Welcome back. Thank you for being here. We concluded Part One of this series with me preparing for a trip with an evolution of purpose as rapid as it was unpredictable. This trip would open my eyes and world in ways I never imagined they ever would, or could, be opened. In Part One I quipped on “the most important flight I would ever miss”. In all of my twenty-five-year career as a business management consultant and the countless commutes by air for work and leisure, I have never missed a flight simply because I arrived at the airport late. Sure, I have missed layover flights due to airline delays and weather, but never have I missed a first leg simply because I was late… until now.
Rather than a play-by-play recap let us take a look at the highlight reel. We begin with me leaving earlier than necessary given normal traffic for the time of day with the goal of a preflight beverage. Of course, Murphy joins me, and he is packing his law and loaded for bear. With a perfecta of events and all my dark stars aligned, every imaginable obstacle that the universe could send my way, she did with fire and fury. For the grand finale, I missed the exit to the airport parking; an exit with which I am quite familiar as it is the lot I use whenever I park at the airport. How did this happen? I wish I had some elaborate explanation, but I don’t. I was simply distracted. (Damn ADD!). Perhaps it is defensible given what this weekend now had in store. All the same, this mistake put me into a juggernaut of traffic all the way to the next exit to turn around. It added over twenty minutes to my commute. Of all things for which one might budget extra commuting time, this is not typically among them simply because …. I mean …. what are the odds? …. except on that one day …. for that one trip …. my plans would fall prey to carelessness in concentration. The conspiracy between Murphy and the universe was taking me to task like never before.
I was traveling with a computer and a guitar, so luggage had to be checked. I also had a couple carry-on non-compliant items packed. By the time I got to the counter to check my bag I was five minutes (yes a mere five minutes) too late to check in a bag for my flight. Sans my checked bag, my TSA pre-check would have given me a near certain chance of getting to the gate to board on time. For the next hour I walked back and forth between terminals trying to find another option on any airline that night only to learn that no other options that evening existed, and that the following morning’s flight had only stand-by seating available.
The phrase ‘critical incident’ has many uses. In the area of lethal self-defense, it is used to characterize that which gives rise to extremely hyperactive vital signs in the immediate aftermath of employing lethal measures to defend one’s life or the life of others. Examples include rapid heart rate, body temperature imbalance (chills, sweats or both) and shorten of breath or even hyperventilation. I was beginning to realize that it was very likely that I might not be getting to California this particular weekend. I became instantly and deeply self-aware as I felt my body entering a state that is, without a whiff of hyperbole, exactly what I might expect to experience if I ever were to find myself involved in a critical incident.
Pricelessly because of my body’s responses I was completely incapacitated in trying to think clearly. I made several futile attempts to find options on my mobile device. It was as if I suddenly lost all understanding for how to use apps and the device itself. Even trying to make a phone call was utilizing every ounce of concentration on motor skills I could scrape together.
I am eternally grateful to the friend whom I was visiting and was the primary reason for my trip. She worked a miracle in finding a seat the following morning – on the same flight I was told by the ticket counter agent had only stand-by availability. And she did this while tending to her present obligations. The missed flight was booked on points and now I was shelling out a few hundred bucks on the new ticket. Nonetheless, I remain immensely grateful that it now looked like I would indeed be getting out there after all, even if seventeen hours later than planned.
Let us now pick up on my first full day in California. The gentleman who is my biological half-brother and I made plans to meet at the Santa Rosa Memorial Park where our father is buried. Next to him lies his mother (our biological paternal grandmother) and her husband, our father’s step-father. My half-brother lives between three and four hours north of Santa Rosa. He is on a project much closer and was staying in the vicinity for this weekend along with his wife. Recall from Part One the mega-coincidence that Santa Rosa is where the friend I was visiting was raised and still lives. Once I finally got to California, this first meeting of two half-brothers was unfolding (for me at least) as being conspicuously devoid of any discernible inconveniences. I weathered the storms of my two antagonists, Murphy and the universe, in getting my tail out there and they were finally both in retreat and they were releasing their prisoner – my peace of mind.
Although we had seen each other’s picture online, I confess even as we shook hands, I battled – probably out of instinct – with very faint feelings of denial that this was all actually happening, so I played it cool like we were two new business associates meeting for the first time.
When we first arrived, I inquired in the office about the location of the gravesite. It was a walk of only a few hundred feet, so we continued to chat until we located the gravestone. The deeper questions and getting to know one another was to wait until lunch about an hour later. Fortunately, we had both already seen photos of the gravestone because the region was just exiting an extended period of heavy rains and the gravestone was under roughly two inches of soil filled water. With a little bit of swiping and swishing side to side with my right hand and the engravings became legible. There, my half-brother and I stood six feet over the man who was father to us both. And on that day, the three of us, in form and spirit, were together for the first time ever after over fifty years had gone by.
The most unfortunate thing that kept this moment from reaching perfection was that we did not have the company of yet a third half-brother of whom we’ve learned through the same DNA testing service. Since returning home from this trip, I have made contact with this third half-brother who lives elsewhere in the country. For the time being, he has requested, for personal reasons he shared lightly, and I respect completely, that I not aggrandize anything further pertaining to his connections. He has expressed willingness to meet and I am grateful. I am looking at possible trips in the next couple months. I will NOT miss my airport parking exit next time!
At the cemetery, we also met, again for the first time, a first cousin who lives about twenty-five minutes south of Santa Rosa and whose father was brother to our father. Is that still a slight hint of disbelief or denial I sense? I asked myself. What more must I need to unequivocally accept as true that who I am with are indeed who they really are? Time. What I need is time. Time to process. The gravity of all this is not something any human mind can adjust to in short order. This is going to truly be a long-term process of subconscious recognition, conscious reflection and emotional reaction that will undoubtedly loop back and forth for the foreseeable future. It would also become what I believed to be, if I may come across as a little spiritual, an awakening.
As we wrap up part two, I wish to do something that might be a literary no-no. Since I am not seeing a Pulitzer in my future, I am going to color outside the lines. I’ve been doing that my whole life and as we’ll eventually learn, it appears to be in my DNA – and I do not say that metaphorically! Also, for those who are curious as to how DNA matches are stratified, this quick excursion might be of interest.
I mentioned my skepticism in Part One and its assuagement based on information I received from the gentleman who asserted he and I were half-brothers. I mistakenly forgot to share that which was the nail in the coffin for my skepticism.
In the DNA testing service I used, the relationship and confidence rankings are stratified by the shared DNA in centimorgans (cM). In the range of 1,450 – 2,050 cM the connection is grandparent, aunt, uncle, or half-sibling. The gentleman who contacted me matches with me on nearly 1,700 cM and the other half-brother mentioned above matches me on over 2,000 cM. In the mid 2000s of centimorgans, the likelihood of full siblings increases markedly. The half-brother scenario was becoming a reality. I intended to include this information in Part One and I thank you for bearing with me while I go back to share this small – but not trivial – detail.
In Part Three, I will share what I have come to learn about my biological family on my father’s side and its influence on my views on nurture verses nature. In so doing, I welcome you to join me as I reexamine my heart’s life-long desires and the commitment I have to scrutinize my life’s path hitherto. From the lyrics of Led Zeppelin’s iconic “Stairway to Heaven” to the words that adorn the pages of self-help books the world over, There’s still time to change the road you’re on. I know it’s easier said the than done. This might become my purpose.
I remain grateful for your company. I do hope you will stick around. We have much to learn and more people to meet. The adventure is only just beginning.
See you soon!