Part 1: The Wrong Tree

Growing up, I had never met my biological father, save for one brief visit to his house when I was five. I sat in the kitchen and played with the oversized salt and pepper shakers, while he and my mom listened to music in the next room. This singular foggy memory left him open to interpretation. As I child, I would sheepishly day dream that he was a prince from a foreign land and I a displaced princess. I knew such thoughts were foolish, and only dared to indulge them infrequently.
 
The older I grew, the more intense my curiosity became. Clearly, I was not related to my foster family. Family photos would reveal their light hair and blue eyes. I, the dark haired one with eyebrows thick and eyes dark, felt conspicuously out of place, as if I had intruded on some innocent families portrait at the studio. Even my biological mother does not share my features- she is fine with fair hair and easily tanned skin. My Snow White skin, large feet, and substantial frame made me look as if I may have been switched at birth. But cloud your eyes, and you’ll know I’m my mothers child. We have the same animated voice, hands flying as we tell a tale, and share the same wicked humor.
One day, at around 28 years old, my curiosity about my Dad got the best of me. I sat in my condo, newly married, asked my mom a few questions, and started to Google. I asked my biological mom the names of my grandparents and last known location. A one minute search revealed their names, address, and phone number. I froze. It seemed so simple- why hadn’t I thought about this before? I’d spent so much time fruitlessly looking for my Dad on social media, but here were his parents, plain as day.
 
I thought up a simple lie. I would say I’m organizing a class reunion and politely ask for my Dad’s number. His name was Rick. Easy squeezy.
 
I dialed. My heart pounded so loud in my ears, I could barely hear the old man on the other end of the line.
 
“Hello?”
 
I panicked, felt my heart pounding against my chest wall. I might die.
 
“Hello. I think you’re my Grandpa,” I blurted out.
 
What was I doing!?!? Shit shit shit shit.
 
“What? I don’t understand.”
 
I repeat myself. I’m an idiot.
 
“Hang on,” he says. “Talk to my son”
 
Another voice comes on the line.
 
“Rick?” I ask. Is this him?
 
“No. I’m his brother. Who’s this?” He sounds angry. I’ve upset his father.
 
I explain that my mom dated Rick and I’m her daughter. She says Rick’s my Dad.
 
“No,” he says, in his Canadian accent. “Yer Dad is that fella from California.”
 
“That’s not me. That’s my sisters Dad.” I try to explain.
 
He’s not having it. He firmly ends the conversation.
 
I tell my mom what has happened. She calls my Grandma, who knew Rick and liked him well enough. Through what magic I’m not sure, but she got ahold of Rick and had him call me.
 
The first time I talk to him, I’m making bread for Easter. I keep my hands busy as we nervously chat. He doesn’t deny me as his daughter while I measured out 15 cups of flour. He has questions about the timeline, but it all seems to fit. He has that typical Canadian ease- friendly, polite, and gentle.
“Well,” he offers “Should we take a DNA test to be sure?”
 
I go to the pharmacy where I’d seen DNA tests on the bottom shelf, just below the pregnancy tests. I’m not sure this will work. I send his half to him, and I collect my own sample. I drag ass on sending my portion in.
 
He calls one day. “Well, have ya got the results yet?” I admit that I haven’t sent mine in. My husband chastises me for putting him through the waiting period. I mail in my portion, feeling guilty.
 
A few weeks later, a plain white envelope arrives. I realize the results could change my life and that I should wait till my husband is home for moral support. I rip open envelope anyway and read the top line. It is 99% certain that Rick is not my father.
 
I slump down on my bed and call my Mom to tell her the news.
 
“What?” She says flatly. She’s stunned.
 
“Yeah Mom. It’s not him.” My mind is reeling. Did he cheat and send someone else’s sample?
 
“Well,” my mom admits, “there was one other. His name was Joe. I was on vacation and we never stayed in touch, sweetie. I’m so sorry, I don’t know anything else about him.”
 
I felt the door slam shut. I would never find him. The finality of that feeling lasted for several years.
 
Hello, my name is Aprylle and I don’t know where I come from.
Every time I fill out a health history questionnaire, I would leave the paternal portion blank. I go on to have 3 beautiful children, each time not knowing if they would carry some terrible hereditary disease. I don’t even know where 1/4 of their ancestors are from.
People sometimes spot my large eyes and textured hair. “Are you Armenian, like your husband?,” they’ll ask.
I fumble for an answer. “Well, my moms side is English, but I don’t know my Dad. Probably white,” I would joke and gesture towards my pale face. They would nod politely and change course, like steering clear of a land mine.
 
And so it went for several years- me, making small jokes about my ancestry to hide the well of curiosity, trying not to fall in and feel sorry for myself. My life blossomed as our family grew, my career stabilized, and we acquired all the features of a full on family of our own. I did my best to accept my situation, something that’s always been hard for the perfectionist in me. I couldn’t fold, organize, or clean this stain away. It would set, irritating and mocking, knowing I could not remove this evidence of loss. I tried to ignore it for years, until I could no longer let it rest. 
 

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