I was born in 1962 and adopted by my parents Bob and Peg when I was two months old. I am very grateful for this since they treated me with the greatest of love and raised me in the positively idyllic setting of Mequon, WI in the 1960s and 1970s. Abortion and single motherhood were much less common then for a variety of reasons, and I am extremely grateful to my birth mother for making two really good choices, without which I may not have been able to have the awesome life that I have.
Being a typical dude, I’ve only been mildly curious about my birth parents and never made any effort toward finding out who they were until my girlfriend Sherry made an offhand comment to me one day while we were hiking. Sherry and I were avid hikers, and we would typically hike for 1-2 hours several times a week. Sherry was of almost all Irish descent, and would always cover up her awesome body and delightful alabaster skin with hiking apparel, sunscreen or both! I couldn’t blame her because when she missed a spot, she would burn, burn, burn in a nanosecond or two. I on the other hand, only wore athletic shorts, no shirt, and I don’t even own any sunscreen.
One day after a particularly long hike, Sherry noticed my golden brown all-over tan and asked me about my genetic heritage. I told her what I had always been told—I was Irish and German. She kind of snickered in disbelief and said, “No way dude—I’m Irish and look at my skin compared to yours. You’ve got Greek skin!” I had never considered that before and told her she was nuts, but the more I thought about it, I realized that Sherry indeed had a point. What Northern European can walk around barely clothed in the blazing Arizona sunshine constantly and almost never burn? Sherry knew I was adopted and strongly encouraged me to do the Ancestry DNA thing, which I quickly agreed to. She was absolutely right in saying I really didn’t know shit except for some third-hand story I’d been told since birth.
Well, I spit in the magic tube and sure enough the results came back in a few weeks. I’ve posted them below and it turns out the lovely Sherry was not only beautiful but quite smart! This “German/Irish” guy turned out to be about 25% Southern European and barely German at all!
That was in 2016 and I pretty much forgot about it until my neurological problems started getting worse in mid-2018. I had heard you could download your raw DNA data and have it analyzed for health purposes, so I went back on the Ancestry DNA site for the first time in two years. When I signed on I noticed that I had a 6-month old email from a guy named Duane, and it said we were very close relative in the first cousin range. He told me a little bit about himself and was curious about how we might be related. After a few more emails, we figured out that his older sister Denise (or “Dese” as the much younger Duane called her) was indeed my birth mother! Their family were hard-core Catholics and Denise would never have considered an abortion (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Denise!), and my parents adopted me (I really shouldn’t tell you guys this!) for the princely sum of $5 and a modest donation to the Catholic Church (probably $100 or so). So I am definitely one of the cheapest bastards on the planet—Hahahahaha!!!
After Duane (or Uncle DQ as I now call him!) and I hit it off pretty well during our email thread, we started exchanging photos, and I’ll leave it to you to decide whether I look like my birth mother Denise or not. I know Uncle DQ thinks so because we did eventually meet for lunch last winter when he was vacationing here in Arizona. He is a super chill guy who is actually crazy enough to live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in a town on Lake Superior (He’s a freakin’ “UPer”—Hahahahaha!), and we had a great time meeting for lunch at the Space Age diner in Gila Bend of all places. (Uncle DQ went camping in Why, AZ for 3 months and hates big cities—Ya think?!!) All during lunch, he kept staring at me and smiling, telling me it was exactly like looking at his older sister again. She had died of breast cancer at age 64 many years ago (he was 12 years younger than Denise), and I was so glad to be able to give him that gift. We still stay in touch via email, and this story is so full of gratefulness all the way around it could make one’s head spin.
I debated telling my adoptive parents Bob & Peg about this for many months, but as my disease got worse I decided to open up one day and tell them the story. My Mom was practically in tears and expressed her gratefulness for the decisions young Denise made in allowing them to have me as their son all these years.
There is one thing for which Denise and Peggy both deserve some blame though. If you find any of my writing or musical shit on this blog to be annoying, you only have these two women to blame. Denise was an opera singer/piano player, and she taught English and music as a career. My Mom knew all of this about Denise when she adopted me and always pushed me hard in both areas because she was convinced I had natural talents in music and writing. (Nature or nurture; talent or no—I’ll let you readers be the judge of all that—Hahaha!) I ended up playing guitar because I quit the viola (can you blame me?!) at age 12 when I became interested in rock music. But Mom insisted that I take up another instrument to my liking and adamantly refused to let me quit playing music altogether. Drums were my first choice, but I’ll leave you to guess which member of our household vetoed that idea—Hahahaha! (Hint—It wasn’t Mom…) And I had a 10-year career in writing which you can read about in my story “Do You Have the Term Paper Blues?” Nature or nurture? I’ll leave that for you to decide, although my mom certainly didn’t encourage my writing career in any way, shape, or form!
Thank you Sherry for your very wise observation about my “Greek Skin.” Many people owe you a debt of gratitude for leading us down the road almost not taken!
A couple more pics of Dese And there’s “Grandpa” playing a ’52 Les Paul. Music really does run in the family!