Good evening. Thank you for joining me, and please feel free to help yourself to a frosty Fanta in the flavor of your choice, including Limited-Edition And Possibly Fictional Goozleberry.
Find below a photo-graph of Haplocanthosaurus Delfsi, a dead-ass thunder lizard first discovered in Colorado in 1954. Pictured is the most complete fossil ever found, still only around 60%, the rest being casts and leftover props from the most famous dinosaur film Hollywood has ever produced, Gran Torino.
As you have no doubt ascertained by making use of your peepin’-globes, H. Delfsi was a big ol’ doofus.
Through a series of increasingly improbable events that I am nowhere near creative enough to have devised, I have a personal connection to this ridiculous monster, and like all stories, it begins with a gesture of kindness, has a life-exploding revelation in the middle, and ends with a pile of giant goofy bones, under which I will one day be buried, and which will eventually be indistinguishable from my own due to the bone-embiggening tonic I plan to quaff in my last moment as a gesture of revenge against the funerary industry that once stole six months of my life, but that’s a story for another day.
This is a true story; not in like a Fargo way, but in a weird, 3am public-access news-show way. I have actually changed the names of those involved except one, which will be evident, but all other events described are accurate to the best of my knowledge. You can trust in this, because if I were making it up there would be more Mole-Men and Dune references, and less heart disease and inconclusive emotional tumult.
In February of 2020, just before the eruption of what I can only hope to every god is the last era-defining historical event of my lifetime (update: nope, thanks to Putin!), my wife surprised me with an Ancestry.com test; as an off-the-shelf white guy with little in the way of identity, culture or heritage save vague notions of watered-down Irish and Norwegian ancestry, I’ve spent my adult life obsessed with finding out Who I Am, historically, ethnically and geographically speaking, and she thought this would be a good place to start. What self-discoveries awaited me??? Was I Jewish? (No.) Klingon? (No for different reasons.) ¿SPANISH? (Eh, a little.)
The test came back, accompanied by my saliva sample and a note saying “Why did you send so much?”, “Please see a doctor”, and “Where did you even get a Eureeka’s Castle lunchbox-thermos?”, but sadly revealing little beyond what I’d already suspected: I’m a dang mayonnaise mutt is what, fulla nothin’ from nowhere. Still neat though! And still an extremely thoughtful gift that I recommend to anyone whose life and understanding of self you may not want to actively destroy, but to the destruction of which you wouldn’t necessarily be opposed.
I looked the report over a couple of times and then didn’t think much of it for the next month or so–sorry, my tiny, beautiful wife, but there’re only so many ways you can read about different groups of white people and still be interested; academics call this the ‘Texan history textbook problem’–until I received an email from a gentleman I’ll call Harold, in which he said Ancestry had pinged him an alert that I was on the scene and that we were, somehow, relation to one another, according to the alleles and centimorgans and xenomorphs that the service uses to map genetic branches; specifically, that I was either his half-brother, cousin, uncle, nephew, or grandparent, and given that he’s several years older than I am, cousin seemed the most likely, if least hilarious, possibility.
I said ‘Neato!’, we compared family trees and whoops, turns out we actually didn’t have anything in common, that’s weird! Better luck next time somebody’s wife does something nice. I thought no more of it, and went back to reading Rat Queens, like a common Gary.
Then it got weirder.
Harold emailed me again, saying he’d recently discovered he had a SURPRISE HALF-SISTER (we’ve all been there, we all know this classic way) with whom he shared a biological father; he had been synthetically shaken and baked within his mother’s ova-oven, which was news to him and had opened up an entire orchard of connections to relatives he never knew he had.
According to Harold this was further evidence that he and I were kin, and further evidence to me that he needed a new hobby. I sent a screenshot of his email to my mother; “Lol!” I said, “Check it out, this dude thinks I’m his uncle brother nephew grandpa cousin”, and I didn’t hear back from her for a week. In and of itself this was not unusual; we are not especially close, and the divide between us had only grown since the ‘election’ of The Twice Impeached citizen.
But in retrospect: indicative.
The next week, while my wife and I were enjoying Steve Martin’s The Jerk, my parents called and tearfully confirmed that my dad is not my biological father, that they were, for reasons they declined to share, unable to conceive and that like Harold, I had been brewed in her tummy-cauldron through the potioncraft of artificial insemination. And what’s more, I was pretty much the only one who hadn’t already known. I flashed back to every time I wondered why my dad didn’t treat me like my siblings, every time I’d been wrong about my own medical history without realizing it, every time I’d wondered why I looked nothing like him and seemed to have nothing of him within me except his laugh, which he, my brother, and I have in common, but only the true laugh that grips the heart and shakes until you go limp; the laugh that I’d assumed, vaguely and foolishly, was genetic, a single provable link to a man with whom I seemed to share almost nothing.
That’s right: a DNA test for my birthday made my mother tell me I was a test-tube baby while I was watching The Jerk, a movie where Steve Martin’s family tells him he’s adopted on his birthday, and if I ever meet him that’ll be the only thing I have to say to him. Needless to say this wrecked my entire ass in ways that may never fully resolve. Insert joke to break the tension here!
So one huge, life-altering piece of the puzzle had fallen into place, if only by carving a hole for it out of my identity with a box-cutter, but in so doing had formed an outline that now could not be ignored: if my dad was not my biological father, and the available data pointed to me being related to this cat Harold and, by extension, all of these half-siblings he had just discovered, just who the fuck’s seed had been planted in my mother?
During the phone call that unbeknownst to me would become a line of Before & After demarcation in my life, she had assured me the donor was carefully chosen; a college graduate and musician, because in the late 80’s they still thought either of those had anything to do with genetics instead of socioeconomic status. So was Mr. Collegiate America also the source of Harold and his newly-discovered veritable Apple Dumpling Gang? That didn’t make any sense; Harold and most of the others were considerably older than I was, and were too numerous and spread out too widely to be the issue of a single college student, no matter how, ah, productive a class of young man they may be. Something wasn’t adding up.
There was an element of Harold’s story that I had dismissed immediately and out of hand upon reading it, not because I thought him a liar, damn’d liar or statistician, but because it was too outlandish, too Lifetime Original Movie, but to my dawning horror I realized that it was also the only explanation that fit, the only variable that allowed every one of us to solve for X: Harold had said that he and all of his new siblings, including me, shared a common biological father, and that this man was not, as one might assume, his mother’s husband or inamorato but her OBGYN, and the doctor that had personally delivered him into the world like so many Oriental Trading catalogues.
Now, this was not for any salacious reason; there had been no clandestine smoochin’, and I’m sorry to say this is not merely due to my famous disinclination to publicly discuss such matters (outside my Smutty Award-winning fantasy series The Butt-Toucher Chronicles) but to the fact that the explanation was, in fact, much darker and much more disturbing.
Harold did a lot of digging (HA, DINO-PUN), and a lot of Ancestry work, and sent out a lot of emails just as confusing as the one he sent me, and eventually he came to the inescapable conclusion that he had at least six half-siblings, all of whom had been conceived artificially, and all of whose mothers had been professionally attended to in matters gynecological, obstetric, and natal by the same man. The man who, we had no choice but to conclude, had swapped out an unknowable number of donor semen samples, including the one that eventually became me, with his own.
Enter: Edwin Delfs.
Delfs was widely considered to be something of a renaissance man: an OBGYN, fertility specialist in a time when that was still considered borderline witchcraft, and amateur paleontologist who remained active in the fossil-finding game until he died to death of deadly dying, discovering the above H. Delfsi while still a student. The name ‘Delfs’ likely derives from the Dutch delven which means, I shit the gentle reader not, ‘to dig’, because the Powers That Be thought that if I was going to be put through this they should throw me a nomenclature-pun bone. Get it, bone, ’cause it, he–
Delfs has been dead for almost twenty years now, like an asshole would do, so we aren’t getting answers from him and his precious ~legitimate~ family certainly isn’t forthcoming with information or any of that sweet dinosaur-money, so this is where things begin to occupy a more speculative space.
The current understanding, through comparing where we now know our various mothers sought fertility services, is that Delfs was engaging, prolifically, in what is now known as fertility fraud or donor fraud, which is wildly illegal in the civilized parts of the United States, although my natural inclination toward generosity requires me to believe that in the remaining states it’s ‘legal’ in the way that teaching a dog to understand that it will one day die is ‘legal’ in that what the hell man, why do you need a law to tell you not to do that.
As far as we can ascertain, throughout at least half of his horrifyingly long career as an OBGYN and fertility specialist in California, he scattered his foul seed in plots that had been clearly marked for other crops, leading to an ongoing harvest of duplicitous bellyfruit and metaphors that get away from you with upsetting and surprising ease. Delfs is one of only a handful of what I have to assume the telenovelas call los médicos monstruos that has even been found out, and he’s not even one of the few that have been prosecuted or held to account, legally or otherwise because he died of congestive heart failure which, I have to admit, is a pretty elegant way to dodge prosecution. Fair play to you, you egomaniacal, power-mad kinda-rapist. Kitten to break the tension!
So where does this leave we, the unmoored, the unfathered, the lied-to? Kinda nowhere, actually. My newly-found siblings (???) and I are trying to keep in touch; they’re convinced due to a series of factors I don’t claim to understand that Delfs himself wasn’t my father, but that his son was, which from where I’m sitting is a distinction without a difference; he was still the man who knocked our worlds from their spindles. But my mother, to the extent that she’s willing to discuss it, has provided time-and-place information that doesn’t exactly line up with that version of events either, and at this point it’s immaterial anyway. As a parental unit they’re just kind of…not engaging with this, and I can’t tell whether I think that’s denial and refusal to deal with a traumatic reality or actually shockingly enlightened of them; either way, life is hard and we do what we must, and I’m not prepared to begrudge them their coping mechanism, since mine is apparently blogging, which is arguably worse.
Harold learned the hard way–the ‘triple bypass at 34’ way–that we’ve inherited some mighty bad tickers from our deceitful dino-daddy, and if nothing else that has inspired me to take better care of myself, because I’ll be damned if I let him steal any of my time on earth in addition to the broken trust and resentment my already-tenuous family bonds are now straining to ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ, and wouldn’t you know it, right when I really needed a joke to cut the maudlin tone, the autocorrect my wife put on my phone for ‘bear’ kicks in; that’s a freebie, and I’ll take it gratefully. Thank you, beautiful.
The takeaway is this: I’m not upset that I was a test-tube baby–or rather a shake-and-bake one–I’m upset that a fundamental truth about the physical nature of who I am was deliberately kept from me and influenced the behavior and thoughts of others regarding me without my knowledge or consent; it probably would’ve stayed secret my whole life, or a least theirs, if they could’ve swung it. How much earlier would I have started taking my heart health seriously if I had known? How much more effort would I have put into my relationship with my father if I’d known he was struggling to connect with a child that wasn’t his, instead of a child that was his but that he just didn’t like, as I always assumed? These are questions no one should have to ask, so if there’s any point to any of this, it’s to please, please tell your children the truth, about whatever their situation is. If you’re any kind of parent to them, that bond will have nothing to fear from a simple twist of biological fate that led them into your hearts, but everything to fear from the revelation that their personal medical agency and knowledge of self were things that you, at some point, actively decided they didn’t need or deserve.
No story ends, and this one is no different, so I have no nice neat wrap-up for you, and for that I apologize. Thank you for reading, and letting me express something that’s been pinballing around inside me for two years. I’ll leave you with this song, which I love a lot and which helps me through some rough ones, and the hope that you and yours are well, and stay safe. Enjoy.
in no time at all, this’ll be the distant past