This compelling story most certainly deserves a blog post of its own. However, since I am doing my best to stick to my plan of finishing up with sharing our incredible trip to the East Coast, I have decided to tell a shortened version of it on this post. Buckle your seatbelts....
As Christmas gifts, in 2019, I gave my mom, Garin, and myself 23andMe genetic testing kits. My mother and I did ours first and Garin did his a few months later. There were no surprises for my mother nor me like you see in the ads, which greatly disappointed Garin. The tests confirmed that we were both exactly what we had always thought we were. My mother was approximately 50% Scandinavian and 50% English/Irish. I am the same, with German/Jewish accounting for the other 50%, coming from my dad.
Garin did his test and his test too was exactly what we would have predicted, mostly British and Irish coming from the donor and my mom, as well some Scandinavian from my mom and some German/Jewish from my dad. Except for the less than 2% Italian which showed up (certainly not from my side), Garin was disappointed that there was no "aha moment." So on with life we went.
Then, about a month later, in early April 2020, came the surprise you see in the commercials. I received an email, via my blog, from a nice gentleman named Dominick (Dom), on the East Coast. His message said that his son and mine had a 25% DNA match. His son too had received a 23andMe genetic testing kit as a gift and done it just a few weeks after Garin, coincidentally. That's when they found the match with Garin. After doing a bit of research on the internet he came upon my blog which is how he was able to get in touch. It appeared that Garin (as well as my other children) had a half-brother, named Zachary (Zac). I was shocked, needless to say.
I immediately responded to Dom and heard more about Zac from him. It was surreal for both of our families, but exciting as well. We exchanged photos of our children (although they had already seen mine on my blog) and we started to get to know each other. Garin and Zac had some nice FaceTime conversations and seemed to enjoy each other's company. Zac is seven months older than Garin.
Fast forward a year or so. When we were planning our trip to the East Coast in the late Spring, I got in touch with Nicole (Niki), Zac's mom, and asked if they might want to meet when we were there. Their answer was a resounding "Yes!" The logistics were not easy since we weren't there for very long, they live outside the city and their kids were still in school, but where there's a will, there's a way, as the saying goes. So we made it happen.
It turned out to be the most wonderful day of our trip. Dom, Niki, Zac, and Kaden (their incredibly amicable, affable, and outgoing younger son, who is not biologically related to my kids) came into the city from Long Island and we spent a magical day together.
The kids and I started out the cool and rainy morning with a walk on The High Line, where we were set to meet Zac and his family later that morning. We had a great walk and enjoyed seeing the cool works of art along the way.
After a wonderful meet and greet on The High Line, Zac's family was brave enough to follow us on to the subway so that we could make our way to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, where we had all bought tickets so we could spend the afternoon together.
The kids took to each other instantly. It was like they had known each other forever.
We started at the 9/11 Memorial outside, which was very moving. All the names of those who perished in the World Trade Center on that September morning, as well as those who died in the 1993 bombing, were listed there at the fountain/waterfall which flows into the original footprint of one of the towers.
Nothing can prepare you for this experience. The museum was even more somber and moving than I could have expected. Neither of our families had been and both had very much wanted to experience this, so it was meaningful that we could do it together.
This particular exhibit really touched me. It featured some of the dogs that had helped in the search and rescue efforts in the days and months following 9/11 attacks in New York. A Dutch photographer did a ten-year follow-up on the dogs in 2011. As the plaque reads, "She located 15 of the 9/11 dogs living in retirement with their handlers, and she traveled around the United States to record the dogs' dignity and grace in old age.
I love this image of the kids together, in front of this colorful street art, a short distance from the museum.
Dom, Zac's dad, who is a phenomenally talented photographer, captured some of these candid shots as we walked through lower Manhattan.
Zac and Garin had so many similarities, even down to the way they adjusted their face masks. It took us a bit of getting used to, every time we caught sight of them mirroring each other. They are both nice, smart, sensitive and handsome boys.
Miles had a fascination with Dom's camera and Dom was kind enough to give him carte blanche.
Following our afternoon at the museum and a lovely walk around the area, we headed to Little Italy to have a an old-school family dinner at Benito One. The food and fun were unbeatable!
Parting is such sweet sorrow. Our family all shed tears as we headed back to the subway after saying goodbye. It truly was a magical day.
We feel so blessed to have this wonderful new family in our lives and grateful that fate brought us together. We look forward to many more fun times and shared memories as the years pass and we watch our children grow.