For Christmas 2017, my cousin RL received an Ancestry.com DNA test from his daughter Mandie, thinking it would be fun to find his ethnic heritage.
It uncovered a whole lot more.
On January 4, 2018, I received a friend request from Carol Michelis Bailey. I had no idea who she was, but since RL and Mandie were friends with her, I accepted her request, thinking she might be a distant cousin.
I thought wrong.
Shortly after, I received a message from her saying she thought we could have the same father and she was possibly my sister.
I threw up.
There were six kids in my dad’s family. Josephine (RL’s mother) was the oldest, followed by Wilson, James (he died when he was a toddler), my dad and then his sisters Mabel and Mary. Josephine married Roy Davis, Wilson married Jenny Gaines and my dad married my mom. Neither Mabel nor Mary ever married.
I remember hearing a rumor when I was a teenager that in the early 1950s Jenny was pregnant, didn’t know who the father was, went to New Orleans and had a botched abortion (and that’s why she and Wilson never had kids). As it turns out, the rumor was partially true. Jenny was pregnant, went to New Orleans but had a baby girl and placed her for adoption.
This baby was a secret Jenny and Mrs. Gaines took to their graves.
I didn’t sleep that night, too busy thinking about this revelation that Daddy could have another child, wondering how Mother and Daddy would react (if they weren’t already dead, they’d probably drop dead from a stroke or heart attack), how my brothers would respond (Bill like me, Rusty more accepting). My sister Karyn thought there was a conspiracy, that the family was keeping something from me. That’s not the case. Bottom line was: if he was the father, Daddy never knew.
In tears, I called Mother’s closest friend, my Aunt Easy. Mother told her everything so she would know! While Daddy and Mother didn’t meet until a few years later, had he ever been involved with Jenny would have told her and she would have told Louise. Had the Hearnes known, Mary would have spilled the beans. The Hearne family is not known for its ability to keep secrets.
Had Daddy known – had there been any inkling – I might have felt differently, but this was more like someone had identified their donor in a sperm bank. Having a common sperm donor and gene pool doesn’t make a family.
This bombshell, a baby no one knew about, shattered my world. It wasn’t a sweet reunion commercial or a Hallmark movie: this was my life! A Pandora’s box was opened that can never be closed. It damaged my relationship with my cousin since he knew she was going to contact me but didn’t warn me. While we’ve made up, we’re not as close as we were before.
Carol pressured me to get a DNA test and I refused. I told her I could provide medical history if needed and RL could tell her about the Hearne family.
Carol also reached out to Jenny’s sisters, Betty and Becky. Betty embraced her with open arms but Becky wasn’t as eager to get to know her niece. After much discussion with everyone who knew Jenny when she was in high school, it was decided Wilson was her father. She messaged me that news, telling me I had another first cousin.
Pancreatic cancer caused Wilson’s death in 1993.
Carol died last fall from cancer. Ironically, it was October 14, 2021. My dad died October 14, 1992.
I hope Carol found the answers she needed.
As for me: If you found out you had a sibling you’d never been told about, how would that make you feel?
Even though we don’t believe it to be true, it shattered my world.
Would you want to meet them?
I wouldn't even want to know.