Thursday, July 27, 2017

CHAPTER 34: DRIPPING WATER HOLLOWS OUT STONE, NOT THROUGH FORCE BUT THROUGH PERSISTENCE

I have been putting off writing this chapter for a week now.  I'm almost afraid to write it.  Here goes.

On Thursday, July 13th, I was profoundly aware that Rob's results were going to come in at any moment.  I had gotten into the habit of refreshing my browser once every two minutes or so.  To distract from the anxiety I continued to research the Fisher tree.  Due to the fact that I have become rather adept at searching, inspecting and legitimizing documentation it had grown to the size of my maternal tree in less than six weeks.  The Price tree has taken me a good five years.  While I am far from perfect, practice helps.

So, that day I went about my usual house-hold duties, occasionally jumping on line to check if results were in.  Around two pm, I quickly logged on to Rob's account and suddenly things drew to a grinding halt.  His page had changed to reflect that his DNA results were ready and his match list was available for perusal.  My stomach lurched.  Taking my cleansing breaths I took note of that rare feeling that, no matter what, things were about the be permanently changed.
I clicked on the "VIEW ALL DNA MATCHES"- held my breath- and up popped what I had been hoping- expecting- to see.


There I was at the top of the list under "CLOSE FAMILY".  This distinction is reserved for siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and first cousins. So far so good.  Next I clicked on the little "i" icon that would tell me how many centiMorgans and segments Ancestry's computer had determined that we share.

As you can see, it says 1,339 cMs across 46 DNA segments.  The next step was to look at the DNA Statistics document that is provided by Christa Stalcup from the DNA Detectives.

I studied it for what seemed like an eternity.  We are definitely within the range of half siblings (1300-2300)- but I also noticed that the first cousin match range was not too far below our number (575-1330).  We were only 9 cMs over the top cut-off. Cursing my typical "murphy's law" type luck, I quickly screen shotted the results and posted them to DNA Detectives- asking for instant feedback and noting that after uploading Rob's DNA to Gedmatch our sharing was upped to 1391 cMs.
I began to get a barrage of opinions.  Most believed that it was a half-sibling match, while others agreed- but cautioned that there's a small possibility of a high matching first cousin.  
I had really expected to see a higher number- somewhere around the average of 1800 cMs.  It didn't feel as conclusive as I had anticipated.  CeCe Moore and some of the other administrators continued to have to a debate about the circumstances, likely scenarios and percentages. 
Finally, around 5:47 pm I messaged Rob that the results were in.  I asked if he was ready for results and he said that he was at work- but ok.  In hindsight, I should have taken his cue and told him we could talk after work- but that train had already left the station.  I proceeded to tell him the information that I had, sent him images of graphs that break down the percentages, and told him that I was ALMOST positive that we were half-siblings- but there seemed to be a tiny margin of error.  I could tell that he was confused and, like me, not at all happy that it didn't seem 100% conclusive.  I suggested that perhaps we can track down one of Max's children and ask them to test.  He agreed that perhaps we should. I think we were both disappointed that we were robbed of that celebratory moment - and the thought of continuing the hunting and testing did not appeal to either of us.  I discovered later that Rob was already having a particularly stressful day at work and this revelation pretty much pushed him to the end of his emotional rope.
As the evening progressed I monitored the conversation going on in DNA Detectives about my case.  I encouraged Rob to join the group so as to see what the consensus was, and I also tagged him in various conversations that I was having with experts and numbers crunchers.
Overnight the conversation continued, and more and more people were weighing in to confirm the likelihood that we were half-siblings. 

In the last chapter I touched on the connection with my new second cousin once removed, Natham Turner.  It was fun to be able to help him to clear up some of his family mysteries while he helped me with mine.  I was delighted to discover that I had a first cousin once removed, Shena Morrison, living less than an hour from me in California.  The fact that she was a contemporary of my grandmother, Thelma, who had died at the young age of 42 and remains a mystery within the Fisher family gave me hope that perhaps she could shed light on her story for those of us still in the dark.
Natham was reaching out to her daughter, Yasmin, to see if he could arrange a meeting.  On July 6th I received a text from him saying "Shena just died yesterday. I'm not joking"
She was 98.  I read her obituary and it spoke of her years living in Fiji and New Guinea where she cliff dived, swam with the natives and dressed as a boy to go into the jungles to provide medical care to soldiers.  After the war broke out she, her brother and mother went to Sydney where she became an up and coming Opera Singer.  She had been described as "the next big thing".  Shena married four times and lived the second half of her life in Ventura, Ca.  I hope to speak to her daughter, my second cousin, as soon as I feel that it is appropriate to reach out.  I can't help but be dumb-founded at the timing.
Shena's funeral was to be held in Ventura on July 14th.  It would have been a perfect opportunity to be able to pay my respects and listen to stories about the life of my close cousin.  Instead, I was required to attend a deposition in Riverside; another unfortunate result of events that have taken place since the illness and subsequent death of my dad. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
So, I went to the deposition and upon returning home, I texted Rob to see how he was feeling.  It was now Saturday morning in Australia- so he had had time to process and could be in the privacy of his own home to discuss the results.  He too had been monitoring the discussions and had come to his own conclusion that it wasn't necessary to search out and test one of Max's children.  I was relieved- though still willing to do it.  Rob gave me the go-ahead to make my "announcement"- and I opted to do it only in my private pages.


I had been conversing all day with Lauren McGuire, one of the DNA Detectives.  She was familiar with my story and was eager to help me to get a more conclusive result.  She accessed my Gedmatch results and did a "one to one" comparison with me and Rob.  She screen-shotted me the comparison graphs and pointed out where we matched on our entire Chr. 8 and almost all of Chr. 22. She said she was going out on a limb but couldn't imagine it being anything other than a half-sibling.  Our Gedmatch shared DNA was at 1410.  Then she went to the trouble of convincing another "detective" Leah LaPerle Larkin to look at the match on Gedmatch- and Leah then convinced a gentleman named Andrew Millard (of the UK) to run a simulation using a new technique that he had recently developed.  If any of them are reading this, please forgive my ignorance and probable incorrect terminology.  Numbers and percentages and simulations are where my brain checks out.
So, Andrew ran the simulation while I continued chatting with Lauren.  Finally I was told that Leah had the results- did I want to hear them now or have them posted.  I told her to post them.  I don't know why.  I guess I wanted to have that discovery moment.  I went to the post in DNA Detectives and there it was:



IT WAS OFFICIAL.  Even though I had already announced it- the fact that the people who do this all the time had come to that conclusion as well was huge.  I quickly messaged Rob saying "Look at this!"

I want to express my utmost appreciation to Cece Moore, Rose Overburg, Lauren Reed McGuire, Leah LaPerle Larkin, Christa Stalcup, Blaine Bettinger (who I believe gave his two cents in there a time or two), the mysterious Andrew Millard and all of my genie friends and supporters (I'm talking to you Beverly Pritchett, Meryl Naismith, Stephanie Eversly, Colleen Ward et al) that have bolstered me over these past few years.  You are all truly angels and I'll never be able to thank you enough.

I'm there.  It is finished.  I can stop wondering and just research my known family.  I can breathe.

It's all still very new.  Rob and I chat online almost every day.  This is an adjustment for his family as well.  He has told his (my) brothers and some cousins.  His mother and our sister both live in Queensland.  I will say that I was conceived a full year before Clive and Rob's mother were married. 
Last time we talked he hadn't told them and it's completely up to him as how he will proceed.  I've been messaging with my cousin Kaylene- and the other day she introduced me to her sister Heather.  They are welcoming and open.  Heather has a sort of scrap-book from our grandfather that was filled with letters that his children wrote to him over the years.  They copied one that my father wrote to his dad in 1963 when he was living in Moonee Ponds and had just got a job with the railways.  I was struck by his beautiful penmanship and near perfect use of punctuation.  He left school at fourteen, so his grasp of language and letter writing was a nice surprise. You don't have to have formal schooling to receive an education.  As I read along I realized how much I felt like I knew him.  His writing was conversational, non sequitur, and not without humor.  He was descriptive enough that you could visualize the minor car accident that had just happened outside his boarding house window.  His style was stream of conscious and slightly self deprecating, all the while showing concern and interest for the person with whom he was corresponding.

I knew him.  I recognized him in his writing. He used it as a way to connect with others, to relay his experiences and create a history.  Writing life down clarifies things- and reminds you where you were, and why you were.  I have no doubt that I get that from him. That, and my desire for answers and the twinkle in my eye.