Dear Amy: I recently found out through a DNA test that the man I thought was my father for more than 60 years is not my biological father. The DNA test also revealed that I have a half-sister.
I do not want to be associated with this family and have decided not to communicate this new information with any of them.
I have several siblings with whom I would like to share this information, but I’m scared they will spill the beans to their spouses or others, and the “news” will be all over town.
It would be embarrassing to our family name as well as to them and me (my parents are both deceased, as is the “sperm donor”).
Since I don’t believe sharing this info will be of any benefit to anyone, I now have to figure out how to deal with keeping this secret for the rest of my life.
Sometimes I feel like I’m about to explode. The stress of learning this is about too much to bear and has made me see my mother in a very negative light.
She had to have known the truth of my biological father, and yet kept quiet to save her own reputation. (Ironically, that is what I’m now considering doing through my own silence.)
I’m sure my father had no idea that he was not my biological father. Amy, he doted on me!
Any suggestions about how to deal with my new family secret?
Dear Mixed-Up: I’ve received many questions regarding results of DNA testing, and while many people report positive reactions, even when the news is unexpected, there is no question that results like yours can pull a person into a tailspin.
Give yourself some time to process this.
I understand that this news upends your own ideas of who you are, but I’d like to offer you an alternative view: You are who you’ve always thought you were. Your family is your family. The father who raised and doted on you was your “real” father. Understand that it is possible that he knew you were not his biological child, whereupon he would have made the choice countless parents have made through time – to claim you and to love you. It’s really pretty simple.
DNA results may answer some questions you didn’t even know you had regarding your hair color or health history. But don’t let a DNA test kit tell you who you are and who your family is. YOU get to decide that.
I’m going to repeat the wisdom of DNA expert Richard Hill, whom I interviewed recently: “Knowing the truth is better in the long run. Events that happened decades ago are merely history and not scandal (especially true when the parents are deceased). No matter what anyone thinks of the actions of the parents, the siblings have done nothing wrong.”
I urge you to own this, claim it and disclose it if you want to. I think it would help you to talk about it, and I hope you will.
Dear Amy: My nephew and his fiancee are planning their wedding. We all live in the Midwest, and their wedding and reception is going to be in the Southwest.
Because of the cost of airfare to get there, and the cost of the room during our stay, should that affect my cash gift?
Stumped in Chicago
Dear Stumped: You should not feel obligated to give a cash gift. Some very meaningful gifts (such as family heirlooms) are those that don’t cost a lot of money.
But no, the cost of attending the wedding should not be deducted from whatever gift you plan to give.
If attending this celebration would place too heavy a burden on your finances, or if spending this money would create a resentful emotional load for you to carry, then you should send your regrets.
Dear Amy: I strongly disagree with your advice that “Anguished Mother” should allow her adopted 11-year-old son to have DNA testing to explore his ethnic history.
This mom seems to know that at least one of his birthparents is Cuban. This is an opportunity for her to help her son explore his Cuban roots, without the intrusion and privacy risks that come with DNA testing.
Dear Concerned: Very good advice. Given the extreme concerns this mother had about her son’s birth family contacting them, researching his broader ethnic ancestry along with him would be the best place to start.