In August 2017, I ordered an online DNA test kit at the request of my oldest granddaughter who was curious to learn more about our Italian ancestors and how much Italian ancestry we had in our genes.
The results came a month later: no Italian.
But I knew my dad was born in Italy, along with his parents. So I asked my oldest brother to take a DNA test.
His test came back as 58 per cent Italian. He also matched with me, not as a full sibling, but a half-sibling.
I couldn't breathe. It felt as if there was a death in the family: my death.
After the shock wore off, my brother and I discussed the names on my list of DNA matches. He recalled the surname of one of my matches being familiar: he remembered playing with the neighbour’s children – a boy and a girl – who had that same last name.
In October, I got in contact with this person who matched with me as a first cousin. I asked her if these two children, whom my brothers used to play with next-door to our parents, were her cousins.
She said yes.
I now believe these people are my half-siblings. And that their father is also my biological father.
Up until this point, I had no real reason to believe my dad was not my real dad.
There were so many questions swirling in my head, but both my parents and the man the test showed was my biological dad had died so there was no one I could turn to for answers.
My newfound cousin wouldn't give me any information on how I could contact my half-siblings but she did tell me the girl – my half-sister – died in January 2017.
I grew up with two older brothers. I had always wanted a sister.
At this stage, I wasn't sure if I wanted to try to connect with my other half-brother, Billy. But a few months later, I googled his name and found his address.
I sent Billy a letter with copies of the DNA results to show him the cousin match.
I explained the only way his cousin would be on my matches was if his dad and my mum were intimate.
I waited another few months and sent him another letter, this time through certified mail.
Two days after signing for the certified mail, Billy called me. We spoke for one hour; a pleasant conversation. He then took a DNA test himself, which recently came back to confirm we are half-siblings.
Billy and I recently spent a Sunday with our spouses at his home. It was a great visit; he and his wife, Ann, are very accepting.
He showed me picture albums of our dad and sister, and introduced me to his oldest son, Michael, as his newly found sister. Billy also gave me a picture of our dad and I shared it with my children. He’s making a duplicate album of family photos for me.
Now I know where my green eyes come from: Billy also has green eyes.
It has taken time to grieve and come to terms with my new “normal”.
My life has been turned upside down, inside out, and I am tired of everyone saying, “Nothing has changed, you are still you!”
They are wrong. Everything has changed. And just who am I?
One year is not near long enough to calm the waves of emotions that have passed, and continue to pass, through me.
Realising I don't have any whole siblings, I wonder: does that make me an only child, from my mum and biological dad?
My heart actually aches for my mother. How terrible that she felt she had to take this secret to her grave.
I would have forgiven her.