is a lovely person.

Then Helen called me back again. Then I called her. Then we laughed, and cried, and talked and did it all over again. Several times.

Helen told me how she and her sisters had longed for a brother.

She told me how her father had moved north from Georgia in 1952, after her mother’s horrific death, and how the rumors swirled of a half-brother someplace, born about 1955.

You were conceived in July 1954.

Helen DNA tested to make genealogical discoveries. It never occurred to her that she might find her long-rumored half-brother.

Well, Dave, meet your half-sister, Helen.

No, not me, the other one. And yes, we are truly as joyfully happy as we look.

Rest assured, we’re trouble-makers together!  You have no idea what you’ve done by introducing us😊

Of course, because our lives cannot EVER be simple, Helen’s results are low for a half-sibling match, so there’s a possibility you’re first cousins. Helen’s other sister is DNA testing as well, just to confirm. 

Would taking a look at Helen’s father help?

Dave, meet the man we believe is your father!

He is positively either your father or your uncle.  Helen and her sisters say that you don’t look anything like the one other Priest brother that may have been in a northern state about the time you were conceived. The rest of the Priest brothers never left the deep south – and let’s face it, proximity is kinda critical in this situation.

When I saw that photo of Helen’s father, my breath caught. Could this really be the man you sought for so long? Let’s look at the two of you together.

What do you think, Dave?  Is this your father? I think he’s a dead-ringer for you. Of course, those pictures of you simply don’t do you justice. (No, I am NOT biased either!)

Because yesterday was Valentine’s Day, Helen and I decided to delay our meeting until this evening. Another 24 hours of torture!

In an amazing stroke of good fortune, Helen and I live about an hour apart. So I left two hours early, just in case. 

I prepared to gift Helen with what small things I have of you. I have nothing tangible from your lifetime on earth, except for a few photos and the prayer Jim wrote for your funeral. I put the prayer in an envelope, made Helen a thumb drive of your photos to keep and took my laptop so that we could look at your pictures together. 

I told Helen about our fun times together. Your determination to climb that wall at the fair and how you succeeded, in spite of how ill you were from your treatments. You and Helen are remarkably alike – unstoppable once you set your mind to something. I was awestruck by the unmistakable similarities.

Helen and I met at a lovely restaurant whose patient staff was incredibly tolerant of our long dinner. She brought me a white rose. I brought her a brother.

We ate. We laughed. We talked about you. Were your ears burning? They should have been.

We cried. Ok, I cried.

We exchanged meaningful looks and shocking stories. We swore, in your honor, of course! And we hugged.

We discovered that somehow we had known each other forever – just like you and I did. Deja vu.

We share the same regret – that you didn’t live long enough to meet Helen and your other sisters – who are now welcoming you posthumously with open arms.  Helen had experienced exactly the same longing I felt when I searched so long for you. 

They were looking for you Dave, while you criss-crossed the country feeling so alone in the world.

All that time, THEY WERE LOOKING FOR YOU!!!

They wanted to meet you, to love you. They wanted to have with you what I had with you.

So, via me as the intermediary, today you finally met your sister. What are the odds? Your non-half-sister helping you to find your real one.  No one could make this stuff up!

I felt so honored to tell her about the beautiful man I knew so that in some small way, she can come to know you too. Through me, you two connected, across time and space. A long-distance hand-hold with me as the human extension cord..

It’s the best we can do now.

But you know the most amazing thing, Dave?

You gave us something too. A surprise Valentine. Something precious that neither of us expected.

You united us in sisterhood. Yea, I know that sounds really corny – and you would probably guffaw a bit.

Perhaps the final gift of your life is to both of us, your two sisters who both love you now. Bringing us together so we can love each other too. A beautiful new beginning.

I certainly didn’t expect to receive that gift today. I thought I was gifting Helen with you. Ending a chapter. I never expected to recognize so much of what I love in you – in her. Perhaps by finding your family, I found a piece of mine too, a new beginning. I went to give, but instead we both received. For this gift from beyond, I love you all the more  

Two sisters through another brother. Sewn together from broken hearts. Best Valentine’s Day, ever. An amazing happy ending to an incredibly sad story.  

Thank you.

Love you, now from both of us. 

Bobbi and Helen

41 thoughts on “Dear Dave: Meet Your Family – 52 Ancestors #185

  1. That’s so sweet. So, Dave is your full brother? I will have to look back through your other blog posts. Congratulations. It made me cry, too. 🙂

    Phyllis Codling McLaughlin Twisted Roots Genealogy Research Milton, KY

    On Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 1:07 PM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > Roberta Estes posted: “For three days and nights, the tears rained like a > defective faucet that I couldn’t turn off. A combination of nerves, > excitement and sadness, all tossed together in a salad-spinner. That DNA > match set off a tear tsunami. Finding your family meant, of cou” >

  2. Ms. Estes. You have made me cry two days in a row now. I am an only child and can only imagine your happiness at finding family. So sorry your brother did not have that chance. May you all meet again ! Connie Mateer, Armstrong Co., PA.

  3. I’m so happy for you both. It is an amazing feeling as I know very well. Feb 2017 I found my birth Mother’s family – an older sister and two younger brothers. In Jan 2018 I found my birth Father’s family – and three more brothers. Since I was raised an only child I now have an abundance of siblings. Both Mother and Father had passed away. All grand parents are gone as well, but I do have two Uncles, one from each side of the family and two Aunts – from each side of the family. My Father’s brother knew about me and the sister didn’t. My Mother’s brother and sister didn’t know about me at all. It was a mixed bag of feelings all round.
    The delight in knowing you look like your family is wonderful. One feels like a displaced puzzle piece waiting for the right timing to happen. So, like you, after 60 years I found them.
    My knew saying is ” I knew who I was but now I know who I am”
    Enjoy your new family.

  4. Sewn together from broken hearts.
    When I read that, I couldn’t help but envision two siblings sharing the comfort of a family heirloom quilt wrapped around their shoulders.

  5. Whaaat? Is this for REAL? OMG Over and over your posts bring rain to the garden of my emotions.

    Sent from Gail’s iPhone 6S

    >

  6. Roberta, What a beautiful story! An apt illustration of how bread cast on the water can really come back to us toasted, buttered, with honey dripping through the pores. You never fail to amaze me with your generosity and beautiful heart. Some of us old-timers came to genealogy at a time when many people refused to share *a single shred* of their research, some even leaving instructions for their work to be burned after their death! I look at you and am brought to tears by the lessons you are leaving for today’s researchers. Your stories never fail to both educate and move me. You’ve taught this old dog so many new tricks, for which I am profoundly grateful.

  7. I’m going to have to stop reading your post in public places! The blubbering causes strange looks and questions. I’ve now put an extra pack of Kleenex in my purse. Lovely story. I can’t wait for the next DNA testing sequel.

  8. Wonderful follow up to the last Dave story … tear jerkers, both! I think Dave’s father looks like either your father or your grandfather. I need to go back to their stories and check, but that was my first thought on seeing him. Maybe to be expected, as there must have been a resemblance between Dave and your father.

  9. WOW! Just Wow! I found myself wondering if you realize just how much the two of you look alike, you and Helen. Somewhere there was a mutual ancestor, as it sure looks like it! Probably in their Y line, who knows? I feel it in my bones! Congratulations!!!

      • I can’t wait for this . . . . I will have to, but I’m on pins and needles I dub Helen as one of our DNA angels. When YOU find a connection, I swear I feel it too! Close or not, I stand firm with my presumptive “Check the Y line’. Remember, you and I felt instantly related. It didn’t show up, but I kept at it, notified you of what and how I found something of a connection, it was quite distant, but it was in fact, a connection. This situation with with Helen and Dave, seems more like ‘ours’ is, so I’m going with that. – feeling happy –

  10. Wonderful Story, I have read all 3 posts twice now and I cry each time. I discovered, through DNA testing, at 63 years old that I had a different father than the one that raised me. It was a surprise to me and my entire family. After a year and a half of sleuthing I found out who my bio father was. I am very lucky that my 3 half brothers that I found have accepted me with open arms and loving hearts. I wish I could have met my half sister, she passed in 2013. She was just as crazy about genealogy as I am and we really could have had a ball with it. Thank you for sharing your story, Dave was a lucky man to have so much love in his life from you!
    Judy

  11. I’d like to think that Dave arranged all this and is thrilled that you and Helen have found one another. Next time he just needs to get the cM high enough so there is no doubt! So thrilled that you were able to get Dave his answer but I bet he knew that you would.

  12. A very Happy Valentine’s Day indeed! Cupid’s arrow hit its intended targets, and so begins a brand new loving relationship. Filled with happy tears for all of you!!! I am a puddle. So excited to hear the results of the additional testing. It’s just got to be! ♥

  13. This is lovely. At least your hurricane of tears was for a significant event and finding. I cry a flood of tears when I discover less! It is an emotional ride for sure. I think we searcers of our past must be emotionally driven folks. Who else would would ride this roller coaster? I love it.

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