Of Kinship And Blood Ties


I feel the anxiety in the stomach, in the way I zone out while driving, in the blur of familiar landscapes, in the music that hardly registers in my brain.

A few months ago, my children and I had DNA tests done. It was mostly an exercise to figure out what ancestry we each had. While mine was a monolithic block, theirs was a melange of origins. We talked about where specific parts of their heritage came from. There were blanks I had no clue how to fill. The discussion lasted all of one week and like most things got relegated to some obscure folder on my laptop.

I rarely log into the DNA testing website but I did a couple of days back. I trawled through my “DNA relatives” page noting new entries. Then I hopped over to one of the twins pages. Of the many new additions, one stood out. “First cousin,” it said next to the name and showed percentages of overlapping DNA.

On impulse, I wrote asking if this person would be open to figuring out how my child and they were related. I heard back a day later indicating interest. Then, radio silence.

The anxiety comes in waves. It feels like I am on the precipice of some momentous discovery. It could well turn out to be a damp squib. It could turn out to be an expansion of what constitutes a family. I am anxious about what it means to my children. I am anxious about how it would change our lives. Mostly, it has me wondering about what family is.

Growing up I was obsessed with my roots. Where did I come from? Where did my grandparents come from? Where did their siblings’ children end up going? Most conversations with distant family or anyone I thought could be related to me started with “Where is your family from?” as in which ancestral village.

I have had the privilege of knowing how the various threads of the web that is my extended family are linked. I know who is married to whom and who their children are. I am privileged to know who my first cousins are. I am privileged to know their cousins. If we have fallen out, it has been a conscious choice by someone.

I imagine what it would be like to know there exists family out there that I have no knowledge of and I feel that anxiety again. I think about my children and realize that whether or not they are interested, I should do everything in my power to gather that knowledge for them. What they do with it is their choice.

I want to talk about this to others walking this path but I demur. I worry they may feel differently. I worry that my decision will be influenced by how another person is navigating this road. So, I hug this to myself and let the anxiety wash over.